Are You Listening?

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So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for Him.  Acts 12:5

No matter where you are at this moment, the air around you is filled with music!  Beethoven to the Beatles,  Mozart to Metallica and Garth to Gospel are playing all the time.  I know it may seem like there is total silence, but that’s because you don’t have a receiver.  Your ears are blind to symphonies that are playing, because you don’t have a radio or satellite radio right now.  I just bought an Amazon Echo for my office.  It is about the size and shape of a hockey puck; but when properly connected, the Dot makes over 1,000,000 songs available to me.  I just need to make a request and then just listen.  It will tell me a joke (the corny kind that bring pain), spell a word and answer questions factually and accurately.  I can ask it for directions any time of day and allow it to remind me of what I am supposed to do.  Not bad for $50!  They are flying off the shelves!

The air is also filled with the Voice of God speaking to His children every hour of every day.  When we bring our requests to Him, He knows the answers to our questions.  In fact, He was waiting for us to ask for His advice and is willing to enable us to do whatever He asks of us.  Every moment of every day, Jesus is talking to you.  Why is it that we can put our trust in a plastic piece of technology, but struggle to believe that the Creator of the universe is speaking to the “crown of His creation.”  God created us to be in an intimate relationship with Him.  However, our strong tendency is to try to figure out things ourselves.  How often have we prayed asking God for direction only to say “Amen” and turn to our own strength for a solution?  We pray, but do not expect God to answer.

From the Creation Story to the closing Amen of the book of Revelation, God has been in constant communication with the “crown of His creation.”  The first sound Adam heard was the voice of God.  Adam and Eve’s daily walks were filled with talks with their Creator.  Although I believe Adam and Eve talked about their day, they did more listening than talking.  The daily walks were all about having a conversation with God.  The conversation begun with Adam and Eve continues throughout the Old Testament with examples like Abraham, Moses and Isaiah.   In the New Testament, the living Word, Jesus Christ, comes to earth to speak first-hand with His creation.  Jesus’ words are consistent with the conversations He has had in the past and will have in the future.  The message is the same: God created us to be in conversation with Him, Adam and Eve quit speaking to God when they chose to be their own gods and God wants us back.

Most Christians would not have trouble believing that God spoke to Abraham on Mount Moriah or Moses on Mount Sinai.  Of course, Jesus spoke to Peter on the Day of Pentecost and Paul on the Damascus Road.  We do not have a problem there.  What if Jesus is speaking to you right now?  What if Jesus understands our situation and our prayer requests, but has had trouble getting us to be quiet and listen?  I have come to understand that when I am fearful, it is because I am trying to “fix” a problem without waiting on the Lord.  We bulldoze our plan through and then get mad at God, because it didn’t turn out the way we expected.  Listening to God’s Voice is a vital part of our Christian life.  Are you listening to Him?

In Acts 12, King Herod had begun a series of persecutions that he hoped would stop this new movement known as “The Way” and also recapture his power over the Jewish people.  Stoning had already been tried when the Sanhedrin stoned a believer named Stephen.  The most Stephen’s death did to stop the followers of Jesus was to scatter some to Antioch, but the group continued to grow and gained a nickname, Christians (little christs).  Because this was not effective enough, Herod implements a new strategy.  He will go over after the main leaders of these Christians.  Herod begins by having James, the brother of John, arrested and beheaded.  Finding that the Jewish religious leadership are pleased, Herod moves on to his next target, Peter.

As the major spokesman for the Christians, Peter would be an obvious target for the next execution.  Peter is arrested on the Day of Unleavened Bread.  Knowing that Peter’s execution will have to wait until after Passover, Herod has Peter arrested and thrown into jail until the Jewish feast is concluded.  With Peter’s death, Herod will have killed two-thirds of Jesus’ Inner Circle.  I would imagine that John would have been next.

What do you do when you need a miracle?  The Christians gathered together and began to pray that God would move in these dire circumstances.  They were very earnest in their intent.  They knew they needed God to move. While they are praying, Jesus goes to work over at the prison.  Jesus moves into the maximum security prison where Peter is being held and walks right past the guards, the cell and the chains.  In answer to the Church’s prayer, Jesus awakens a drowsy Peter, unchains him and walks him past all of the security points to freedom.  Thinking that this is a vision, Peter has to grasp what God has done.  He hurries off to the house where his fellow Christians are praying.  Excitedly, Peter begins to pound on the door and yells for help.

This is where I can identify with the story the most.  A servant named Rhoda, hears Peter’s voice and runs to tell those who are earnestly praying.  I like to think the response went something like, “Rhoda, it can’t be Peter.  Peter is in prison.  We are praying to get him set free.  Leave us alone.”  Ever been there?  Have you ever tried to pray so hard that God would move only to find out that God was way ahead of you?  I have.  During those times, I have tried to fill Jesus in with all the details I am sure He doesn’t know, told Him how to answer my prayers, asked Him all the right questions,  said, “Amen” and went on my way.  I defined for Jesus what an answer to prayer would look like.  Surprisingly, Jesus moved in ways far beyond what I could imagine.

One summer, our church only had one child going to children’s camp.  We could not find other churches that had room for Chris, so I offered to take him for the two-hour trip.  Chris was one of the quietest boys I had ever met.  Carrying on conversation with him was like pulling teeth.  I was surprised when Chris’ mother wished me good luck as we prepared to leave.  She said, “Chris will talk your head off.”  As we turned out of the church parking lot, Chris spotted a semi-trailer on the street in front of the church.  That was all Chris needed to start chattering for the next two hours solid.  Chris’ Dad was a truck driver.  Talking about everything Chris knew about semi-trucks was his favorite topic in the whole wide world.  When we finally arrived at the campgrounds, my head was pounding.  As Chris was leaving, he said, “I feel sorry for you.  You won’t have anyone to talk to on the way home.”  Nothing could have pleased me more.

Lord, forgive me for those times when I have been like Chris and talked constantly, but never listened to you.  I forgot that I was in the presence of the Creator of the universe.  I forgot that You did not create me to live my life on my own.  Forgive me for thinking that if I talk to you for fifteen minutes a day, I can check “Prayer time” off my list of Christian things to do today.  Forgive me for relying so much on myself that I shut you out of working in my life.

Thank you for being patient with me as I learn to trust.  Thank you that you prove Yourself over and over again as you amaze me with how You moved so powerfully.  Thank you that if I don’t learn the lesson the first time, you lovingly teach it to me.  Thank you for the numerous times throughout my life when I knew what had just happened was all about You.  As I walk with You, please teach me to listen.

Are you listening?

***Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have co-authored a book entitled Jesus Speaks.  I highly recommend it for further reading on this topic.

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