Hearing God 15 – Understanding Loaves

From Alan Smith’s Blog

Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened (Mark 6:51-52, NIV emphasis added).

The disciples had just passed out five loaves of bread to 5,000 men plus women and children. Each disciple had a complete bag of leftovers when the job was done. Immediately after this, Jesus calms a storm and the disciples were “completely amazed.”

Evidently they should not have been amazed. If you reverse the logic of vs 52 you find that if their hearts had been soft they would have understood something about the loaves and therefore would not have been amazed when Jesus calmed the sea.

There was something they were supposed to understand about the loaves but they missed it. Their hearts were not tender enough to pick up on it. They thought the loaves were about the loaves. They didn’t recognize that God was saying something to them through the loaves.

The text doesn’t tell us what they were supposed to have understood about the loaves. But the passage is clear that if they had understood it, they would not have been amazed. Amazement happens when something occurs outside of our expectations, beyond our grid of understanding and anticipation. If they had understood about the loaves, it would have adjusted their expectations in such a way that Jesus calming the sea would have been expected instead of being a surprise.

Is it possible that God is constantly doing things in our lives and though we’re grateful, we mistakenly think that it was just about the “things”, not realizing that through these things God is revealing something to us about who He is? If we miss it, all we received was the “things”, with maybe a good story and some leftovers for tomorrow, but our view of God hasn’t really shifted. Our expectations haven’t expanded. Our faith hasn’t grown. The way we see reality hasn’t been modified. Our mind hasn’t really been changed.

May we have soft hearts today, not merely receiving what He gives, but hearing what He says in the giving.

Hearing God 14 – 3 Things to Listen for Today

From Alan Smith’s Blog

“Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:15-23, NKJV.

In this prayer Paul prays that God will open the eyes of our heart to see three things:

1. The hope of His calling
In Paul’s writings, God’s “calling” is the powerful word of the gospel by which we are called out from the world and called into relationship with Him. Given that understanding, the “hope of His calling” would refer to the confident expectation (hope) we have that He who called us is able to complete the work He has begun in us. (see Phil 1:6)

2. The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints
Paul has already introduced the idea of inheritance earlier in the chapter. In vs 13-14 we discover that the Holy Spirit is given to us in the present as a down payment on our inheritance to be fully received in the future. So in this prayer we find Paul praying first that we would see the hope of our calling (this present reality of the Holy Spirit guaranteeing a future inheritance) and then praying that we would see in the present, by the same Spirit, the scope of that inheritance (the “riches”).

3. The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe
The final thing Paul wants us to see is that the transforming power of that future inheritance that has been guaranteed by the down payment of the Holy Spirit and revealed as God shows us the full scope of that inheritance, can be experienced in the present in anticipation of that future reality in response to faith.

God has called you and is committed to finish that work. The presence of the Holy Spirit in your life today is the guarantee of the completion of that work. God wants you to know in the present the scope of that future inheritance. God wants you to begin to receive in the present, the manifestation of that future inheritance by faith.

Ask Him to talk to you about that today!

Hearing God 13 – Fifteen Years

From Alan Smith’s Blog

Today Nancy and I celebrate 15 years of life together. In that time we’ve lived in 7 cities. We’ve had three babies. They’re not babies any more. Lauren is 13 and will start 8th grade this year – her last year of middle school. Anna is 11 and will start 6th grade, her first year of middle school. Teddy is 6 and will begin 1st grade.

15 years from now I will be 53 years old. My oldest child will be 28. My youngest 21. It is very likely I will be a “grandpa” by that point. I hope so, though it seems weird to think about that now.

But the last 15 years have gone by in a blur. I couldn’t have predicted all that would transpire. I anticipate the next 15 will flash by as well. As I look back across the landscape of the last decade and a half, there are a few things that stand out.

I remember how nervous I was on our wedding day. I remember the first time Nancy told me we were expecting. I remember all three births at home with Susan our midwife. I remember learning how to do life with Nancy. We learned to fight. We learned to make up. We learned to love and serve. We learned to be one another’sbiggest cheerleader. We learned how to be parents. We’re still learning all that too.

I remember the countless ways God has directed our lives, graciously covered our failures and mistakes, miraculously washed away our sin, healed our past, and given us ever increasing vision for our future. And I remember today that God speaks to me.

He spoke to me about Nancy. He spoke to me about ministry. He spoke to me in the wilderness times. He spoke to me in times of blessing and abundance. He spoke to me about my past. He spoke to me about my future. He spoke to me about my identity. My very life has been formed, transformed, and is sustained by his voice. There really is no other way to live that can legitimately be called life. I am thankful today for the voice of God, and for the reality his voice has breathed into existence in my life. Where else can I go? You have the words of eternal life.

I am mindful today that my marriage is something God has spoken into being. We are together because of his voice. We are what we are together because of his voice. There is an ever increasing sense of his breath shared between us. I don’t know how to say it better than that. It is beautiful to experience but difficult to explain. In themessiness of life we share something wonderful, something elegant, something sacred, something of immeasurable worth. We dance, but in the mud and in the rain and we smile all along because we’re together. In the day to day routines and rhythms, we enact an eternal romance of pursuit and love. Only God’s voice can do that. I’m thankful that he speaks.

Can you hear him?

Hearing God 12 – Drowning?

From Alan Smith’s Blog

Ps 29:3
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The LORD is over many waters.

Ps 29:10
The LORD sat enthroned at the Flood,
And the LORD sits as King forever.

I think the powerful imagery contained in these verses is sometimes lost on us modern westerners. In the culture within which this psalm was written oceans, seas, waters, and floods all represented something very significant. In the Mediterranean region of the world, the sea was seen as a source of evil. Even in the Bible you see sea monsters like Leviathan and Rahab. God’s power and authority are expressed in terms of God ruling over the waters.

Perhaps seeing the sea as the place evil comes from was residual within the culture because of the flood, or from actual sea monsters they had to contend with, or both. Irregardless, the sea is seen as a source of evil in the Old Testament. In Daniel 7 the four beasts arise out of the sea. Perhaps this is why Revelation says that in the new heavens and earth there will be no more sea. This could be a metaphorical statement regarding the final defeat of evil more than a literal prediction that we won’t be able to go to the beach.

My point is that the voice of the Lord is over the waters. Whatever evil you are facing; whatever opposition you are encountering from the enemy of your soul; whatever spiritual battle you find yourself in today – I want to tell you that the voice of the Lord is over the waters. The voice of the Lord exercises power and authority over all evil and over every source of evil.

This is why hearing God is so important. Spiritual warfare is primarily an exercise in choosing which voice you will listen to. Victory comes from choosing to hear the Lord’s voice. His voice is over the waters.

Hearing God 11 – Running from his voice

From Alan Smith’s Blog

Gen 3:10
So he said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” NKJV

When I was a kid I used to love to play Hide and Seek. What great fun to find just the right hiding place; to be the last one found. I vaguely remember being quite little and playing Hide and Seek with my mom. While she would count I would run to find my hiding place. I always hid in exactly the same spot. It wasn’t a very good spot. In an attempt to make it fun, all the while knowing exactly where I was hiding, my mom would look in various places while calling out “Ready or not, here I come!”

I couldn’t stand the tension or the idea of mom not being able to find me, so I would prematurely emerge from my clandestine location with a loud cry of “Here I am mom!”

I’ve gotten better at hiding through the years though. I’m best at hiding from God. I evaluate my performance. Have I prayed enough, read the word enough, believed enough, behaved adequately? If I deem myself to have failed to measure up, I’ve become quite good at hiding. I keep my distance during worship. I pray from a distance.

We have been hiding from God because of shame for a long time haven’t we? Could shame be one of the reasons we struggle to hear God’s voice? Are our hearts hiding from God?

God is still calling.

Maybe we should become as little children again and burst out from our hiding places with a loud cry of “Here I am!”

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