Wednesday, October 31, 2007

MOSAIC MIAMI: The Voice of Truth

While I'm still working on the audio upload (it's Homecoming week at the University of Miami, which means lots of late nights and little free time for Sonny), here are the written notes from the sermon* I gave October 28, 2007.

* = thanks and acknowledgement to Compass Community Church for the overt stealing of a few ideas...although, since I was on the Creative Team at the church at the time, I'm technically just stealing from myself...


MOSAIC NOTES – 10-28-07: the Voice of Truth


Pet lovers: show of hands. Who all here has a pet? We have two: Cricket (adopted, 1994) & Maggie (adopted, 2000). I love allegories, I love telling and hearing stories, and anything that has a deeper meaning just gets me pumping. Funny and humbling to me just how many times God has used these two little mutts to illustrate the ways He works in my life.

Ashley and I are “those” dog owners. We give voices to our dogs. Cricket, despite her age, still speaks like a puppy and we speak to her in baby speak and she answers us in baby speak. “Time go nite-nite.” “I go sleep.” Seems just natural to me to talk to her like this, but it sounds a little ludicrous to anyone who hears us speaking to them. Maggie sounds like the dog from OVER THE HEDGE “Play?” But still kid-like in her voice.

I could go on for hours over the lessons I’ve learned from these two mutts, but one struck me the other day while walking them. Normally, when I walk them in the morning, I talk to them – partially to wake myself up, but also to tell them “no, don’t chase the lizard, “no, don’t eat that” or something else that starts with “no.” This one morning, I didn’t speak while we were walking. Don’t know why, just didn’t. Was walking Maggie & Cricket at the same time – because of her age, Cricket “goes” more often than Maggie, so I’m usually standing like this [image] when Cricket stops. Was stopped with Cricket, staring off at nothing, when I looked down, because I felt Maggie standing on my leg. She’d some back and was standing on hind legs, one paw in front of the other on my leg, ears back, looking at me with this sad puppy look on her face, like “Daddy? Why are you not speaking to me?” I looked at her and asked something like, “What is it, baby girl?” Really genuinely concerned because she looked so upset. Soon as she heard my voice, she knew that I wasn’t upset with her, wasn’t ignoring her, or anything like that - she simply just wanted to hear me talk to her – she got that “YEAH!” look – dogs smile; those of you with dogs know this – and she took off to sniff again.

Cricket? She’s learned through the years that sometimes when I’m quiet, it’s because I’m angry. Frustrated @ work, life, etc. – but she internalizes it and thinks I’m angry at her. Until she hears my voice, reassuring her that everything is okay between us – she looks a little timid. When she hears my voice talking to her, she gets excited. In that same “BLEAH!” happy face/run that Maggie gets. It wasn’t enough that Maggie heard my voice; Cricket needed to hear it as well, directed at her.

Oh, to be sure there are plenty of times that they do hear my voice and will completely ignore me, just trotting off in their own little world (“Hey – there’s food on the floor!” “Oooh – what’s this dead thing I found in the grass, and what does it taste like?”). But I’ve discovered that whether it’s me saying NO or just talking to them, they need to hear me. Or, at the very least, feel the sound of my voice. I love these two critters with all my heart, but I know in my heart of hearts that they don’t really understand one word I am saying to them. There associate certain sounds (“NO!”) to an action (what Ashley calls my “angry daddy” voice), but they don’t comprehend the words coming out of my mouth. They take reassurance in the SOUND of my voice.

Mark 4:23 (NIV): If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.

Kevin last week gave us a pretty much break-neck comprehensive overview of “How do I know Jesus is who He says He is,” a fast & furious look at Christianity and the Way. One of the next most common questions is “How can I understand God’s will in my life?” How do I know God is speaking to me? Or, conversely, we often complain that we don’t “get” God’s voice, that we don’t hear Him/feel Him speaking to us.

I know NOTHING about babies, but I have learned that you talk to them in the womb. They grow accustomed to the sound, to the resonance of your voice. [STRIKE DRUM] If your hearing is fine, you can both hear and feel me strike the drum. If your hearing is fine, you can’t separate the two (hearing/feeling).

Sound travels in waves, in cycles… in fact everything in life can be boiled down to cycles… our days are cycles, our years, the season, are cycles, our breathing and even heart rates have rhythms that are cyclical.. we even call it a life cycle… so everything moves in cycles… these cycles are in the form of waves…waves all have a certain frequency… resonance occurs when one set of waves overlaps an original wave…sympathetic vibration occurs…. The secondary waves connect with the original wave and are amplified and become greater than they were originally…

So if culture resonates with us… that means there has to be something inside of us… an original wave to connect with..

Culture Resonates an Original Source… God is closer than He appears or sounds – those stories, songs, personalities all connect with the original source wave of God inside of us… in whose image we are created…

Resonance – hard to explain… even harder to see… it is undeniable that we can feel and hear it

Something within us resonates to know our origin… to know if there is something out there bigger than us… to know the what the why and the how of our existence… We can look back at these verses in Acts and see that as well…

Acts 17:22-27 (NIV): Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Paul knew about this resonance… Vs. 22-23… In every culture, in every society, man has created objects of worship – something bigger than themselves to worship… even if they didn’t exactly know what it was… this need for something bigger impacts us in every way… it is the biggest influence on how we deal with our past, how we live in the present, and how we face the future… Paul knew about this resonance when he spoke there at Mars Hill…

Paul knew who God is… Vs. 24-25… It wasn’t enough to just recognize the resonance… that happens all day everyday without God having any part or being any part of the answer… think about this… when you see the commercials that you see on TV… does it occur to you that they use this resonance to sell you things? They use emotions to get you to buy stuff… emotions that make us cry, that make us hungry, that make us lustful, that make us thirsty, and even emotions that make us laugh…

Without knowing the original source of the resonance, without understanding the original wave, the resonance has no meaning… it is much ado about nothing… So Paul tells the philosophers who this unknown God really is… this chord struck that makes you search any and everywhere for meaning and hope… He didn’t offer a debate.. but straight up told them how it was… He told them that he knew this resonance, and he knew who God is… And better yet, Paul knew what we need to know about resonance & God…

Paul knew what we need to know about resonance & God… Vs. 26-27… God did this so men would seek him… So that we could know that He is closer than we sometimes think He is or feel He is, He put a part of Himself inside of us… we are created in His image and resonate when we connect with His original wave in culture…

John 4:23-25 (MSG): It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.

So – how exactly do you develop this inner discernment (there’s a $3 “church” word for you) to sync up your own spirit to the resonance of God?

But before we begin – understand that nothing in the Bible is quick and easy. Your salvation came at a price, and God never said that the struggles in this world would be simple or easy to overcome. Quite the opposite, actually:

Ephesians 6:13 (NIV):
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Let’s start with asking God for guidance.

How many of you have been guilty of either driving around during the holidays and praying that God will give you a good parking space, or when you do find one that’s not in the next county, you immediately think of this as God has blessed you with a close spot to the door? Or there’s been a time when you go into a store and that certain something you’re wanted for a while (not something you need, just something you want) is suddenly on sale – and in either of these instances, you’ve remarked about how good God is? Yes, it is possible that God wants you to have that PS3 or plasma screen TV. HiDef Halo tournaments or viewings of LOST in our house may just be the path of salvation for someone. Not that I’m speaking from a want in my own life, you understand… Yes, it is possible that God wants you – and only you – to have that prime spot for shopping the day after Thanksgiving. But what about the times we ask for something – deliverance from a situation, a disease, or a huge problem in our lives – and we feel like those requests go unanswered – while we see and hear the celebration of the people who have saved 15 percent or more on their car insurance. Doesn’t God consider HIV & AIDS bigger than who gets voted off THE BACHELOR? Or who wins a sporting event?

I’ve heard it said that the single most dangerous prayer is “God, use me.” Because oftentimes we have an idea about HOW we want to be used, and that’s what we’re asking for God to do – use us in the way WE see fit and not the way HE might see fit. We need to be prepared for the fact that if/when we pray this, you’re opening the door for a world of possibilities – not all of them what you might classify as good. When Isaiah said “Here am I – send me,” I don’t think he was prepared for everything that was going to be said/done in his lifetime, and that he’d be THE prophet that would speak a lot about who Jesus was, what he was going to undergo, and what signs would point to the Messiah.

Or, we ask God for a confirmation, but then tell God exactly what that confirmation must be. For example, you might tell God, "If You want me to be a missionary in China then make such and such happen. If such and such doesn't happen then I will know that you don't want me to go to China as a missionary." We might call this a “cop out,” but the Bible calsl this "throwing out a fleece."

Judges 6:36-40 (NIV): Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised - look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

God does honor fleeces sometimes, but at some point He will probably require you to begin listening inwardly for His voice and He will probably stop honoring the fleeces that you throw out. Whether or not you choose to throw out fleeces is up to you, but at least keep this point in mind when you do so.

The clincher is that our prayers don’t go unanswered. We might not like the answer sometimes, because God will say “no.” You might think your prayer falls on deaf ears, but in reality, it’s God simply stating that the time is not right – YOU are not ready – for this to be answered. It is being answered, according to His will. In His time, in His manner.

To me, God does not sound like George Burns or Morgan Freeman. Or even Jim (Passion of the Christ) Caviezel. Ashley will joke that I’m the one who will stop and just be amazed by a sunset (she’ll never see a sunrise) or the look of the moon in the sky. It’s not that I look up into the sky and hear God, but I definitely feel His presence when I look at nature.

Fire + water = God speaks through both (burning bush/rushing wind).

Romans 15:13 (NIV): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In order to hear God better, we need to get to know God better. Read Bible. Duh. “It’s too confusing.” Well, yeah. Sometimes it is. But the reality is that a lot of times we don’t struggle with the Bible, but with the clock. We live in such a fast-paced society that it’s not just our sins that are killing our souls – it’s our schedules.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV): Be still and know that I am God.

Philippians 4:7 (NIV): And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Voice of God: some people say if they could just HEAR God speak to them then they would either believe or they would not sin. Really?

Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV): The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Genesis 3:8-11 (NIV): Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

Here were the only two people on the planet at the time, with no other distractions (no kids, no peer pressure, no TV competing for their attention, no sin to entice them) – they heard God, but did they listen?

Think about this when you speak with a friend/spouse – you can hear what they’re saying, but are you listening to them?

Look to the left, now look to the right – you’re looking at the face of God – listen to the voices of the people around you – wise counsel – the whole cultural resonance bit? Yeah. You can’t disconnect from the culture or from the people around you – God is not only in that person sitting next to you, but in the culture of the people around you. It’s why God speaks to my quasi-hippie-heart through nature, environment, through issues of social justice and equality – through the hearts of the people closest to me.

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV): As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Most of us probably won’t have a mountaintop experience with Christ where we literally hear the voice of God speaking to us (Matthew 17:5) nor will we ever have a burning bush just spark into being (Exodus 3:2-5).

In Exodus, when God called Moses, the verb used is qara – means “the enunciation of a specific message.” God was speaking directly TO Moses FOR a specific purpose. One way to know God is speaking to you is that when He speaks, there’s a reason behind it. When we speak to God (pray) it’s for a specific purpose, most of the time to ask for something. God speaks to us with a directness that we might not understand, but there’s a purpose behind it.

Deuteronomy 4:15 (NIV): So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire.

Bono: “Love your neighbor” is not a suggestion; it is a commandment.

Hebrews 13:1-2 (NIV): Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

But the voice of truth tells me a different storythe voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"Out of all the voices calling out to meI will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
- “Voice of Truth,” Casting Crowns

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