Dear Friends,                                                                           

“What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members? You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask.[Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures. You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that the Scripture is speaking to no purpose that says, The Spirit Whom He has caused to dwell in us yearns over us and He yearns for the Spirit [to be welcome] with a jealous love?” (Amplified translation.) The Message says the last part of verse 5 this way: “he’s (God is) a fiercely jealous lover. And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find.”            

There are basically four voices trying to “speak” to us at any given time: 1) Demonic voices of accusation or temptation to sin; 2) our flesh which condemns us or inflates our egos; 3) the world system (anti-God, lies and self-focus – “have it your way; you deserve a break today,” etc.; 4) God – “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). God alone speaks the truth to us and is the Master Affirmer and the only One who can give us the biblical virtue of self-acceptance. Because we are accepted in Christ (Ephesians 1:6), God says to us what He says to His Son Jesus. “This is my beloved Son (your name) in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) So unless we read and know His Word and listen to it above all the voices (this means to abide in Christ – John 15:5) we cannot experience unconditional love and acceptance and therefore cannot minister unconditional love and acceptance to others. To “hear” God’s “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12) or still small voice takes unhurried time alone with Him (solitude and silence) which is a greatly under-valued and under-practiced discipline.  But if we fail to do this on a regular basis, we will look to the world and others seeking what God alone can give us. We’ll be looking for love in all the wrong places.                                                                           

The following quotes are excerpts from an article written by the late Henri Nouwen: [“Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there any space for that in your life?  To pray is to listen to the One who calls you “my beloved daughter,” “my beloved son,” “my beloved child.” To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.  If you keep that in mind, you can deal with an enormous amount of success as well as an enormous amount of failure without losing your identity, because your identity is that you are the beloved. Long before your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, your teachers, your church, or any people touched you in a loving as well as in a wounding way—long before you were rejected by some person or praised by somebody else—that voice has been there always. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” You have to listen to the voice who calls you the beloved, because otherwise you will run around begging for affirmation, for praise, for success. And then you’re not free. It’s not easy to sit and trust that in solitude God will speak to you— not as a magical voice but that he will let you know something gradually over the years. And in that word from God you will find the inner place from which to live your life.”]                                                                                      

Let’s look at just two examples of people in the Bible who modeled this for us. First, John the Baptist: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:1-3)                                                                       

I am not saying that we are called to model the ministry of John the Baptist. His calling was extremely unique but it does make the point that instead of listening to all the political and religious (and other) news of the day, he was alone and listening for the voice of God which he would later share with the people of God. Likewise, we need to first of all take the time to read the Scriptures and listen to what God is saying to us, both His love and His truth, and then share that with others. I was recently convicted by this myself and fasted for a week from all the news, sports, politics, etc., both on TV and on my iPhone. And I did experience His love and encouragement and a clearer sense of His guiding me by His Spirit.
The next example is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, seen in Luke 10, John 12 and the parallel passage in Mark 14. “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) “Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people.” (John 12:1-5) “And they (other apostles, not just Judas) were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Mark 14:5-9)

In these accounts we see Mary sitting at Jesus’s feet and listening to His Word. We see Martha upset with Mary for not helping her with the meal and complaining to Jesus about it. We see Jesus rebuking Martha for being worried and bothered about so many things and commending Mary for finding the “one thing necessary” and that would not be taken away from her. This means that Jesus never wants us to be too busy to take time to be alone with Him. Later in John 12 and Mark 14 we see that Mary, not the apostles, was the only one who was both aware of Jesus’ preeminent death and moved with compassion to comfort Him by anointing Him with her costly perfume. Her spontaneous and costly love came out of that time alone with Jesus as she sat at His feet listing to His words of love and truth.  “What this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)  

Let’s look at one more passage that shows the difference between overworking like Martha and overflowing like Mary. 17 And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; 18-19 and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up (to overflowing) with God himself.” (Ephesians 3:17-19) Our quiet time alone with God is the “one thing necessary” for only there can we hear God’s words of love and truth. “And in that word from God you will find the inner place from which to live your life.” 

Until He comes again, Len and Kristen 

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