Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Learning to Dialogue with God

Every time, I am amazed at how the pen curves and ink leaks whispered scrawling secrets from His heart to mine.

I re-write His words, and suddenly I see it, my Daily Bread, my real break-fast in the morning light. And oh, how I starve overnight.

I have had some major life-changing experiences. I record them in My Jesus Story Box. At this point, as far as I can tell, my "major" life issues have been handed over to Him and I stretch my fingers open each day to not take anything back.

Now, I long for day-changing experiences with Him.

I want to hear His voice. I talk with my daughter often about hearing Him, learning the Father-tongue language, growing accustomed to His voice. And she, the one who was "a pregnant pause" in my sin-stretched and swollen world, "a musical interlude" from Him melding my dirge into His song of celebration... she says plainly, bitterly, that she can't tell if it is Him talking to her when she prays, or just her own voice in her head.

I tell her how deeply I understand this good, God-honoring question. Is that Your voice, Lord? Or mine? Or one of the many voices that offer so many strong opinions?

I memorize scripture with Selah daily. Like secret service agents who long study real money to be able to detect a counterfeit, we study what is True so by contrast we will be able to discern what is not.

Every word of God is flawless.

And knowing scripture word-for-word is critical because a common tactic of our soul-enemy is to speak a lot of truth... and then twist it. He used this truth-twisting on the first Word-sculpted woman, and he tried this type of deception even on Jesus, very God-made-flesh, Who then set the example by answering every time with "it is written..."

It is written with the breath of Him Who spoke me into motion. And His words are alive and active, a lamp for my feet, a light for my path, a sword for my otherwise un-armed spirit.

When I memorize scripture, His words are firmly with me every step I take on this broken earth.

Memorizing scripture was the first step in my life towards daily dialogue with God.

And I have recently taken another. It blows me away how God is speaking to me every time I do this.

Like so many life-changing thoughts I come across, I was inspired by a blog post from Ann. I don't remember many specifics from her post, but I do remember this: she encouraged her readers to read scripture and respond by writing two simple lines:

"LORD, I hear You saying..."

"LORD, hear me saying..."

This is how this practically works in my devotions:

Right now I am reading in the book of Mark, and the Proverb that goes with each day of the month. How much I read out of Mark varies, sometimes only a few verses, sometimes more. Before I read I ask God to speak to me through His word, His Spirit to help me understand how it applies to my life, for wisdom, for a listening heart, for obedience to follow through on what He will show me. Then after reading I write out scripture that stood out to me in conversation format directly from Him to me. I take it personally because I am finally understanding that the scriptures are His words to me, and I try to respond with scripture so that I know my prayers are pleasing to Him and I am asking things in line with His heart. Often, He gives me scriptures to pray from what I read that day.

Step-by-step helps me apply things to my life, so in case you are like me, here is what God and I talked about yesterday, February 15th:

I read Mark 7:1-23 and Proverbs 15(NIV).

Mark 7:1-23(emphasis added)

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

9 And he continued, You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother, and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

20 He went on: What comes out of a person is what makes him 'unclean'. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Proverbs 15:

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

5 A fool spurns a parent’s discipline,
but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure,
but the income of the wicked brings ruin.

7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge,
but the hearts of fools are not upright.

8 The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

9 The LORD detests the way of the wicked,
but he loves those who pursue righteousness.

10 Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path;
the one who hates correction will die.

11 Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD—
how much more do human hearts

12 Mockers resent correction,
so they avoid the wise.

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit.

14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD
than great wealth with turmoil.

17 Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred.

18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,
but the path of the upright is a highway.

20 A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.

21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.

22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.

23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word!

24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent
to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead.

25 The LORD tears down the house of the proud,
but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.

26 The LORD detests the thoughts of the wicked,
but gracious words are pure in his sight.

27 The greedy bring ruin to their households,
but the one who hates bribes will live.

28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

29 The LORD is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones.

31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.

32 He who ignores discipline despises himself,
but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the LORD,
and humility comes before honor.

"LORD, I hear You saying...

You are setting aside my commands in order to observe your own traditions. This is how you nullify My word, and you are handing these traditions down to your children. It is not things outside your body that make you 'unclean', but it is what comes out of your heart that makes you 'unclean'.(from Mark 7:1-23) Your heart lies open before Me. (from Proverbs 15:11)"

LORD, hear me saying...

Please forgive me for spending more time on the state of my home, and other "outside" things, than on the state of my heart... Your home. I don't want to make it a tradition to set aside Your commands, what You say should be my priorities, and I don't want to hand down wrong priorities down to my children. I confess this sin to You and thank You that You are so faithful to forgive me and to purify me so that I can see You better (Mark 7:1-23, 1 John 1:9, Matt. 5:8). Please help me to not ignore Your discipline and in doing so despise myself. (Prov. 15:32). Please help me to carefully weigh the things that come out of my mouth/heart today (Prov. 15:28). Thank You that You come near to me and hear me! (Prov. 15:29)."

It is so encouraging to hear God speaking to me, where I am, about my daily challenges and struggles. I have not known even when I am done reading how the conversation will go... I just start writing what His Spirit has highlighted for me and end up looking back in amazement when I am finished!

I will be posting a conversation every Wednesday.

**May His face shine upon you this day, and give you His sweet peace**

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