Experimental Listening

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us,
and the art of life is to get the message.”
Malcolm Muggeridge

I’ve never been much into science. That’s kind of funny because my older brother, who I consider as one of my greatest heroes, taught biology all of his vocational life. He got off on that stuff. Me – I flirted with girls in high school biology, slept through chemistry and survived a college geology class; not the highlights of my academic history. However, what I do know is that most of the things that we have learned through science have been collected through the laborious work of experimentation – establishing hypotheses and theories, testing them and going back to the drawing board over and over again. Failure upon failure, obstacle after obstacle, testing and retesting until there is even a minor breakthrough. Maybe this is why science never grabbed me – it’s too much work.

Yet, I have the impression as I sit with Jesus today that experimentation, with the things of the Spirit, is a needed and necessary process as I learn what it means to “hear His voice”. Assuming that I start with the Bible as my “Periodic Table”, my “measurable” standard by which all other truth is compared, where do I proceed from there? Yes, the Scriptures are God-breathed and profitable in leading me – a man of God – toward perfection and fully equipping me for every good work, but nowhere in Scripture does it lay out a “canned formula” by which I commune with God. There are general guidelines – prayer, the gathering of the saints, fasting, etc. But the specifics of how we practice Biblical disciplines and have fellowship with the Spirit are often mysterious; mysterious until our experimentation leads us to an observable encounter.

I wish it wasn’t necessary to be so cautious in describing what I am “NOT” talking about, but I fear some may misunderstand and prematurely declare something truly of God when it is not. I am not advocating for a “strange fire” (Leviticus 10.1-7), a practice that has more to do with muting the true voice of God than pronouncing it. Be careful and don’t go there! But I wonder if Abba is infinitely more patient with our fumbling experimentation than we think. In fact, I believe it gives Him great delight to listen to our longings – our groanings (Romans 8.22-27). As a parent rejoices in their child’s inquisitive questions and unsophisticated conclusions, so does our Father delight in us as we struggle to understand “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4.4).

Lately I have wondered if we worry too much about “doing it right” for fear that we may sin or offend the Father. Has that fretting resulted in us remaining in the “baby talk” stage of our parent-child relationship with God? We can likely have the diagnosis of being “developmentally delayed” in the supernatural maturation of our communication with God. We have thought of Abba as being damning of our efforts to speak and listen to Him and as a result have retarded our progression in intimate fellowship with Him.

In the physical growth of a child we understand that there is a process, a sequence in developing new skills. A baby must rollover before she can crawl and she must crawl before she can walk. Cooing is an early pre-requisite to developing language skills. What healthy parent would think poorly of or punish a baby’s early efforts to express themselves. Or “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7.9-11). Or “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11.13).

The fearful side of me is embarrassed to tell you how I sought to hear God the other day. I never learned this in Bible college nor would it ever be promoted as a “mature practice” among most of our Bible believing fellowships. But the fearless / “exploding” part of me doesn’t care any more about what someone else has to say about limiting my communion with the Father. So there! 😊 As I sat quietly with the Lord, I asked him to speak to me in regard to what I should say to you in this article as well as what He has in mind for me in this next season of my life. I had been reading the Scriptures specifically about of the Godhead’s desire to reveal truth to us.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore, I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
John 16.12-15

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3.16

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20.21-22

Nothing was coming to me in answer to these questions (what should I write? Or what’s next?) So, because I was meditating on John 20, the thought occurred to me to start flipping through my Bible “20” different times and write down the first words my eyes came to on those passages (pretty random, huh?). Here’s what I wrote down in order of occurrence: “right, heaven, hear this, again, Israel, lover, find them, I am, then hang Haman on it (:)), then David, The Ark of God, He has not made you, Manasseh – Son of Joseph, whatever its use, consider staying, free, call Lazarus, to capture Jesus, forest of Lebanon and the secretary.”

Ok God, why didn’t you say so? Right?

Well, here’s what I took from this “experiment”.

  1. Isn’t it curious that one of the first words was “hear this” and that the next one was “again”. It’s as if Father was saying, “Mark, listen for the things you have known all along – really listen and obey. Remember, during this exercise I was in the middle of asking Him to teach me to listen – and He heard me.
  2. The next two words were “Israel, My lover”. The Scriptures describe Israel as the Betrothed of God (Hosea 2.14) and the church as the Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21.2, 9). So, he’s not asking me to obey Him out of mere external compliance but out of His love relationship with me (Romans 12.1). I am a cherished part of the Kingdom and am known by (betrothed to) the God of the universe. Oh, that draws me – “allures” me to Him!
  3. “Find them”. Ever since my job at Son Village closed last summer due to funding problems, I have had a burning in my spirit to continue on in ministry toward the “least of these”. Yet of late that burning has been distracted – perhaps even partially quenched. This word serves as a reminder to me to “fan into the flame the gift of God” in me for the lost (2 Timothy 1.6). Find them. Be attuned to the numerous opportunities I have to rescue people all around me.
  4.  Tell them that their righteousness is “free” so take it; take full advantage of His indescribable gift. (Ephesians 2.8; 2 Corinthians 9.15). Receive the gift, take it out from underneath the tree, rip off the bow and tear off the wrapping paper of this new love relationship you can have with Jesus. Tell them that He purchased their spirit, soul and body for His Kingdom’s sake. Tell them that it’s free but it wasn’t cheap.
  5. “Call Lazarus”: We were all once dead in our sin (Ephesians 2.1ff). But the resurrection declares that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in me (Ephesians 1.19-20). Think of the picture of a decaying body being brought to life. Think of the extreme re-creation that must take place in us! After all, we “stinketh” (John 11.39 – KJV). But now as new creations we are to call the dead to life, just as we were called.
  6.  “Capture Jesus”: Not to imprison Jesus, for who could do that? But more the idea of taking hold of or obtaining Jesus. Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3.12). It is the pursuit of the ever-deeper reservoir whose name is Jesus that I am called to lay hold of; take and hold onto all that He is IN me.
  7. “I am … the Ark of God”: When Moses feared standing before Pharaoh and taking charge of the exodus of Israel, God told him that He would be with him and if the Israelites questioned him he was to tell them, “I am has sent me to you”. The Israelites were directed to follow the Ark when it was time to move to a new place of rest or go into battle (Numbers 10.33; Joshua 3.3). In each of these cases the holiness and wonder of YHWH was moving out ahead of His calling upon His people. So it is with me (us). Am I afraid to move into a new territory of trust and ministry? YES! But now I hear that the “I AM” is with me. Why would I be afraid? Why would I doubt Him?
  8. These last 2 phrases that I want to share with you have a meaning that is much more vague to me. When I read, “He has not made you”, I immediately added, “He has not made you” (for) but that’s where the blank remains unclear. I thought, “He has not made you for ‘sin’” – which is obvious. But I also thought, “Perhaps He has not made you for certain ministry.” I don’t know. But being left with a dangling question with the Father is OK. I think He’ll answer that one later.
  9.  “Consider staying” is vague too. Does that mean, consider staying at MacLaren in some fashion (even though my contract is up in early July?) If there is a job and/or ministry opportunity that would lead me somewhere else, am I to forego that and stay right here? Hmmm – another dangling question that I have no answer to; but Abba does.

So, there are the results of my experiment.

Do I have new data, new information that the Spirit has passed onto me?
Oh yeah!
Are there still questions?
Certainly (Haman is still a quandary – 😊)
Do I feel blessed and fathered because I dared to believe that Abba delighted in my stumbling ways of communing with Him?
Yes – oh Yes!

May we enter into the very presence of the Father with boldness and the knowledge that He loves us and does His best work as He confides in us (Psalm 25.14).

“The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away”
(Isaiah 50.4-5).

Written by Mark Pollock

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