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1 Peter 3:18: “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.”

Do parents ever stop being parents once their kids leave home? The answer is pretty obvious. On the other side of the spectrum there’s no such thing as an ex-mother or ex-father for children whose parents filed for divorce.

Speaking of which – here is another oxymoron: God can’t be our Ex-Creator. He did the job, He created us, and He assumes His parental responsibilities like no other parent.

Throughout the centuries our Heavenly Father has suffered with us as we built our world, repeatedly bruised our conscience, struggled, battled, and fought for the things we believed in, with brilliant minds achieving unthinkable progress and mind-boggling inventions. – But at the end of the day, humans could never achieve world peace.

To this day we’re struggling to keep our blue planet in one piece.

So, God went to work. Not unlike a skilled mechanic lying underneath a car figuring out what is wrong, God got down to the nitty-gritty and literally lived the human experience: He was born a baby and grew up to be the Son of Man, “Son of Man” being the favorite way Jesus referred to Himself. The parent of creation became Mary’s and Joseph’s kid!

Lying underneath the hood of His creation, exposed to the fumes of the sputtering world engine, Jesus got sweaty and bloody.

Pressured by the governing rulers of the day and sought after by people suffering from their broken bodies and broken hearts, Jesus drew all people to Him – although for very different reasons. This ultimately led to His untimely death. As a result of political plotting and scheming, Jesus was publicly executed; yet in events to follow on the third day, His subsequent resurrection would publicly annul His shameful death and set a glorious precedent: Raised to life, Jesus created a safe haven where we all can go. We all can be raised to life after our passing.  Listening to God’s audible whisper in our hearts and believing the Good News we will be able to experience His precious peace.

Coming full circle – and just in case you were wondering – also from God’s perspective there is no such thing as an “Ex-Father”. God has always been, always is, and always will be our Heavenly Father; a Father who is very involved in human affairs; a Father who gave His lifeblood for His children; a Father who is dedicated to see His children safely home.

“Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m going to make this place your home”  Andrew Pearson / Greg Holden

Job 37:5-6: “God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power. He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.”

 

“Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening!” – quote from a song that wrote Rock History, the Bohemian Rhapsody.

I’m just sitting out on the porch listening to the waves crushing on the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. I love that sound. Since the Almighty created everything around here and out there (looking at the night skies right now), I believe, that’s another sound representing God’s voice. These waves come steady, one after the other. So is the whisper of His voice when He speaks to my heart. It comes in waves. Sometimes I hear Him quite distinctively, sometimes I’m not listening. The sounds of God’s creation never stop, whether we listen or not. God’s creation is not silent, and neither is He!

God speaks. He has a voice. But sometimes, for various reasons, our heart is hard of hearing.

Take Jona for instance who had a job to do and ran away. In the belly of a fish he finally took note and prayed to the Almighty. If thunderbolt and lightning is frightening, how about being caught inside a fish somewhere in the deep sea? Jonah later said that prior to this frightening experience he had only barely known God. A mere acquaintance, so-to-speak. But inside the fish Jonah had a close encounter with Him.

What about Job who hears the glory of God’s voice in Thunder? Job went down in history as the man who lost everything over the devil’s bet with the Almighty that Job would renounce His faith after losing everything. To make a long story short: the devil lost his bet. And Job is happy to announce to the world what a glorious encounter He had with God.

Silence can be deafening. Maybe after not hearing from God in a long while and listening to the stupidity coming from his own friends, God’s Thunderbolt was a welcome relief to Job.

God writes it in the skies with lightening, for everyone to see and with roaring Thunderbolts for everyone to notice: God is very much alive, and He cares. He is not deaf, nor dead, nor asleep, nor indifferent. The one who needs to wake up to reality is actually you and me. We need to wake up and face the music! Sometimes that takes a fish belly or skysplitting lightening with crashing thunder.

What are we afraid of? What do we have to lose? We are all afraid of death. We are born afraid to lose our lives. God knows! And he does not want us dead. He wants us to be alive and well. And the good news is: He is the Only One who can save us. Jonah experienced it. So did Job and many other human beings.

We get closest to God when we see Him in action. Action speaks louder than words and louder than a Thunderbolt. Being saved from death, carried through disaster, seeing the light at the end of a tunnel, that’s when we see God in action, and that’s when we get to know Him in a very personal way. His love is no longer hidden but becomes as clear as day. It’s like Captain Obvious! “Wow! God does love me. I heard of His love, now I’ve experienced it”.
Thunderbolt and Lightening very very frightening? Not so much anymore! Armed with God’s love we can face the devil if we have to.

God is love. To know that is to know everything.

John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If life had a name, then I’m sure its middle name would be Trouble with a capital T. First and last name? Constant Change! And we can get overwhelmed; we can get stuck; we can get overly attached; we can get numb; we can get depressed;  we can get sweetened or hardened dealing with whatever life throws at us. Note that our hearts are fragile. We need to take good care of our hearts, or else we’ll be overcome by life’s middle name.

How we handle trouble is similar to digestion. Food is worthless and can actually kill us if our bowels refuse to work and our whole digestive system shuts down. Food has to be processed to be of any value. So does life. We need to take time to process life’s events, especially life changing events.

Allow yourself a break when lots of things happen, when we arrive at a crossroad; when changes come our way, when we feel pushed in a corner, when we feel powerless, when we feel angry, especially when we feel defeated and don’t see a way out of a situation. All of that are sure indicators that we need a Time Out.

Jesus spoke words of life into everybody’s struggle when He said:

  • “Take heart!”

We need to take our hearts seriously. The best favor we can do to ourselves is to reconnect with our Creator.

Jesus said:

  • “I have overcome the world”.

Knowing and believing that Jesus can work through every issue with us will guard our hearts from descending into desperation. Jesus added:

  • “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.”

The most precious ointment on a wounded and broken heart is the ointment of peace: the peace of knowing everything is going to be alright; the peace of knowing that God cares; the peace of knowing we are not alone; the peace of realizing that God is near; the peace of knowing we are being carried.

In all troubling matters, we need to cut through the chase and go to the source of the problem to gain clarity.  In matters of peace we too find a source. Jesus can connect us to peace because He is the source of peace. Before His death He told His followers (John 14:27):

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

“Peace be with you” is not an empty wish of His. It’s quite real. And Jesus wants to lay it on us. He makes us an offer that we can refuse, but we are infinitely better off accepting the precious peace He has for us. Take it from the One who knows you best, and let His peace reign in your heart and soul!

Ephesians 5:19-20: “Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What is so special about singing?

Well, I believe, that’s how music started. Our voice is the first instrument given to us for free. Everybody has a different voice. Voice recognition systems bank on that. Singing to the Lord is adding our fingerprint to the mix. All over the world people pray. All over the world people sing. Join the choir of angels. The song sung to the Lord exceeds radio waves. It goes out into the universe and touches the heart of our Creator. That’s the best reason to do it. And in nature, I’m sure, our creation silently sings too – or maybe not so silently if we think of the lion’s roar or some very loud birds. Some voices actually may sound a bit obnoxious. Not to worry – praise from the heart always sounds sweet in the Lord’s ears.

Silent praise is another beautiful gift. It’s the gratitude we feel in our hearts. “Have I told you lately that I love you?” – a song by Van Morrison – beautifully illustrates voicing a silent praise that has been ongoing in the heart of the lover. It’s good to voice your love from time to time, but silent praise, which is the devotion we feel, precedes our declaration of love. A devoted heart is the seedbed of praise.

Have you told Him lately that you love Him? How about putting that in a song?

Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

A cardinal mistake is to believe that everything is up to us. Maybe one of the reasons why humans get so tired and burnt out is that we’re putting too much on our plate. Jesus knew, that’s why He addressed us. “Come to me” – He said, followed by another invitation (Matthew 11:29-30):

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

A yoke is a wooden beam normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do; Working in pair is the key ingredient here that Jesus was getting at. Paired up with the Almighty any heavy burden becomes easier to carry.

I believe that’s wonderful news. Jesus is not the type of boss who orders us around. He rolls up His sleeves and gets down to the nitty gritty. He teams up with us. Can you believe it? Pulling on a load as a loner was never meant to be. We are meant to work as a team. Jesus wants to be with us every step of the way.

Working together is not a new concept. God’s operating as Trinity suggests He invented team work in the first place, and we are blessed to follow His example because:

  • We’ll be inspired by God who works with us
  • We’ll be inspired by the people we are teaming up with

Working with God, we welcome His input. And welcoming Him is basically humility in a nutshell. Humility makes a tremendous difference in this world. It takes the pressure off of us, because we know that we’re not the ones running the show, God is. And when the time comes for us to step aside, we can do so with confidence – knowing that life will go on without us. While everyone is irreplaceable, the person picking up where we left off will bring a new perspective. Again – that’s the beauty of teamwork! Trusting in the Lord, we already know that our life on Earth is not in vain. We leave indelible footprints.

Psalm 62:1: “I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.”

The other day, I had to wait 50 minutes on the phone to get connected and speak with a representative. If somebody tells me to wait, I know I have to equip myself with patience.

The mindset of wanting (and nearly getting) everything “RIGHT NOW” is what the Urban Dictionary calls a “Microwave society”:

“Microwaves cook foods faster, our society wants everything faster. We are a Microwave Society.”

Technology has made gathering or sending information extremely fast and we’ve begun to think that everything in life should be available on demand. No more waiting for a television program – now there’s ‘Television on Demand”, where we decide what to watch and when to watch it. Another coined word is “snail mail” versus “email”. The postal service is struggling because everyone wants their information right now. Letters are out, emails are in. Actually, emails are no longer in, texting is. If we want immediate attention (in most cases we do), texting is the more common approach. Since people carry their phones with them, chances are, they will open the message sooner. Emails are now the new snail mail.

Sounds a bit pathetic, doesn’t it? Are we aware of how impatient we have become?

Some things, actually a lot of things that matter to us, don’t come on demand. We have to make that distinction between a need that is met by push of a button versus a need of something that cannot be met momentarily. We know what that “something” is that we find is worth waiting for.

Obviously, there is no button pushing involved when it comes to engaging with the Almighty. Also with people the success of button pushing is short-lived. We will strain our relationships if we keep it up. Impatience can literally destroy relationships.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to just step out the door and witness some scenery. Nature runs its cycles. Flowers bloom and trees grow fruit in certain seasons, flocks of birds fly in and leave when their time comes. It’s a good reminder that our lives go through certain seasons.  Be aware and appreciate the season you are in, right now. There is a reason for every season.

Getting in touch with the Almighty is as basic a need – similar to stepping outside to take a break. We need to get out of the box. We are born to be free. Don’t get enslaved by your own life. Don’t get rushed by demand. Take the liberty to take a time out. Stand aside and wait for the Lord. You’ll be surprised.

Well I think it’s fine, building jumbo planes
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train
Switch on summer from a slot machine
Yes, get what you want to if you want
Cause you can get anything

I know we’ve come a long way
We’re changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?

(Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens)

Proverbs 19:20-21: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Cats can hear everything! Maya, our pet, can determine by the sound of the engine who is coming home. In comparison, human ears are not as well-equipped. While cats hear sounds about as low as humans, they can hear much higher pitches than we can, and their range goes even above that of dogs.

Even if we had catlike ears, the question is, would we take advantage of our enhanced hearing? Here is another question for you: How easy is it to listen? The talkers among us will probably say it’s easier to talk than to listen. But what about the people who don’t like to talk? Do introverts have an advantage over extroverts when it comes to listening? Perhaps – but keeping silent doesn’t necessarily mean that a person keeps listening. Our thought life has a profound impact on our listening skills, maybe more than we want to admit.

I googled synonyms for the word “listen”, and here goes:

Give one’s attention to a sound, pay attention to, take heed of, heed, take notice of, take note of, mindmark, bear in mind, take into consideration, take into account, tune into

We can drown out God’s voice with our own – the voices in our head and our busy mouth; but we are missing out if we do. There is a world of knowledge and wisdom available to us if we are curious enough to take the time to stop and soak it up. God is not silent. He speaks; He communicates to us in many different ways; He speaks to our hearts.

The art of silence that takes the things of God into account has a profound impact on our lives. And who would have guessed – honing our listening skills with God also upgrades our people skills. We take the time to listen, we find that we have a better understanding of the person next to us.

In a world that’s deeply divided with angry voices competing for our attention, paradoxically, listeners who don’t join the angry choir but lend an unbiased ear have a far better reception. Listeners make this world a better place. Their wisdom contributes to solving the most tricky problems. Listeners promote peace.

Let’s take a mouth break, shall we? Let’s take time to listen today.

“And in the naked light I saw Ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening, People writing songs that voices never share And no one dared Disturb the sound of silence.”    Paul Simon