Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Can You Here Me Now?


"Can you here me now?"

It's a question on the lips of many in our culture today as we seek to carry on meaningful conversations over tiny little cell phones. Whether it is the location of the cell tower or the noise of traffic, or even the bustle of people in the coffee shop, sometimes making sure that we are heard is a difficult endeavor.

I have often asked this question while in conversation with God. Yet, I wonder how many times God may ask the same question of me? I think that is what God might have been asking of Gideon, that somewhat reluctant Judge, recorded in Judges 6-8.

God called upon Gideon to act on His behalf, but Gideon was not too sure that he was hearing God correctly, and thus he laid out his "fleece." Gideon asked God to show him twice through a sign that he really was hearing God correctly. I can picture God in heaven responding, "OK, Gideon, can you hear me now?" Thankfully, God did continue the conversation, even though Gideon was in that questioning mode.

Too often I have found myself in that same place; questioning the voice and call of God. I lay out the fleece, not once or twice but on and on, seeking to make sure that I really am hearing the voice of the Lord. I wonder if God, in gracious frustration, says, "Randy, can you hear me now?"

When is it that we know it is the voice of the Lord? When have we fleeced the Lord enough? When do we move forward in trust-expressing faith? When do we say, "I hear You now!" What motivated Gideon to fleece the Lord? Was it clarification? Was it fear? Was it was the hope that maybe God had dialed the wrong number?

Those questions speak of my own life as well. What I need to know is; how do I know that I know? When is it time to roll up the fleece, squeeze out the dew, and walk forward in obedience? Sadly, I too often return to the threshing of grain in the winepress in hopes that the war will all blow over and life will continue in peace...

But then the cell phone buzzes again.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I was a teenager trying to walk diligently with the Lord and wanting in the worst way to live a life above reproach before Him, I use to "fleece" the Lord from time to time. I did this not to test the Lord but to get reassurance that the decision I was about to make was indeed HIS will for my life.

As I have matured I do that less and less because I have a better handle on the Word than I did in those earlier years. I think God honors a sincere heart and isn't "offended" by what may appear as "testing" Him.

Gideon I'm sure didn't want to make a big mistake and suffer the consequneces of his "rash" actions if he WASN"T hearing correctly. God dealt severly in those days with disobedience and and I'm sure Gideon witnessed some of God's wrath on others who either didn't hear correctly or didn't follow instructions to the T.

Some leaders are the "A" personality types who have an overabundance of self confidence and like Peter tend to be "bulls in the China shop" in their approach to leadership...others have more cautious approaches and tend to want to make SURE of the consequences of their intended actions BEFORE they take those steps. Gideon was a humble man from humble heritage who evidently wasn't a self-assured person. I don't fault him for his wanting to make sure he was hearing correctly...however, I think if an angel appeared to me in body and spoke as that angel spoke to him, I might have tended to believe it was truly from God from the get-go.....but I wasn't there in his shoes and I suppose if I got that message and thought about what might happen if I WEREN'T hearing correctly, I too, would have sought further assurance.

Thank God for His written Word that is a guide and light unto our paths. When an idea or compulsion, burden, fork in the road,decision re: career, marriage partner, big financial decision....whatever comes requiring a "step of faith" on our parts...at least we have the Bible to guide us as to what is in keeping with the will of God for His children.

I guess the bottom line is that even though Gideon questioned.... and "fleeced".... he DID obey and God's miraculous mission was "accomplished".

I think God can handle our "cautiousness" and making sure we have a clear "connection"....if in the end we follow and obey His calling.

We are warned over and over that Satan can come to us as an "angel of light" and we can be deceived. Perhaps this is what sparks that caution light in many a believer. I for one don't want to obey the wrong voice...better to make SURE!!

God Bless! Ruthie

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess I need to give Dan-o a run for his money just in case he thinks he qualifies as the resident "blog hog".

Which is my way of saying it's a long one. Sorry.

Reading the chapter, it seems to me that Gideon was really asking for reassurance. Once he tore down Baal’s alter, he was in over his head and probably getting a little frightened. Then after the armies formed an alliance against Israel, Gideon summoned his warriors too in obedience to God. Not for one minute, did Gideon disobey God. He had indeed stuck his neck out in obedience to God. So he then put out a fleece and then he even put out yet another fleece humbly asking God not to be angry with him for asking even a second time for reassurance. God did not rebuke him, but simply reassured him.

But speaking of fleeces, I was watching “Old Christine” on television recently and in it she got very angry because her husband’s new girlfriend the “New Christine” and her ex had taken her little boy to church. Turns out Christine had asked to go to Sunday school as a child and her parents started dropping her off on the way to Indian bingo on Sundays. She prayed for a “sign from God” and sure enough when she was finally all dressed up in her white confirmation dress, they forgot to call her name. A human oversight, not a sign from God at all, but she took it as a sign that God didn’t want her to join church.

But New Christine’s little boy loved Sunday school and begged her to take him again. So off to church “New Christine” went while her little boy went to Sunday school.

She sat when everyone else stood up, stood up when everyone else sat down, her cell phone rang loudly, and her stomach growled. After she finally found the songbook and then the page and the Bible and the right chapter and verse, she kept singing after everyone else quit, and kept reading after everyone else quit as well. She accidentally dropped the Bible on the floor causing a big thud. Everyone kept turning around to look at the strange lady in the back row. Not knowing what to do, she nervously kissed the Bible after she just dropped it. Each action elicited more stares from everyone surrounding her.

She apologized to the man sitting next to her for her stomach growling explaining she had eaten a “funky submarine sandwich” for breakfast. He just looked at her like she was nuts. When the pastor said that each person feels a longing and an unexplainable emptiness inside, she nodded knowingly and said to the man next to her, “Oh, that’s soooo true.” The man just looked at her like she was nuts. Not a very comfortable place for New Christine. Far from feeling at home or welcome, she felt like a sore thumb sticking out.

Then the minister (bless his heart) realized what was going on and asked her to come forward and read with him after introducing her as a newcomer and asking everyone to welcome her. New Christine said to the man next to her, “Maybe that’s my sign!” And again, he just looked at her like she was nuts.

(Been there, done that).

Anyway, it ended when Christine went up to read with the minister. Unfortunately, as she stood there, she saw a sign outside the window. It was an actual “sign” for a sandwich shop. Her eyes lit up when she saw it. She immediately rushed out to eat something to keep her stomach from growling figuring that was indeed her sign from God.

It was really a good show. Once again outward appearances. The BTK killer fit right in at church, understood all the traditions and didn’t seem the least bit strange to his fellow churchgoers. He dressed like a Christian, walked like a Christian and talked like a Christian (otherwise known as a wolf in sheep’s clothing). But here was this lady with a sincere heart, who really wanted a sign from God telling her that’s what she should do, and she got a lot of strange looks from people so familiar with the traditions she found utterly confusing, that she felt like nothing more than a disruption to them.

The problem with asking for signs from God is that it is human nature to interpret signs to say what we either want them to say (off to the sandwich shop for New Christine to keep from feeling more discomfort) or we are apt to interpret rejection from flawed human beings as a sign from God that we don’t belong there (when they didn’t call her name for confirmation).

Still as Christine admitted in the show, we all have that longing, that emptiness, that need to have a relationship with God.

So talk to him, and hear from him we must. Each of us, somehow has to learn to communicate with God and somehow keep our flesh, our wishful thinking, our negative self-images, other people’s opinions about us, our opinions about other people and so on out of the picture long enough to know when it is indeed God speaking.

Which is why I don’t think it bothered God that Gideon asked for more reassurance.

gentledove

Pastor Randy said...

gentledove,

Welcome back!

Both you and Ruthie covered the subject at hand well, thanks to both of you for the reminders. It is good to know that God does not condemn our questions, especially those asked in faith, and with a deep desire to do what He askes, in the way that He askes, and I do believe that was Gideon's desire.

gentledove, you wrote,

"Still as Christine admitted in the show, we all have that longing, that emptiness, that need to have a relationship with God." Thanks for that reminder as well, because I think that is what is at the root of much of our desire to know what God wants, even our "fleecing." It is the conversation with God that we long for. God is community at His very Being (you can see that in the Trinity) and His desire thus for us is community as well. Not just with each other, but with Him. He is a God expressed in relationship, and desires us to know that relationship as well. At least in part this is why Jesus died; to restore that relationship. In His death He removed the barrier and in His resurrection He opened the door.

Now, it is the task to help people, even my gathered flock on Sunday morning, to understand that their deepest desire (longing) is not so much to know the exact will of God, but to know God, to live in relationship with Him. To know the "...deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!...Tis a heaven of heavens to me; And it lifts me up to glory, For it lifts me up to Thee!"

Anonymous said...

I've "fleeced" before. I've never been too sure of my intentions, though. Sometimes I've fleeced because I wanted confirmation of a direction. Sometimes I've fleeced hoping for a way out.

You know, it's odd, even though I've fleeced, and I've received the agreed upon confirmation, there's always that edge of "Hmmm, I wonder...." Maybe that's just me. I've always wondered if Gideon still had that tug inside his chest cavity that caused him to second/third guess the fleece.

Randy, you asked how do you know, that you know, that you know, that you know, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Here's what I think, take it with a grain of salt....

There are two things here. One is the written will of God, found in the Word. "Love the Lord..." "Love your neighbor..." "Love one another..." Be good to the poor, the widow, the orphan, the forgotten, etc. No questioning those orders. No need for fleeces there.

It's the stuff that happens now, today, that we fleece. OR, how do we go about fulfilling the above orders that we find fleeces outside our doors. Things that have no previous precedent upon which to fall back. Uncharted territory. Jobs, marriage, ministries of various sorts, kids, whatever. We THINK we know, but we want to make sure, so we fleece.

Here's the thing, tho'. Concerning the stuff that happens today, I don't think we could ever know, 100%; fleece, or no fleece. There's always going to be an element of faith involved. Sorry, but there it is.

Also, here's the tricky part, if we fleece, and we act upon the information gleaned from that fleece, we tend to trust the fleece. "I'm doing this because the fleece was wet/dry/(fill in the blank)." Fleeces tend to make us trust fleeces. (Sounds a little like Dr. Seuss)

We never see God endorsing fleeces. Allowing fleeces, sure, but there's never been a press release giving God's approval and consent to indiscriminate fleece usage. (Although, the question arises in regards to the Urim and the Thummim....)

Why? I don't think God wants us to trust the calling, but the Giver of the calling. You're right, it's about relationship, not information gathering.

Do I trust God in His love for me? Do I trust that God is bigger that my stupidity, and my fumbling? Do I trust that God has bigger plans involved in whatever decisions face me? Do I trust that God is capable to overcome the obstacles? Will I trust God, even if I'm wrong and I misread the whole thing? Will I trust God even if He allows the entire endeavor to fold and apparently fail?

These are the tough questions. These are the questions that sometimes I cannot answer even for myself at times.

Blessings on all!

Dan-o

Anonymous said...

I’m still here. Sometimes, if I don’t have anything more to add and it seems all the bases have been covered, I’m going to just listen and not just rattle away saying something that’s already been said or else continue beating a dead horse (hopefully). I just had to mention the “Old Christine” episode here.

It was so amazing to see a secular television show depicting “churchgoing” as anything other than pure hypocrisy or church as a place where delusional unscientific people hang out. This show didn’t depict Christians as perfect (far from it), but neither did it applaud agnostics or atheists either. The writers’ showed both as humorously flawed and gave both some food for thought.

Excellent writing and of course Julia Dreyfus is a very talented actor. She took the viewer right into her discomfort with her stomach growling, saying and doing exactly the wrong thing at the precisely the wrong time. One could easily empathize with her confusion, embarrassment and her deep desire to know God. (Sorry, I kept calling Old Christine New Christine in error though since I typed it too fast and hit the send button without proofreading). I really should e-mail CBS and tell them how much I enjoyed that show.

I sometime shoot off e-mails to networks if they really trash Christians. House did one episode that was truly a joke. So I mentioned to the Fox network in my e-mail that the writers’ bias was showing. Don’t know if they even read my e-mail or not, but I felt “led” to send it. What they do with my input is between them and the God they either believe or don’t believe in.

I often wonder how many school shootings is it going to take for Hollywood (a major influence in our society) to wake up and realize religious instruction isn’t a bad thing? Did the latest news headlines of devout Amish Christians as victims rather than perpetrators tell them anything? When is Hollywood going to wake up?

gentledove