Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two Ears and One Spirit

My mom used to tell me I had two ears and one mouth for a good reason.  She tried many times to help me understand
what that reason was, but now finally I think I get it.  At least the two ears part. 

It goes something like this.  We have an outer ear and an inner ear.  The outer ear catches all the sounds outside us and funnels them through the ear canal,* (which sounds gross if you know what canals usually look like), into the inner ear where the sounds are coded and sent to the brain through the auditory nerve.

Just for now, let's look at that ear through Spirit eyes:  by way of analogy, what might the two parts of the ear mean? What if the outer ear is for listening to other people, and the inner ear is for listening to the Holy Spirit's voice?  What if we're supposed to listen deeply to others before responding to them, and listen deeply to the Spirit's voice telling us how to respond to them in the love of God?  How would that affect our conversations and relationships? 

Well. for starters, what if everything we said -- after listening to the Spirit -- was completely along the lines of what God would have us say? What if we never had to take anything back, because all we said was just the right thing? I think, if we listened to the Spirit well enough, it's at least possible.  The fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23) and those qualities would certainly reduce the amount of apology and explanation needed for our wrong words and attitudes to others.  In the book of Acts, the speakers were often said to be "full of the Holy Spirit" and they said some wonderful things -- so maybe what we say would be more wonderful if we could better hear what the Spirit is telling us.   

One of these days I might have to buy a hearing aid to capture those outside sounds better.  But what I really need right now is to capture those inner sounds, that voice of God telling me how to respond to others, and make sure I pay attention to that before I speak.  How about you?  Would listening to God more closely make a difference?  Let's pray for better hearing in the "inner ear."

*sometimes called the "middle ear," but having three parts to the ear instead of two really messes up this illustration. Sorry.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Bull's-Eye

Target shooters like to be able to hit the center of the target, called the "bull's-eye" or bullseye.  And if they get especially sharp, they can hit the center of the bullseye.  So if you wanted to know what the exact center
of God's will is, what would it be?  You might not be too surprised if I tell you it's Jesus Christ himself.  How would we know?  Here are a few scriptures:

Heb 1:1-4 "Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names."  Now, if you had to guess, is this Son greater than the prophets of old?  Greater than Moses?  Greater than the angels and other spirits?  Greater than the creation?  Yes, all the above. 

Col 1: 15-20 "Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything...He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.  Christ is also the head of the church...so he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself."  So, is the Christ more important than anything or anyone else in the universe, under the Father?  Yes.  Has God already saved you through his Son?  Yes!

John 1: 1, 14 "In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God...the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son."  Jesus the Christ, who by this description is also God, came to live with us humans, as our only Savior.  The Center of God's entire work with humanity is found in him, and him alone. 

Do you want to please God, or do the work of God?  In John 6:29 we read "Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'"  So, let everything else in life be seen in the light of Jesus.  Center your life in him.  Let him be to you what he truly is for the whole creation, the bullseye, the Center of the center.  And see how that changes everything else. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Even a Little Light

We've all heard about the speed of light, but as my friend Kyle Bowen asked once, what's the speed of dark?  Darkness is just the absence
of light, and it only takes a little light to conquer the darkness.  Light a match or turn on a flashlight in a dark room, and suddenly what's around me becomes visible even in that small amount of light.  What was a threat, in the darkness, becomes helpful instead.  The chair I was about to trip over becomes a place to rest.  I can grasp and drink the glass of water on the kitchen counter instead of knocking it over. 

We can shine light into the lives of others and have a huge helpful effect.  In Ephesians 5:8, Paul tells us "For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!"  That light from God, as he tells us in verse 9, produces "only what is good and right and true."  But like me, you may be thinking of all the reasons we don't believe that our light is good enough or is having the right effect or why God can't use our light because it isn't, well, 'whatever' enough.  Our objections don't recognize the power of the God who is himself Light and Life, to be light in us. 

A few quick ideas to help us live confidently as light: 
  • We may think we're not producing much light, but it only takes a teeny bit to conquer the darkness. 
  • Others see our light a lot more positively than we do. 
  • It's not our light anyway, but the light of Jesus in us. 
  • It's our job just to be the light God made us in Christ.  It's God's job to create the results.  
  • When somebody compliments you on your light, point to the Light-giver.
 Wherever you are, there is some darkness that needs light.  Let it shine today!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Giving Grief to the Holy Spirit

It's easy for me to make my wife, The Lovely Joanne, upset.  All I have to do
is say something unkind about the way the house looks, or about her cooking or driving.  Truth to tell, we can each make the other upset, about all kinds of subjects.  But it's not just the comment.  The root of it, when we say or do the wrong things, is that we aren't paying attention to the desires and needs of the other.  Nurturing our love, trying to love each other more deeply, means being sensitive to what the other one is thinking or might want at any certain point.  It means for me to expend some effort to figure out what my wife would actually like me to do, and then to do that.  And I appreciate it a great deal when she does the same for me.

Marriage is a very close relationship and takes ongoing attentiveness to work right.  But guess what -- it's the same with our most intimate relationship, that is, with the Holy Spirit.  Rather than leave us alone (John 14:18) to figure out how to understand and follow Jesus, the Father sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and continue to teach us about Jesus and the Father (verse 17). That indwelling of the Spirit is the very heart of our ability to relate to God.  His mind in us is real and can be felt. 

We need to decide how we will live within that relationship.  We can pay careful, constant attention to the Spirit's presence and will, as he leads us to live according to his mind; or we can be lax about his presence.  Guess which gets better results?  Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:30:  "And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own."  I puzzled over that instruction for many years before realizing that the Spirit, who is the mind of God, genuinely lives in me and is troubled when I go against his will for me. 

In Rom. 8:6 we read:  "Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace."  That sounds like the relationship between my wife and me.  Putting attention to the reality of the Spirit's presence, and letting him have his way instead of stubbornly doing my own will, leads to a much more peaceful existence.  If you're having stress and anxiety, maybe it's time to let go and let the Holy Spirit direct more.  Why not give it a try?