November 8, 2016

Acts 10:33 “Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

What preacher wouldn’t love to hear this! This would really “pull the preach” out of anyone! And sure enough, reading to the end of the chapter shows us that Peter couldn’t even finish his remarks before the people hearing started responding fully to the work of the Holy Spirit. Hearing ears and hearts are so important! I’ve done pre-wedding marriage counseling for the past four days in a row, and this is something I always talk about in terms of husband/wife communication. One partner can be expressing their heart and the other not really hearing at all. That’s the sort of thing that can lead to divorce. The thing is, God is always ready to listen to us, but too often we aren’t ready to listen to Him. In the first place, many people can’t seem to grasp that God would really talk to them. We tend to make that all mystical, stuff for saints and gurus and the like. We forget that as parents, we don’t limit talking to our children to when they are being good. If anything, we might talk to them a bit more when they aren’t (or at least more strongly). God speaks to us in many ways. Because of our differences in personality and the like, some people are more likely to hear Him one way and some another way. The two Josephs who feature prominently in the Bible, one in Genesis and the other the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus, both heard from the Lord frequently through dreams. I have a pastor friend like that, and my wife has had quite a few dreams from the Lord. However, I can hardly remember any dreams that I knew were from the Lord. On the other hand, I feel like the Lord talks to me daily as I read and meditate on the Bible. I have been involved in prophecy, both giving and receiving it, when the Lord speaks clearly through a human vessel. (Actually, true preaching should be this way, just as it was when Peter spoke to Cornelius’ household.) That can be the easiest to understand, but those hearing must accept it as the Word of the Lord or it isn’t very effective. The risk here is that not all who claim to speak for the Lord really do, and even those who do sometimes aren’t necessarily consistent. God can speak through donkeys, even, but that doesn’t mean we should hold church in the barn! The lesson is, we are to have our hearts turned and tuned to the Lord so that we can recognize and receive whatever He says to us, however He chooses to do it.

As a pastor/teacher this is a major issue in my life. Not only do I seek to hear from the Lord myself, I am often used to speak His Word to others in various ways. Their receptivity is all over the map! Sometimes I am aware that I am speaking for God and sometimes I’m not, but He’s using me anyway. It’s always fun when I discover that’s happened! It is joyous when people receive gladly what the Lord says through me, just as it was for Peter in today’s story, but it can be heartbreaking when people steadfastly refuse to listen. Jeremiah and other Old Testament prophets experienced this, and just about everyone in the New testament did, from Jesus on down. I am not to take it personally when it happens to me, but rather pray God’s grace and mercy for my hearers. I am not to decline to speak because I have prejudged my hearers, but rather be faithful to speak whenever and whatever the Lord says to, without interjecting my thoughts on my schedule. I’ve made some real blunders doing that! It all comes down to being open and available to the flow of the Holy Spirit through me, because only then is God’s will accomplished.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me indeed speak what You are saying, as well as hear and obey what You are saying, so that Your will may be done in and through me consistently, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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