Every week as I work to undergird your certainty that you can understand what God is saying to you— I have to go through exactly the same struggle you do—in order to understand what God is saying to me.
No matter how many times we have experienced God’s communication, each new time we press in to hear, we face daunting hurdles . . . clearing those hurdles is a test of what we believe. Clear these three hurdles by answering these three questions rightly, and you will run home free.
- Is this phenomenon for real?
- Am I able?
- Is He willing?
Is this business of hearing
and understanding God for real?
In prior postings I’ve shared real-life experiences that can only be attributed to hearing and understanding what God was saying. We’ve seen how God thinks His thoughts through ours, how He warns about a future event in a dream, how He orchestrates a perfect correspondence between outer events and our inner thoughts—so that they mirror each other—showing us that in that moment He is with us and knows exactly where we are, what we are thinking and feeling. Hearing and understanding what God is saying to us is not only real but personally powerful.
In every age men have held these experiences in common. Scripture overflows with examples of God’s communication with men throughout history—but even more, Scripture gives us a unique understanding of what God is after.
God sends words
to lay hold of us,
so that we can lay hold of Him.
Scripture tells us what no other world-view does—that God is actively speaking and acting in our lives to bring about something called redemption. His communication is always redemptive: righting wrong, comforting, healing, swallowing our wounds to make us whole, and bringing us to spiritual clarity.
- He comes to Ahimelech, pagan king of Gerar, in a dream to right a wrong.[i]
- He comes to comfort the Egyptian slave Hagar to right her mistress’s cruelty, as well as to humble Hagar’s pride. [ii]
- He awakens the once arrogant Babylonian conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar, from years of madness, shaggy and wet with dew, to give him a supreme moment of spiritual clarity.[iii]
- He sends the prophet Nathan to rebuke the adulterous King David, so that David will return his heart to Him. [iv]
- When He sends the priest Eli to assure the sobbing, childless Hannah that she shall have a son, the holy swallows up her wound to not only make her whole, but also to render something more exquisite and precious than she could have known without the wounding. [v]
- And deep in a boy’s dreams God paints pictures to promise him his destiny, a promise that accompanies Joseph through decades of suffering, until those dreams came true. [vi]
Everything that God speaks and does in our life has a redemptive purpose.
Am I able to understand what God is saying to me?
Every time I face this hurdle, questioning my own ability to understand what God is saying to me, I think about Rahab. If she could do it, then so can we! (Nov 4 posting)
Think about it. When the word came to find this young, uneducated, pagan Canaanite prostitute thoroughly distanced from our religion by thousands of years, who never saw a Bible, heard of Jesus, or was filled with His Spirit to be born again . . .
she was not only able to understand what God was saying to her, but she was able to embrace His revelation of who He was, recognize what He was doing in her time, to identify with His redemptive message. [vii]
If Rahab could understand what God was saying to her in her circumstances, what would keep any of the rest of us from being able to do the same?
Is He Willing?
This is where we get a catch in the throat. This is where we grow unsure. This is the hurdle impossible to clear as long as we wonder if He is willing or even wants to communicate with us.
My telling you how precious you are to God is not going to get you over this hurdle. But attuning you to His sternness, so that you feel His unflinching commitment to redemption will help you forever understand why He is willing.
What God is after?
God is after redemption—first and foremost, before any other thing, no matter what the cost. To understand why, we must go with Him into those moments where we would rather not go.
That moment when a mother’s careless remark cuts her daughter deeper than any enemy. That moment of the pounding heart as the twelve-year-old little boy runs to throw himself between his mother and the helpless, hopeless fury feuling his drunken father’s fists. That moment when you go with Him into the dim filth stretching through untold centuries where innumerable little girls have been bought and sold, each one forced to receive the unspeakable into her small body and soul. We would have to go with Him back through all of history to observe the untold atrocities of war, the cruelties hidden behind closed doors, the inhumanity of the recent Holocaust, and the appalling violence of present day Sudan—comprehending that every one of these moments has been violently felt and known by God—to understand what He is after.
What God is after is the only way to right the wrong–redemption.
Redemption does more than restore what has been lost, wiping every tear from our eyes. It overturns the present order, stripping it of the power to kill and destroy, triumphing over evil. Even more, it recreates heaven and earth and the human soul—imparting something more powerfully exquisite than could have ever been—had we not endured this long dark period of our travail.
What God is after is Redemption. And nothing and no one is going to get in the way of its unfolding.
Is He willing to act and speak redemptively in our life? Nothing is more important to Him. He wins every time He draws any one of us into redemption’s intent. He exults every time He is able to straighten the way, right the wrong, bring us out of error, and return our heart back to Himself. It does not matter whether we are the one doing the wounding, or the one who is being wounded; for all who wound were once wounded. He remembers. He was there. The only way to make it right is to draw us without preference or partiality into the redemption that is His answer.
Redemption is never just about us, but His desire to collaborate with us, making us a channel for redemption’s healing touch–so that flowing through us, He can birth redemption where we are.
The purpose of The Divine Dialogue is that it gives God the ability to lay hold of us, so that we can lay hold of Him—our Redeemer.
Is He willing? After being beaten and mocked and spit upon the best man who ever lived was hung on a cross, and as the earth quaked, and the sky darkened, and the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, and the Centurions standing at his feet trembled—He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And then, “It is finished.” And He died, glory broken into grace upon that cross.
Is He willing? The moment we begin to understand His sternness, His unflinching commitment to make what’s wrong right—that question finds its answer.
Is this phenomenon for real?
Am I able?
Is He willing?
Head down, I take a deep breath and dig my feet into the track harder, to propel myself farther faster higher over those hurdles that I will not let stand in my way.
Run beside me . . . we are teammates . . . who will give each other strength and courage if we hold on to what God is after together.
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The next posting will be December 1, 2011