Category Archives: Listening to God

When God’s Footprints Are Missing

I have seen them for years. I am sure that many of you have as well. These are the pictures with the footprints in the sand, along with the accompanying poem. It speaks of looking back on the path that we have walked in life and seeing one or two sets of footprints in the sand, depending on the event or season of life. As the poem or story goes, when there are two sets of prints, it is when the Lord is walking beside us. When there is only one set, it explains that this is when the Lord is carrying us.

There is actually a passage in Scripture that speaks of the footprints of the Lord. However, the message is not the same as in the story above. It does speak of missing footprints. The difference, though, is that it is the Lord’s footprints that are missing.

It comes at the end of Psalm 77, which has a theme of seeking the Lord in the day of trouble. The Psalmist, Asaph, speaks of being weary and troubled. However, in places throughout the Psalm, he also remembers the faithfulness and works of the Lord. And towards the end, Asaph recalls the work of the Lord in delivering the nation of Israel from Egypt and the pharaoh at the Red Sea.

“Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” Psalm 77:19-20. A couple of things stand out to me in this passage.

God’s path was through the sea. God knew what His plan was for His people. They did not understand it. They were crying out to God and blaming Moses for bringing them to death’s door. But God had things under control, and His plan was to lead His people through the sea and bring them safely to the other side. In fact, God said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.” Exodus 14:15-16. It was as if God said, “What are you waiting for? Let’s get going.”

God’s footprints were unseen, but He was leading His people. Moses, Aaron, and the people did not see God leading them through the sea on dry land. There were no footprints in the sand or sea floor. But the presence of God was unmistakable. The traveled through the sea on dry ground. The water stood up like a wall on either side of them as they traveled through. As soon as they passed through, the water came crashing back to where it had been before, wiping out their enemies and oppressors. God’s footprints were unseen, but He was there with His people – leading, providing for, and protecting them.

We may not always see God’s footprints. We may sometimes have trouble seeing what God is doing. Obstacles and trials can press in on us from every side, making it hard to focus and remember the promises of God. Yet, He calls for us to continue walking in obedience, even when the way is unclear. We can do this with confidence, even if we don’t know what we are walking into, because God is with us.

God has promised that He will always be with His people. He will hear us when we cry out to Him. He is with us in times of joy and in times of suffering and trial. We need to remember His Word and His promises. We need to remember how He has worked in our lives so many times before. We need to recall the work He has done throughout history. The evidence of the presence of God is all around us. We only need to open our eyes to see it. He is there, even when He does not leave any footprints.

Together for His glory…

Simple Truth: Simply Amazing

As I left for work this morning, our youngest son, Caleb, was sitting on the floor in front of the bookshelf. I looked to see what he was reading. It was one of the Dr. Seuss books that we bought back when the kids were young. My wife has kept them for grandchildren and when families with kids visit the house. Also, though, our youngest son still likes to read them.

As I drove to work, I was thinking about him pulling one of those books out to read. I thought also about how he still likes to watch the children’s public television programs that are on in the afternoon. He has never grown tired of them. In many ways, he will always have the mind of a child. This is not to say that he does not also have interest in more adult topics. After he finished with Dr. Seuss, I am sure he pulled out his sport’s page from the newspaper, in addition to watching Sports Center, to get the latest updates in the sports’ world.

However, he will probably never grow tired of the simple, ordinary things of life. Even though he is in his 20’s now, he will always have a childlike outlook on life. He still holds our hand when crossing parking lots or sitting in church. It is not embarrassing to him. He rarely treats the events of daily life as if they are ordinary, repetitive, or boring.

Recently, I have been wrestling with some tough doctrinal issues, working to reconcile them in my limited, human understanding. In some ways, I have allowed the process to distract and discourage me. I realize that there are some things that I will never understand. In the realm of eternity, my pea-sized brain is never going to figure some things out. It is the impossibility of the finite grasping the infinite. But it is still frustrating.

I have faced this reality many times before. Once again, it reminds me of the vastness of the person and work of the eternal, almighty God. And I will continue to strive to understand the God Who created and redeemed me. However, in the midst of that pursuit, I must remember to not lose sight of the simple, amazing truth that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

During my remaining years, I will continue to wrestle with the depths of God and the truth of His Word. I will never fully grasp His perfect love and perfect justice; His compassionate mercy and grace and His wrath. I will never completely understand how to balance election and free will in God’s perfect plan. The problem of evil. I could go on with many other topics and issues. I am sure you have your list also.

I believe God provides us with all that we need, including truth and wisdom, for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-8). And we need to strive to grow in wisdom, love, and holiness, becoming more like Christ. But in the process, we can’t forget this simple truth shared by Jesus Himself:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I learned this verse before I even knew how to read. It is taught to children in Sunday School classes almost from the time they are born. However, as we grow older, I think we forget the amazing wonder and truth in those words of Christ. Amazing love. Amazing grace. Amazing sacrifice. Amazing promise. Simply amazing.

I could write for a long time on the depth found in this verse, but I will leave you to reflect on that yourself. Reflect on the wonder in these words as we celebrate the coming of Christ. I was reminded of simple wonder by watching my man-child sit and read a children’s book. God reminded me that I don’t always have to have all of the answers. Sometimes, I just need to sit at His feet and listen to Him sing over me. Or maybe I just need to hold onto His hand as we cross the parking lot, trusting and delighting in Him and His love for me.

Together for His glory…

The Capital of Missouri is “M”

Caleb loves maps. When we travel, he likes to follow along on the map, so he knows where we are going. We were talking to him yesterday about maps, and my wife suggested that maybe he would enjoy learning all of the state capitals. So, I turned to him and asked him if he knew what the capital of Missouri was. Without hesitation, he replied, “M.”

Well, as you can imagine, that was not exactly the answer I was looking for, but his answer is not really incorrect either. “M” is the only capital letter in the word Missouri. And in his mind, “M” was the correct answer, even though it was not the answer to the question I was really asking. But we all got a good laugh and Caleb’s answer now finds its way into that collection of words and expressions that we have come to call “Caleb-isms.”

This incident highlights one of the issues that frequently can cause issues for us as followers of Christ. Effective communication can be very difficult. Sometimes, even though well-intentioned, we can confuse, offend, and hurt others. We do this with Christians and non-Christians alike.

With other Christians, we can be quick to argue over something that we don’t completely understand. We don’t take time to hear the perspective of the person we are debating with. We are so quick to defend our viewpoint that we don’t listen to the other person.

From personal experience, I have been involved in disputes that went on for months, only to find out, in the end, we had no significant difference of opinion on the issue. It was both amazing and disheartening that so much time was wasted arguing over something where the perspectives were not meaningfully different.

When we are talking to non-Christians, sometimes we expect them to understand where we are coming from when, in reality, they have no idea what we are even talking about. We have Christ dwelling within us. We have the Word, which He writes on our hearts and works in us to shape our thinking and our living, day by day, to be more like Jesus.

But after we have been in the faith for a while, I think we forget what it is like to not know the Word and have the internal guide of the Holy Spirit. We expect pagans to think like Christians. Why would they do that? How could they do that? We want them to conform to some spiritual or moral principle, but they have no ability to do so and no framework from which to accomplish that. They are spiritually dead.

In our ignorance, pride, or arrogance, we think everyone else thinks the way we do. Worse, we think that they should think the way we do. I have been there, believe me. As I look back over the years, I can think of so many times that I tried to pound home a point to someone, based on a conviction I had. Today, I see many of those times as prideful arrogance, tenaciously pressing for something that had little spiritual or eternal value. In the meantime, my victims were just thinking, “the capital of Missouri is M.” They had no idea what I was talking about or why it was so important.

Don’t get me wrong. Sound doctrine and convictions are critically important for us as Christians. If we do not hold fast to the essentials of the faith, the foundation that our faith is built on will be shifting sand (Matthew 7:24-27). Scripture is full of commands to hold fast to the truth of God’s Word. But many of us hold fast to convictions of our own creation, which cannot be supported by God’s Word.

Our pastor recently quoted one of the statements made by St. Francis of Assisi. “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Sometimes, I think that the best way we could communicate the gospel would be to just keep our mouths shut. When words become many, sin can often follow (Proverbs 10:19). The kingdom of Christ is revealed through the power of God, not our many words (1 Corinthians 4:20). There is a time to speak, but it is always the time to let the love of Christ shine through our lives.

The life of worship is the living out of the gospel and allowing God to shine the love of Christ through our lives. It is learning to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Because if we listen closely, both to God and the person we are speaking with, we might just see more clearly what God is doing in their lives. We might better understand where they are coming from, and why they think the capital of Missouri is “M.” In other words, we might actually understand why they view life the way they do.

Together for His glory…

The Making of a Recording and the Molding of a Man

As many of you know who follow this blog, Christ Community Worship will release its first CD this Sunday. We will have a celebration event to praise God for what He has done in and through this project. We will also ask God to use it for His glory and the spreading of the gospel. I won’t talk about the event more here. If you want more information, go to the CCW Facebook page (like us on Facebook!) or the CCW website.

The project was a long journey. It started with some music. It involved the suggestions, encouragement, and vision of several people. Then, add in the gifts and talents of many others, who have a heart for God and a desire to use these gifts for the glory of God and to tell of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Generosity of time, resources, and money also helped pave the way. Then, there was the work of getting the project completed. Hundreds, and probably thousands, of combined hours of work went into the completion of the project.

And it was work. I must confess, there were times when I wanted to be done with it. If I heard my voice one more time, I thought I would scream. Every glitch and variance would stand out to me. There were times that it was not an enjoyable experience. Then, there times when I would stand back in disbelief at what God had done and was doing through the process. I still can’t believe we have come to this point. Amazing!

The times that were not enjoyable were mostly those times when I think I was focused on the wrong things. And there were plenty of opportunities for me to focus on the wrong things. It’s funny. So many of the lyrics of the songs were speaking to me what I needed to hear, if I would have been listening. But along the way, there were times when I was listening for the wrong things. I would focus my physical and emotional energy on miniscule details that were far less important than what I could have been doing. Loving God. Serving and loving those I was called to serve and love. Praying for God to work in and bless their lives. Trusting God to accomplish His perfect will in our lives and in our ministry. Loving God (yes, I meant to say it twice).

The marvelous thing, though, is that God can take all of our successes and failures and weave them into something beautiful. There is no such thing as a lost cause or moving beyond the love and reach of God. God takes us where we are and works in us to complete the journey He has for us. He will make us complete. He will fulfill His purpose in us. He will bring us into glory.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

We press on, but God is the one Who molds and shapes us into the image of His Son. He is the one Who works in us and through us to accomplish His purpose, for His glory, and for our joy. I have a lot of molding and refining that still needs to take place in my life. I saw glimpses of this over and over during this process. I am thankful for that. For while it reveals my flaws and weaknesses, it reveals the great mercy and grace of our God and Savior.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Together for His glory…

I Can’t Hear You

It is a very windy day in St. Louis. As I sit in my office, I can occasionally see my curtains move, and the window is closed. A while ago, my wife called me. She was outside when she called. She said the wind was blowing so hard that it almost knocked her down a couple of times. But that was not the worst part of it. The noise of the wind in the phone was so loud that I could barely hear a word she said. Finally, she was able to get into the car and I could understand what she was saying. By then, though, we were both frustrated because it had been so hard to communicate. What should have been a simple conversation became virtually impossible.

It reminds me of a movie I saw once. Someone came to a friend’s house and was trying to talk to them. However, the music from the stereo was so loud that they could not hear what each other was saying. The visitor screamed, “Can you turn the music down?” to which their friend shouted, “I can’t hear you. The music is too loud.”

In this life, and especially in America, there seems to be a lot of noise. Sometimes, it is hard to even find a few quiet moments. As in the examples above, it can be very difficult to hear or be aware of things that are important. It can be hard to hear the voice of God. However, when we are having difficulty hearing the voice of God, I am not sure we can always blame this on the world we live in.

Don’t get me wrong. Satan and the world will not do us any favors when it comes to hearing the voice of God. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). But I think that there are many times when they don’t have to do anything to pull us away from hearing God. We do it all by ourselves.

We don’t leave time for the Word or prayer. We neglect meeting together with the church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to encourage and build each other up in the faith. We spend so much time on things that are not eternal and will, ultimately, do nothing to help us know Christ better. We fill our minds with the junk spewed out from the world’s self-focused, godless void.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I am not against all entertainment and art. I have sometimes been moved to deep thoughts about God and thankfulness and joy because of music, a movie, or a presentation by someone who is not a Christian. I think this is because God reveals Himself through His creation, even through people who don’t acknowledge Him and in spite of their efforts to deny Him.

However, we need to guard our hearts and minds. We need to know the voice of the Shepherd. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice (John 10:1-18). But it is hard to hear His voice when we are blasting the noise of the world in the same room. Jesus is saying, “Listen to me,” and we are screaming back, “I can’t hear you because my TV is too loud.” It could be anything. You fill in the blank. It could be friendships or relationships that pull us away from God. It could be music and entertainment that fill our minds with ungodly images or content. It could be our career or pursuit of money. It could be that we are just too busy.

Jesus said that He came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). He wants us to know Him and to hear His voice. If I can’t hear Him, maybe it is not because He is not speaking. Maybe I just can’t hear Him over all of the other noise in my life. The Shepherd is calling. I just need to be still and listen (Psalm 46:10).

Together for His glory…