Answers, Bible, Hearing, Listening, Prayer, Scripture

WAKE UP!

HABAKKUK 2:19

“‘Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ to a mute stone, ‘Arise!’ That is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet there is no breath at all inside it.’”

Have you ever tried to wake up someone from a dead sleep? You start out quietly whispering their name. Then you may touch them lightly and saying their name again. Finally, you are shoving and yelling, lol. I used to wake up my daughter with “earthquakes” in her bed. She could sleep so soundly.

God is mocking the false gods in this fifth and final woe He has spoken to Habakkuk. He says to try to wake them. Maybe they are asleep (wink/grin). They may look pretty dressed in their gold and silver, but they are breathless, lifeless, unresponsive.

APPLICATION

Aren’t you glad our God never sleeps and never slumbers (Psalm 121:4)? I don’t have to yell and scream to get His attention. In fact, He is always waiting to listen to me. I don’t mean He is at my beckon call and will just hop to it when I call His name. No, He is always listening and will answer according to His perfect will.

If you aren’t “getting God’s attention,” perhaps it’s because you are praying with the wrong motives or not according to His will. Our God wants to bless us. He can only do that as we seek Him. We may scream and shout until we are without voice. But all it takes to get God’s ear is to speak to Him with an open heart and willing spirit.

I am reminded of David’s Psalm 51. He cried out in verses 15-17, “15Lord, open my lips, so that my mouth may declare Your praise. 16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise.” Talk to Him today.

Thank You, Lord, for listening to me. Thank You that You are bending Your ear to hear my voice.

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GOD’S MESSENGERS

HABAKKUK 1:6

“For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that grim and impetuous people who march throughout the earth, to take possession of dwelling places that are not theirs.”

Sometimes we get our lessons from the strangest people or situations. I have been taught great truths from someone I met in an airport or maybe on the street. Hearing of their journey with Christ has given me new insight into mine. Hearing of their struggles with faith has taught me to trust more.

God is now telling Habakkuk what is going to happen (yesterday’s blog set this up, in case you missed it). God is going to use the Chaldeans to judge Israel. What!!! Why would God use such a “grim and impetuous people”? God’s instruments of judgment are not what we would choose, most His choice is always the perfect one.

APPLICATION

Who are what is God using right now in your life to teach you something? It doesn’t have to be a “Chaldean” like Habakkuk had to face. No, it could be the kind, elderly neighbor who just wants to talk. Your patience runs thin sometimes when you see them coming across the street. You know you are in for at least a thirty-minute conversation.

May I suggest that you take the time to listen. They may have something to say to you that you need to hear. God can use others around us to speak a message to us. Recently, a colleague of mine had that exact experience. Someone gave them a message they needed to hear which resulted in this person taking action, an action they had been pondering for some time.

I am thankful that we don’t get all our “sermons” on Sunday mornings. Many of them are spoken to us every day if we will just take the time to listen. So, are you listening? In your conversations, texts or emails today, look for that message you need to hear.

Father, I praise You for using others around me to speak to me. I want to hear Your voice no matter who it comes through.

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DON’T YOU HEAR ME, GOD?

HABAKKUK 1:2

“How long, LORD, have I called for help, and You do not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save.”

I have officially reached the age where I can admit I have trouble hearing. It is not terrible, and I don’t think I need hearing aids yet. But some days around our house it can get quite comical as my wife and I attempt a conversation. Those conversations are even more comical if we are not in the same room and are trying to talk.

Habakkuk is not getting an answer from God. The conversation seems to be way. He says, “I called for help, and You do not hear.” He goes even further and says, “You do not save.” Habakkuk must have been pretty desperate to talk to God that way. But just you wait and see how God answers.

APPLICATION

I have been accused of not listening sometimes. Whether it be my wife, children, grandchildren, employees or friends, people want to be heard. And people want to know that God is listening. He always is, even if His answer is slow in coming.

Two of my favorite verses on God listening are Psalm 40:1 and Psalm 118:5

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He reached down to me and heard my cry.”

“From my distress I called upon the LORD; the LORD answered me and put me in an open space.”

Don’t you just love that? He reached down. He heard my cry. The Lord answered. What else could you want? God is there. He was there when Habakkuk cried out. Sometimes He asks us to wait – just wait – just wait – just wait. And when He answers it is always at the perfect time. Just wait.

I will wait for You, O Lord. I know You are there, even when I don’t feel You. You are always watching and listening.

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NO VOLUME

NAHUM 2:13

“‘Behold, I am against you,’ declares the LORD of armies. ‘I will burn up her chariots in smoke, and a sword will devour your young lions; I will eliminate your prey from the land, and no longer will the voice of your messengers be heard.’”

I have a problem with my truck radio. The little cover for the volume knob is loose, so I have to squeeze the knob to adjust the volume. That’s not a problem if I am sitting still in my truck. But trying to do that while driving is a little difficult. A radio with no or low volume isn’t worth much, is it?

The Lord is telling Nineveh that they will no longer hear the messages from their messengers. Why? Because the messengers, along with the rest of the Ninevites, have been eliminated. They can listen all the want, but they will not hear a thing. No message – no signal – no word!

APPLICATION

There is nothing worse than not hearing God’s voice. So many people go through life not hearing it, though. They do not even realize they can. They think that if they just do all the expected things in church, they are doing okay. Oh, listen to me, brothers and sisters. If you are not hearing God’s voice, you are missing out.

What do you mean, Carl? How can I hear God’s voice? I am glad you asked. Through a disciplined prayer life and Quiet Time, God will speak to you. How do I know that? Because I have heard it myself and dozens of others tell me the same thing. When we get alone with God and truly concentrate on His Word and talk with Him, He speaks.

The Holy Spirit, who lives within you, will speak for Him. It won’t be a fuzzy connection, like you get sometimes on your radio. It will be crystal clear. God is not trying to make you guess if it is Him or not. He will speak to you so that you know it is Him. Do you want that? Then get alone with Him today and ask Him to speak.

Lord, speak to me. I want to hear Your voice.

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ANSWER ME

MICAH 6:3

“My people, what have I done to you, and how have I wearied you? Answer Me.

I have mentioned before that I spent over three decades working with children and youth in the Child Welfare system. Give me a kid that is vocal and shouting rather than one that will not talk. Even when caught in the act of disobeying, these children will most often not respond to questions. Passive-aggressive is one term used for them.

The people God had chosen to love were acting that way. They had been caught in their sins, and now they were refusing to confess them and talk to their God. Unlike me, God is extremely patient. Psalm 103:8 say He is compassionate and gracious. He just wants to hear from them.

APPLICATION

Do you hear the Lord speaking to you? If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit who indwells you speaks for the Father. He is drawing you towards Him. He is speaking. Will you not talk back? Carl, that is plain crazy. I am not going to talk out loud to Him. Why not? He is as real as you and I.

I love to pray out loud. It helps me clarify what I am saying. It reduces distractions for me. And when I talk to the Lord, guess what? He almost always talks back. Not in an audible voice, but in my spirit. You may ask, How do you know that is the Lord? Because the words line up with His Word.

Now, there have been times when I did not want to answer God when He talked to me. In those times I was not living as I should. I was rationalizing my sins. I was simply resting in my salvation but not living to be sanctified. There is a big difference. Oh, how wonderful to hear His voice. The next time you hear it, answer Him.

Speak Lord, and I will answer. I love to carry on conversations with You.

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UNANSWERED PRAYERS 

MICAH 3:4 

“Then they will cry out to the LORD, but He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time because they have practiced evil deeds.” 

I have heard this so much during my ministry years. God just doesn’t hear me or answer my prayers. Why doesn’t He answer? Our God is always listening to our prayers. However, before He can answer us, we must submit to His authority. We must come to Him in confession. Oh, how He wants to answer. 

The people Micah was talking to were asking the same question. They kept crying out to God to rescue them. They had not taken the most critical step towards answered prayers. They had not repented of their sins. Their sins were serving as a roadblock to heaven. Their sins were bouncing off the gates up there. God heard them, but He could not answer them until they came to Him in repentance. 

APPLICATION 

Now, hear me! I am NOT saying that all unanswered prayers are because of sin in your life. In fact, I believe that a believer’s prayers are ALWAYS answered. Sometimes God says Yes. Other times He says No. Then often He says Not now My child. But He is always listening. He hears our cries. 

If you have lost friends who are blaming God for their unanswered prayers, ask them if they have surrendered their lives to Him first. They may not even know how to go about asking Jesus to be their Savior and Lord. What a privilege it is for us to lead them to the throne of grace. 

I have a couple of prayers that I pray daily. I pray other prayers weekly or monthly. Then finally I have prayers that I pray on occasion for those special requests of friends. But I pray. I love to pray. I love to know that my Lord is interceding at the right hand of His Father each time I pray. I know when I open my mouth to voice my prayers, my Father in heaven bends His ear and listens. Call on Him today. 

Father, thank You for listening to all my feeble attempts of prayer. I know You are careful to do Your perfect Will in each and every requests I make. 

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PROCLAIM THE FAST

JONAH 3:5

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.”

When is the last time you have fasted? For most people, this is a rare thing. We either don’t think about it or we don’t believe in it. I have to admit that I don’t fast regularly. Usually, I fast for a specific reason. I want to hear from God about something. I really should make it a regular thing in my life. Will you pray for me that I would do that?

The people of Nineveh believed in God because they heard Jonah’s message. He told them their city was going to be overthrown in 40 days. That would wake you up. They repented, which is evident by the fasting and the sackcloth. They humbled themselves before a holy God seeking forgiveness. Would God forgive them or not? We’ll get to that in a few days.

APPLICATION

Fasting isn’t just about going without food. It is much more than that. It is humbling yourself. It is making a sacrifice. It is denying yourself of physical things in order to receive spiritual things. What do I mean by that?

When you fast, your mind becomes clearer. The initial hunger pains remind you to pray. As you deny yourself food and concentrate on the Lord, those pains subside. Don’t get me wrong. You still get hungry, but now you know why you are doing this. God is speaking.

I really can’t fully explain the spiritual benefits of fasting. It is something you have to experience yourself. If you are able physically to fast, let me encourage you to do that. As you humble yourself, the Lord will speak. His voice will come through. Now, fasting isn’t required to hear God’s voice, but it clears the path. Give it a try. It’s easier than wearing sackcloth, lol.

I deny myself in order to hear You clearly, O Lord. I do want to hear You.

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PROCLAIM

JONAH 3:2

“‘Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.’”

Whenever I have a sermon to prepare, I spend as much time praying about the passage as I do studying the passage. I want to make sure I am hearing from the Lord as to what He would have me say. I can come up with a sermon. That’s not a problem. But I want to speak His message, not mine.

The Hebrew text could be translated “preach to it the preaching.” In fact, the Hebrew word translated as “proclamation” is only used one time in the OT – right here. Why is that? I always wonder that. I believe the Lord wants us to take a good look at His message to Jonah. Notice how His message differed a little from the first time. “Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, because their wickedness has come up before Me.” The Lord, I think, wanted Jonah to get to Nineveh and then He would reveal His message.

APPLICATION

What is the message the Lord has given you today? To whom do you need to go and proclaim it? As I write this blog, I am in Norway preparing to take part in a men’s conference. Our main speaker is always sensitive to receiving “downloads” from God. He wants to make sure what he is speaking is from Him.

Right now, he is still waiting on his luggage to get here. That’s a distraction. He is aware of that. So, we are gathering in few minutes to pray for clarity of thought and message. When we get that message from the Lord, the devil does not want us to deliver it and will do everything he can to distract us. Don’t let that happen.

Receiving God’s message is sweet. Hearing His voice and knowing it is Him is precious. But sweeter still is delivering that message and seeing people come to Christ. It is His message, not yours. It is His results, not yours.

Let me hear Your message clearly, Lord. I want to speak only Your words to others.

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PRAYERS HEARD

JONAH 2:7

“‘While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.’”

I have heard of some incredible answers to prayer. I am sure you have also. Some of those answered prayers are just about too good to believe. If I had not known the person and situation personally, I would have never believed it. But God has a way of making believers out of unbelievers, doesn’t He?

Don’t forget our scene – Jonah is still in the belly of that fish. He’s been praying to God for the several verses. In the written book we have what may seem to be a short prayer. This prayer may have been given over that three-day period. Here in today’s verse, he is fainting away. I am assuming he must be towards the end of those three days. No water, no food, no light! He is week and feeble, yet he prays, “and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.” Wow!

APPLICATION

Even in your lowest hour, when you are at your weakest. None of us have been where Jonah was. So, we can surely pray to the Lord. We don’t have seaweed and stuff floating around us. But we may have other things trying to drown out our access to our holy God. We can’t let anything distract us from praying.

God is always listening, no matter where we are. We must not forget that God placed Jonah in the belly of that fish for a reason. He places us in our “fish’s belly” for a reason also. He wants to draw all our attention to Him.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to not learn my lessons in a fish’s belly. I want to walk in obedience and do what the Lord asks me to begin with. I have still got a lot to learn about obedience, but I am trying. I am listening. Are you? Or are you content to wallow around in your “fish’s belly”?

Thank You, Lord, for teaching me obedience. I want to learn quickly and do exactly what You tell me.

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PRAY ANYWHERE

JONAH 2:1

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish,”

One thing I have learned over the years is I can pray anywhere. I have prayed while being wheeled in for surgery. I have prayed sitting in a deer stand. I have prayed in the middle of a hurricane. I know my God is listening to me wherever I am. He doesn’t care if I am kneeling or standing, with my eyes open or closed. He just wants me to pray.

Jonah prayed “from the stomach of the fish.” Now, I haven’t tried that yet (and I don’t want to). He was truly in a pickle. God had assuredly rescued him from the deeps of the sea by sending the fish, but now what. How was God going to rescue him now? Or maybe He wasn’t. Maybe he was going to meet God with seaweed all over him.

APPLICATION

Pray! Just pray! There are so many passages of Scripture that tell us to pray. Some even tell us how to pray. Matthew 6:9-13 is what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer.” Have you read that lately? If not, take a minute and go do that. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

How did you like that? Our Lord Jesus showed us how to pray. I think He is a pretty good teacher. He knew how to pray. He knew the value of praying. He did it often, probably much more than is recorded in Scripture.

If you haven’t discovered the joy of praying, you really should try it. It sets you free. And the more you pray, the more you want to pray. You begin to hear His voice so much clearer. He wants to talk to you. Did you know that? Don’t wait to get swallowed by a big fish to begin your prayer time.

I love to talk to You, Lord, and to hear Your voice. Lord, speak!

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