Monday, October 30, 2006

Hearing With The Heart

Week 8 of “Life Is Too Short To Be Wasted Being Mad, Angry & Emotionally Wrecked

A pumpkin: God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off of you. Then He cuts off the top and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, and greed. Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for the entire world to see.

Notice that God is the one doing the work but the pumpkin has submitted, or surrendered to the clean up. This is our process.

Am I free to receive fully? Am I aware of the ways in which I’m not open to receive? One of the greatest disasters of the spiritual life is to be immersed in unreality.

Why did Dr. Samuel Johnson say, “Advice is seldom welcome, and those who need it most like it least.”

He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master. Ben Johnson

Christianity became increasingly privatistic. Just ‘me and God’ often ends up as a whole lot of me and very little or no God!

God’s timing is crucial to the accomplishment of God’s purposes.

"Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those of us who've already been there."

In our suffering, in the wall times, we get to lose our wrong ideas about God, the church and ourselves.

Job was the Bill Gates of his time. He had amassed staggering wealth. He would be on every money magazine cover if he lived today. In Job 1:3 it says he was, ‘the most influential man in all the East!

Then one day he is tested. Enemies invade. Lightning strikes. By the end of the day the world’s richest man is poverty-stricken. He’s lost his 10 children.

Job doesn’t blame God; he grieves his losses and worships God. Then he is tested once more. This time his person is afflicted with illness. The losses finally overcome his wife and she crumbles under the pressure saying in 2:9, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

Clearly Job and his wife were hearing different messages, weren’t they?

When Queen Victoria lost her husband Albert at the age of 42, she continued to make him the focus of her life. For years she slept with his nightshirt in her arms. She kept his room the same for the rest of her life, always having the linens changed, clothes laid out, and water ready for his shaving. On every bed she herself slept, she put a picture of Albert.

What was Victoria hearing? She was abandoned, forsaken, orphaned, and widowed forevermore. She pushed her pain away, which is the easy way. One woman in a support group for losses said, “I keep thinking that if I continue going down this road of truly grieving my losses, I might die.”

Turning towards our pain is counterintuitive, but is the way of crucifixion and taking up our cross. The pain calcifies around our heart, and we no longer hear love, but get distorted images and horridly screaming sounds magnified into our already sensitive soul.

“God Damn God: A Reflection on Expressing Anger In Prayer”. Grieving isn’t possible if we don’t allow our anger and sadness to be recognized, and then released from our emotional bottle in safe ways. If we won’t do that, we become leaking Christians, releasing unpleasant and foul smelling emotional wakes.

There is an old joke about the person with ‘negative charisma’: when he or she enters a room it feels like three people just left. There are times we all have this effect, especially when we push God away in our life.

We’re not quite sure how long Job stayed with his own pain. It was at least for several months, perhaps even years. In the midst of his difficulties he paid attention to God and to himself, and we enjoy the benefits of that to this very day. He chose to enter the wall rather than to medicate himself.

That waiting is so key. Psalm 37:7 says,
Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him. Don't bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.

If we won’t wait on God and hear with our heart, we will live as Abraham did, who after 11 years of waiting for God to give him the son that He had promised, took matters into his own ‘hands’, if you know what I mean. We regularly birth Ishmaels in our personal lives, and especially in church ministries. Waiting requires enormous patience, and builds humility.

We don’t wait for results, though. We wait to experience God’s interactive presence. Being with another person requires that I am aware I am with you and the things that you do and say are influencing the stream of thoughts and feelings going on inside of me.

I recognize that I can’t control God’s speaking to me. There are no formulas; I can’t force him to speak through my hard work and labor, nor through my piety or sincerity.

I cannot force God to give me the guidance or help I think I need. Those words are from John Ortberg. I had to dig out an old Ortberg book for a Job quote. There was only one page marked, and I hadn’t looked at this book for at least 6 months. The page marked said, “I must believe that God will really speak to me’.

Interactive presence is hearing with the heart.

Enter Job’s three friends.

Job 2:11-13
When Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

To this day the Jewish people speak of ‘sitting shiva’, or sitting sevens, literally sitting for 7 days with a friend or relative who has suffered a loss.

Now Job’s friends did some good things and said some not so good things. They can help us become aware of our need to grow into becoming ‘Kingdom Friends’ for each other.

Philip Yancey, in his writing and research with suffering people said that there are two groups of people who make suffering worse, and they’re both made up of Christians:

1. “The reason you’re in hospital is spiritual warfare. If you were just engaging in spiritual warfare, Satan would be defeated and you would be delivered.”

2. “God promises to heal-if we have enough faith. If you just had enough faith-just prayed boldly enough-you’d be healed.”

While God hates pain, He can also redeem it, if we’ll hear with our heart. The presence of pain doesn’t mean God is absent or not speaking. Pain is usually the number one contributor to growth. No one writes a book called, Where Is God When It feels Good?

Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote a book about the death of his son called Lament For A Son. We are often told that no one can see the face of God and live.

"I always thought that meant no one can see the face of God and live. A friend suggested that perhaps it means no one can see God’s suffering and live. Or perhaps His suffering is his glory.” Nicholas Wolterstorff, one of the greatest philosophers of our time!

Discernment is like driving a car at night; the headlights cast only enough light for us to see the next small bit of road immediately in front of us. But that light is enough to get us home. Suzanne G. Farnham, Listening Hearts

“For God speaks once, yes twice, yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumbering upon the bed; then God opens the ears of men and seals their instruction... all these things God works often with man." Job 33:14-16, 29

Luke 13
"A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "

The fertilizer in question is manure. Remember the three-S pot? Could it be there is a little suffering needed to stimulate growth and hearing with the heart?

Matthew 13:13 – 15
Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts.”

Philippians 3:10
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." Robert Frost

Remember that turning towards our pain is counterintuitive. Job feels his pain, and then complains about it and God for chapters on end. Then God speaks…

Job 42:3-6
Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans.You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?'I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.'I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor."

Acknowledge the truth that you’re in over your head.

Psalm 34:8
Open your mouth and taste; open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him.

That’s hearing with the heart.

Hearing with the ear means that we hear once then live with the memory of having heard. Hearing with the heart means we keep on hearing. It’s past tense and present tense. It’s a constant hearing that brings with it God’s enabling grace and presence (abiding). Kevin Avram and Wes Boldt

Galatians 3:2-4
Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God's Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

John 1:13, Jesus talked of 4 origins of our identity: biology, flesh (sin), our will (neither good or bad, just ours) and from God.

Hearing with our heart is learning to recognize those different voices.

John 3:34
"The One that God sent speaks God's words. And don't think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn't see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that."

John 5:19
Jesus said, "The Son ... can only do what he sees the Father doing."

How then did Jesus see what the Father was doing? Jesus had an open and unobstructed relationship with the Father. He heard with His heart.

John 8:27-29
They still didn't get it, didn't realize that he was referring to the Father. So Jesus tried again. "When you raise up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am—that I'm not making this up, but speaking only what the Father taught me. The One who sent me stays with me. He doesn't abandon me. He sees how much joy I take in pleasing him."

1 Peter 5
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people.

Hearing with the heart is to hear with humility. It’s to hear through our pain. It’s to know God is with us, and that he is God, we’re not, let’s therefore live like it.

Job 42:7-9
After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." So Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job's prayer.

Are you beginning to hear with your heart?

What is God saying?


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