speak

Courage and cowardice.

Strength and weakness.

When you think about it, the prophets of the Bible at one point lived each of those extremes.

Moses said no thanks in the beginning and eventually tells God, “’Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’ But Moses said, ‘Lord, please send someone else to do it.’” [Exodus 4:10-13]

Isaiah had a vivid vision and was brought to his knees in humility, hearing God speak, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” [Isaiah 6:1-8]

Elijah got to a point he wanted to die after all the other prophets were killed, and hides in a cave, where he hears God speak, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” But the best part of the cave is that God tells him to go stand outside, then:

“And behold the Lord passes by, and a great strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was no in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” [1 Kings 19:11-12]

Samuel thought God’s voice was actually his mentor’s voice and when he finally got clued in he said the scary words a prophet can never take back, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [1 Samuel 3:10]

Examples of the prophets hearing the voice of God could go on for paragraph after paragraph. It was their calling to be a mouthpiece for God and to speak his words. Even on that level of being known and hearing from God there is still a common factor…they were all still human and their actions show that in some revealing ways, but it didn’t stop God from using them.

Some would say I am a mission-junkie…others know it has matured into more Kingdom-junkie, and I would definitely say I have become a prophet-junkie and that has a lot to do with really loving how God used the prophets.

I am constantly mesmerized by their ability to speak words to people in their own culture that were so incredibly painful to hear. Words full of truth, yes, but painful words at that. They were calling people back to rightness with God, and back into God’s heart, but the people didn’t want to hear that their behavior was too far outside of what God had instructed them to do. They didn’t want to hear that worshipping idols would really have consequences. They didn’t want to hear that their social indulgences of sex, prostitution and debauchery were wrong.

The words God had the prophets speak fell on deaf ears, and the Old Testament is full of stories of God trying to bring his children home.

God is still speaking now, and friends, God is still trying to bring his children home.

Can we honestly say we are seeking to hear his voice? When God speaks those words…do we even recognize it?

Samuel didn’t recognize the voice of God because it hadn’t been heard in thousands of years. He had no idea what it sounded like. Thankfully, his mentor instructed him to listen and say to God, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Wise words from an ailing priest with sons that continually made him look bad…(cliff note) Samuel’s first prophecy was to tell Eli that God was going to carry out everything against his family that he said he would, because Eli knew his sons’ sin and did nothing.

But the real question is…are we living in that time again where God’s voice hasn’t been heard in thousands of years? Or are there people who clearly hear the voice of God speak and we ignore them? Label them as crazy?

Elijah stood at that cave entrance dejected, dishonored and alone. But God showed up. Not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire…but in a whisper. I have the fortunate timing of being placed where I can hear a whisper, but I still have to be an intentional listener with plenty of discernment time available.

What would happen if we all breathed out what Samuel did once he realized who was talking to him in that dark room where the voice of God woke him up? What would our lives look like if we intentionally spoke out as Samuel did, “Speak, for your servant is listening?”

Much courage and strength are needed to speak those words.

May God grant you that courage and strength, friends.

 

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contagious

I made it until I was about 11 until I had chicken pox. Itchy, splotchy and nasty. I contracted it through my extremely contagious little brother, who conveniently had it at a young age since he is 9 years younger than me. Thanks, bro. (sarcasm intended)

We learn about contagious things from our childhood. Wash your hands. Use sanitizer. Don’t cough on me. Don’t wipe that there. Don’t touch that. No, you can’t share my drink…I don’t want to catch what you have!

With all of those negative commands about things that are contagious, and the order to stay away from them, what happens when we want someone to catch what we have? When we want our passion to be contagious for a mission? A ministry? A country? For our Savior…

It’s no secret that I am a Paul junkie…if I’d lived in Bible times, there’s no doubt I would have been one of his groupies. Of course, only after I got over the fact he wasn’t killing Christians anymore. But you see, that’s the story. The contagious part. He was a transformed man on that road to Damascus, and his words came out of that transformation.

Then they couldn’t get him to shut up.

Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God. They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying, “Isn’t this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers? And didn’t he come here to do the same thing—arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?” But their suspicions didn’t slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he plowed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah. [Acts 9:19-22 MSG]

Now somewhere there is an old-school, cynical believer who would think, “That’s how it always happens with ‘new believers’ they catch that Gospel fire and won’t ever let up. It fades eventually.”

I remember getting told that when I was a new believer. And it pissed me off.

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As I sit here writing this…I find myself confronted by that young woman who was so passionate about her Savior that she made some radical choices to follow him. She definitely made some choices that didn’t sit well with people in her life. And the sad part? I think she’d sit across this desk from me and say, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? Do I need to come give you a kick in the ass? What the hell are you fighting for? We have more fight than this…’

Then the 14-years-older version of me says, ‘You are going to get worn out. Eventually too many people get into your head…and then you start giving credence to some of those voices that you probably shouldn’t.”

When the only voice you should be listening to is that of the One who created you. The One who calls you. The One who you answer to.

The same Paul they couldn’t get to shut up wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:13, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak.”

Here are the contagious truths I am choosing to believe and speak…

God’s word should be contagious. Be in it. If your Bible has a layer of dust, there’s a problem. Get started now, and no one will notice you had a layer of dust.

God’s story should be contagious. Tell it. If you don’t know how to talk about God’s story, start practicing. His message was spread by the disciples only because they were passionate about telling what they had LEARNED from Jesus and what they had SEEN in him. Tell those around you how your story merges with God’s story. If you don’t know, figure it out, because I guarantee it merges.

God’s community should be contagious. I once heard Michael Frost talk about movie trailers and Christianity. How in the theatre, before the actual movie starts there are these teasers. By the reaction of those around you to the trailer you know immediately if they ‘HAVE TO GO SEE THAT MOVIE’ or ‘wouldn’t be caught dead seeing that.’ Which version of Christian community do others see in you, your family & the people you are with?

God’s people should be contagious. This is where we all need to channel a bit of that new believer enthusiasm, and not be afraid of it. Do you love others with that newborn Spirit-filled love? Does your voice inflection channel wonder and excitement for who God is? Do your words speak to the heart of God, or do they berate, belittle and judge those around you? People are not drawn to  judgers…but they do want to be around those handing out God’s unconditional love, mercy and grace.

People are drawn to the purest form of the Gospel…we just tend to dilute it and unintentionally make it ugly through our own sin. Shame on us.

Every single one of these makes God something that others want to catch and be infected with. And before you know it…you are spreading the Gospel in ways that you never imagined. Go be contagious…in a good, non-hand sanitizer way.

no

I have a problem. No surprise to many, but for others…it’s confession time.

Hi, my name is Stephanie, and I have a problem saying ‘No.’

It’s simple really because I view everything through the lens of God’s Kingdom work. And most everything easily falls under that umbrella. Not counting how many loop holes it took to get it there, of course.

But for some of the time it also gets filed under…I don’t like to disappoint people. I like to be liked. Who doesn’t? I put so much value on relationships that when I disappoint others…or get hurt by damaging relationships…I try to fix everything by saying ‘Yes.’ See the cycle I get stuck in here?

But when I get stuck in the never ending cycle of ‘Yes.’ I lose too much God, no matter how many well meaning things get shuffled under the Kingdom work umbrella. It’s still just me saying ‘Yes’ to not disappoint others, instead of saying ‘Yes’ for my own God reasons.

Example…I work at a church, and there are a lot of amazing, valuable and Kingdom things to say ‘Yes’ to around there.

But I get lost, unfocused, hopeless and snarky when I don’t have time stop my brain, rest and chill out with my Savior. And sometimes just a day off doesn’t cut it, because I need to HEAR God and FEEL his presence.

God has created this beautiful thing that some folks call margin. Think of the white space on the sides of a written page. Top, bottom, and both sides all free of text. What if our lives had that excess? Space that is created to intentionally make room for random, restful and spontaneous God moments that refill you. And it is only found when you start to use ‘No’ more often.

God speaks in your margin. Through quiet, through rest and through those around you.

We cannot expect our Savior to only meet us at scheduled times. Read that again…it sounds ridiculous, right? But that is exactly what we all do.

‘Ok, God…I expect to hear you at church service…I’ll be there at 10:10 Sunday morning.’

Or.

‘God, I will be at Bible Study with 40 other women at 9 am on Wednesday morning…see ya then.’

I am not discounting how God speaks through church or community Bible Study, because those are great tools of discipleship. What I am pointing out is how we ‘schedule’ our time with God.

When we make room for God to work in our margins…incredible Holy moments happen. A random conversation with a neighbor that is struggling. You feel nudges during prayer to go on that mission trip you’ve been thinking about. You discover you have things in common with a barista, and a new friendship blossoms.

What if…just what if our ‘no’ was a way for God to pave the way to a ‘yes’ for his Kingdom cause?

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