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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

I went to the funeral today of a man whom I had not known long, but who was the kind of man you could know well in a short amount of time. That’s the way it is with relational people. They relate. You relate. And when there is love and joy and peace, it is good. I also returned a couple of days ago from seeing family whom I had not seen in a long time. That, also, was good. Very good. And I felt badly for all the time that had passed without relationship.

I have been looking at some biblical passages with new eyes lately. I am looking through the eyes of context, reading whole passages and not just a few isolated verses. It makes a difference. It is essential. I want to share with you a couple of insights.

Any of you who are Christian or who have spent any amount of time in church, especially on Communion Sundays, are familiar with the admonition to “judge the body rightly.” If you can’t, we are told, we should not partake, lest we risk sickness or death. (Have you ever seen that happen?) But let’s look at it again. I mean, right now. Turn to 1 Cor. 11:17-33. Yep. The whole thing.

The Apostle Paul starts off talking about division within the church, and how some folks are hogging all the food. They are not looking out for one another, and as a consequence, some go away hungry. He says in verse 22 that if you have homes of your own (stocked with food, is the implication), you should eat there before meeting together, so that those who do not have homes and food may find what they need in the gathering of fellow Christians. Then he reminds them of that first Communion, the Last Supper, where Jesus set the example of serving others first. So what is this “unworthy” bit in verse 27? Being selfish! The examination of self in vs. 28 is about whether you actually need this food or not. So by the time we get to vs. 29, that is what it is to “judge the body rightly.” If I do not regard others in the body, and consider their needs, I heap condemnation on myself. Seems like human relationships are important to the Lord, and He wants to meet our needs through others. Or should I say, He wants to meet others’ needs through us.

The other passage I want you to look at with me is James 4:2. “…You do not have because you do not ask.” Have you always thought of that in terms of prayer? Have you thought that if you just prayed you would have it? And when you didn’t have it still, did you go on to the next verse and figure that God didn’t answer your prayers because you were being selfish?

Back up a bit. What has been going on since chapter 2? Favoritism, partiality, lack of mercy, curses, jealousy, selfishness, arrogance, hypocrisy, quarreling, conflict, murder, envy… If you’re looking at the passage with me, I think you can see how I’ve come to the conclusion that the very next thought is about not having because you don’t ask one another. Rather than being envious of something someone else has, why not ask if they’ll share? And, according to verse 3, if you ask and still don’t get it, perhaps it’s because you were selfish in the asking. James goes on later in the chapter to address more human relationships, and the theme keeps recurring throughout the rest of the book. So why would he sandwich a verse about prayer in there, when the context seems to be about how to interact in a healthy way with others.

So I’ve come to think that perhaps the Bible is a bit simpler than we’ve thought. Perhaps writers then were as writers now, and their thoughts really do flow together. And I’ve come to believe that human relationships are very, very important to God.

 

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There’s this verse in the book of Amos in the Old Testament which scares me no end.  I mean, it really makes me sad.  It says that there could come a time when people could no longer hear the words of God.

Notice that it doesn’t say word of God, because that would make no sense.  We have the Bible all written out for us and translated into more languages every day, read my millions, memorized by many, transmitted over radio and television and the Internet, and quoted and practiced individually and culturally, whether we’re aware or not.  (You’ve got to admit, it’s a huge influence in the world.)  But Amos used the word words. That, to me, speaks of the everyday utterances that “those who have an ear to hear” might perceive.

Now that may not be what Amos meant exactly, but this is what scares me – to think that I might not hear from the Lord.  Now, I don’t expect it to happen, but it’s a scary thought, just the same.

So I am remembering all the times I’ve heard His voice, and appreciating them all the more.  I’d say cherishing is a better word.  Mostly I’ve heard message of correction, but sometimes He’s given instruction, direction, and always encouragement.  Never have they been thoughts I’ve been apt to think on my own, and never were they forgettable.  I never had to wonder, “Was that God I just heard?”

Here’s an example:  One day 11 years ago, I was taking communion.  I had cancer at the time, and was not at all happy about it.  I looked at the elements in my hand, and though I wasn’t angry, I said to Him, “I know my suffering is not anything compared to Yours, but at least Yours had purpose.”  His response was simple:  “Yours does, too.  I will be glorified.”  I didn’t know what it meant, but that was enough.  I didn’t know if He meant that He would make me better or not, but in a sense He just did.  And like I said, that was 11 years ago.

So for me, to think He may be silent is just awful.  It makes me feel empty and abandoned and without purpose.  And to have this reminder that He does still speak, well, I think I’ll be listening a little more closely today.

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Why do we put this odd word at the end of prayers?  Do we really mean “So be it” as its definition and original meaning suggest?  If you say, “Lord, please heal Susie” and I say, “Amen,” that means that I agree with what you just asked.

But it seems like we’ve almost adopted the lingo of radio communications.  “Over and out” or “Roger” might better communicate what we really mean, but who wants to say that?  Or we could end with the closing of a letter:  “Love, [insert name here]” or “Sincerely,” or even “See Ya later.”  (And yes, “Ya” would be capitalized since we’re addressing deity.)  We also use it to alert those praying with us that they can open their eyes now, don’t we?  (“Wake up!”)

But what if we just walked away?  I mean, what if we just got up from our chair or knees and didn’t put that closing remark in our prayer?  Would God have to remain on the line, only to hear static from our end?  Sometimes I do that.  I just get up, or open the car door, or keep walking, depending on where I’m praying.  I don’t say anything to let Him know I’m finished.  Why?  Because I’m not!  I may have run out of things to say at the moment, but I still want to be in communication with Him.  And after all, isn’t prayer a two-way conversation, or more if you’re praying with someone else?

God loves to communicate.  He’s been doing it since before time began.  In the first chapter of John, Jesus is referred to as the Word which became flesh.  Words communicate.  Jesus is God’s living, breathing communication to us, and He communicated on our behalf to the Father, as our mediator.

Now here’s a beautiful thing:  He has given that ability to us, not to mediate on behalf of others, but to represent Him as an ambassador.  It’s called “praying in His name.”  He has given us the ability and authority to use His name when we talk to the Father.  That doesn’t mean I have to say “In Jesus’ name” at the end of every prayer (just before “Amen”).  It means that if I am found in Christ, I already represent Him.  And so I am to pray on His behalf, if you will, talking to God about things that matter to Jesus.  That’s why Jesus said, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

But back to the Amen part.  Let’s not ever think that we don’t have enough time to pray, or are too busy to spend time with God.  Yes, specially designated times with Him are important and nourishing, but life with Him is about more than that.  It’s about everything we do.  When we’re serving customers, or teaching our children, or preparing meals, or emailing a friend, or weeding our garden, or you name it, we can be praying, talking to Him and listening.  And yes, sometimes He will speak to us very clearly, very personally in response.  He still does that.  Listen.  Stay tuned…

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