“So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 (WEB)
“Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross…So to follow Jesus is always to accept at least a measure of uncertainty, danger, and rejection for His sake.” John R. W. Stott
Almost exactly two years ago, I posted sound affects. Yes, in case you’re wondering, the use of “affects” not “effects” is very much intentional in that post’s title. God is always present, but the world’s noisy commotion does its very best to divert our attention elsewhere. If we’re going to “hear” Him and be affected by what we hear, we must make a conscious effort to include Him in our daily lives.
“The call of God is not just for a select few but for everyone. Whether I hear God’s call or not depends on the condition of my ears, and exactly what I hear depends on my spiritual condition.” Although I had not yet stumbled upon this particular quote by Oswald Chambers at the time, “Per-sway-did or per-sway-dead?” was written from a very similar mindset. I love the Lord’s quilt weaving that is neither bound by time nor location!
My previous thoughts expressed in the original post gained a much-needed exclamation point of emphasis this morning as I walked down our street towards the waters of the sound. Not only are we invited to hear Him but to dive fully into Him and experience all He has to offer. It is a most welcome and timely invitation to intimacy.
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)
This morning the surf’s distant roar from waves crashing against the Gulf-side of the beach was still quite evident so long as you paid attention, just as it was back in 2018. What struck me this time, however, is that is all you can hear. When you’re standing more than a mile away from the surf line, the roar is an indistinct, constant, radio-station-static-like sound. If you’ve ever experienced the joy of being on the beach, you know each wave creates a beautiful crescendo of sound all its own, distinct and separate from the others, as it breaks along the shore. It’s a stark contrast of sounds generated from the same source.
And so it likewise is concerning our communication and thus our relationship with God. Being within hearing distance and hearing His “roar” is a much-needed and welcome step in the right direction. However, the simple truth is that our relationship with the Lord grows by leaps and bounds when we come close enough to realize He is singing over us. He is calling us home to Himself. It is the dramatic night and day difference between being merely “aware of Him” and intimately “knowing Him, and being known by Him.”
“Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me.” Psalm 42:7 (NKJV)
In his YouVersion devotional, “Discover Your True Self,” Chip Ingram rightly observes, “If you’ll take a step toward God, He will take every other step toward you, no matter how many it takes.” But you have to respond.”
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a (NKJV)
This verse conveys a conditional promise. Yes, God will draw near to you, but we must respond by taking a step towards Him first for this to occur. As human beings, we face somewhat of a problem here regarding that crucial first step. On the one hand, when things are going well for us, our attitude is often complacency towards God. We’re not necessarily inclined to make that step happen when the sun is out. Yet, when times are tough and foreboding, we frequently look upon God with suspicion and wariness. It’s a double-edged sword all too often.
In “How to Have Intimacy with God,” Jon Bloom addresses these issues this way: “Trust is at the heart of intimacy. The more we trust someone, the closer we let them get to us. The degree to which trust is compromised in a relationship is the degree to which intimacy evaporates. This is as true in our relationship with God as it is in our relationships with other human beings. Our experience of God’s nearness or distance is not a description of his actual proximity to us, but of our experience of intimacy with him. Scripture shows us that God is intimate with those who trust him. The more we trust God, the more intimately we come to know him. A felt distance from God is often due to a disruption in trust, such as a sin or disappointment.” (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-have-intimacy-with-god)
Ridgelines are topographic drainage divides that divert water towards one watershed basin or the other. Challenging circumstances like where I now find myself are spiritual ridgelines challenging me to trust or not trust the Lord. Balancing at the very top of the divide is not possible. Unlike the drop of water precariously poised at the ridgeline, I have a choice to make.
Friends, it’s always true that whatever you read here is born out of my experiences of “walking around the block of life a time or two with the Lord,” as I like to describe it. Simply put, what I share here with you first finds its genesis in my walking. Today’s “exclamation point” couldn’t have come at a better time for me.
My relationship with the Lord has come under brutal attack the past few weeks. Disappointment has reared its ugly head in an unveiled and bold attempt to persuade me that He is not trustworthy. Feelings of abandonment have tried to capsize and sink my faith.
A couple of weeks ago, my three-year-old startup company experienced a crushing disappointment when our bid to acquire another company’s interest failed. Our efforts to do so were months in the making. Had we been successful in that effort, our company would’ve finally succeeded at getting our heads above water.
Going into the bidding process, we were confident our nearly-empty-timeline hourglass for our company I mentioned in “The Miracle of Him” was finally going to be replenished by a large supply of sand grains once we secured the properties. Such was our hoped-for expectations regarding the potential impact of this acquisition.
And what an impact it was, too, of the worst possible sort. James Taylor’s poignant lyrics from his song, “Fire and Rain,” capture the depths of my disappointment upon first learning we had come up short in our attempt to secure the deal. In that song, he sings, “Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.” There was nothing but smoldering wreckage as far as the eye could see after that utterly distressing phone call informing me we had failed.
Things have not gone at all as I imagined they would go with my startup company these past three years. I watched God create this business opportunity out of seemingly nothing in 2017. Where once there was nothing, He miraculously provided. No, I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I mistakenly thought we’d experience success reasonably early on, especially since we had His apparent blessings. However, my expectations have not matched up very well with the reality of how things have gone since we’ve been in business. To say I’m intimately familiar with disappointment at this point is an understatement.
More times than I can count, my business partner and I have discussed a quote by Mike Tyson, the world’s former heavyweight boxing champion. “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit in the mouth.” Indeed. Say what you want to say about Mr. Tyson, but he’s punched a truth ticket with this one.
As a believer, what do you do, what do you believe, when you find yourself flat on your back yet one more time drowning in a nauseating sea of swirling stars after a vicious, lip-splitting punch in the mouth? Do you believe the Lord’s affections and intentions for you are sound even in the face of relentless disappointment? Alarmingly, spurred on by this latest crushed expectation, I have found myself straddling an unexpected spiritual ridgeline.
In response to my concerns, the Lord lovingly answers with questions of His own, saying, “Who do you believe Me to be? Do you believe My plans for your life are good? Do you believe I care for you? Do you trust Me?” The truth is that His questions are reminders, invitations to experience greater intimacy with Him by trusting Him when life inevitably gets messy and complicated.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)
“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.” C. H. Mackintosh
My struggles revolve around my unrealized expectations, which have caused me to focus on my uncomfortably lengthy circumstances rather than Him. Mercenaries known as sadness, panic, disillusionment, and self-pity have relentlessly stormed my castle walls. What am I to do in the face of this onslaught?
One of my go-to verses these past several years has been Lamentations 3:24 (NKJV), which says, “The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” It’s worth noting that other translations substitute “wait” for “hope.” Now that potential financial disaster is staring me squarely in the face, have I been guilty of only talking a good game with this verse? I said I would wait on Him in this season because He is worth waiting on, but that was several very long and hard years ago. Did I mean that or not? Has my trust in Him been misplaced?
“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’” Exodus 32:1 (NKJV)
“It’s easy to love and trust God when life is good, but when things fall apart is when you find out what we truly believe.” Cory Asbury, Reckless Love (the devotional)
Am I so different than the Israelites? Sadly, I am not. My impatience is showing, along with other less desirable traits of mine. The problem lies with me, not Him.
A fire has a way of refining and purifying like no other means.
A couple of pertinent quotes from movies I’ve recently watched have caught my attention. They share a recurring theme that fits rather nicely here. “Sometimes you gotta tear something down so you can build it back up again” (Joshua). “Any story that’s good has to go wrong before it gets good.” (Storm Boy)
Revisiting Lamentations 3:24 in light of these quotes is the smart thing to do, especially so when bathed in the truth espoused by Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV), which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
And so I am graciously reminded that I’m an ongoing project that is very much under His construction. As a rule, what building projects aren’t messy along their way to being completed? To expect otherwise is a mistake that makes me vulnerable to a whole host of issues, the likes of which I’m now experiencing.
My attention has wrongly been on my circumstances and not on Him. Lord, reframe and refocus my perspective and my attention to You!
Josh Baldwin, “Evidence” from the album, “Evidence.”
“Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:4-7 (NKJV)
Recall and revisit the evidence of His provision and presence! Of course! Yes! I may be hanging on by a thread, but I know Who holds the thread!
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom
Heavenly Father, I have experienced Your ongoing presence in so many different ways these past years. Lord, You rightly instructed the Israelites to employ Jordan Stones as remembrances of Your provision for generations to come that they would keep You always in their hearts. I ask You to refresh my mind and spirit, too! Immerse me in Your goodness, mercy, and grace! Fill me to overflowing with Your presence so that I will know You more deeply. Lord, my faith and trust have waivered because I took my eyes off of You. Please forgive me. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. May I always seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. In Jesus’ name, amen.
My fellow brother and sister in Christ, have you heard His song, the sound of His voice calling out to you? His affection for each of us is more beautiful and sound than you and I could ever imagine. He is calling you to Himself in the midst of whatever your circumstances are in this moment. Do you hear His voice? Do not be afraid; take that first step towards Him, for He is altogether trustworthy!
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)
“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)
Third Day, “Sound of Your Voice” from the album, “Move.”