Make a commitment to yourself and to God for this upcoming year not to be sidelined by a spirit of #offense. Some of you may get huffy on me even just reading that first sentence…but hold on and let me elaborate a little!
In my prayer time a couple of days ago, the Lord cautioned me that the enemy was going to launch an attack on the body of Christ in the way of offenses; an attempt to erode our unity. Not so much one big collective attack where everyone is hit at the same time by the same event, but many small instances. The old “death by a thousand cuts” strategy.
We live in a perpetually-offended society nowadays, and believe me when I tell you that listening to constant bad news on TV (true or not), listening to negative music, reading negative articles and books day in and day out can wreak havoc on your spirit man! That spirit of offense can get all over you if you don’t guard your heart! We worry more about our outward appearance being impacted by a lost culture, than we do about the inward impact of those feelings of entitlement, pride, arrogance, and yes, the tendency to get angry, hurt, and offended by everything that doesn’t agree with how we want it. People are ready to sue or to break ties or to ruin others’ reputations at the drop of a hat. And sadly, it happens even in church too.
So how do we cope and make it through the obstacle course of offense? By renewing our minds daily in the Word. By being honest with ourselves before God and recognizing what pushes our buttons. By praying protection over ourselves and our loved ones and inviting the Holy Spirit to change the atmosphere wherever we are—home, school, church, the grocery store parking lot, wherever.
Our minds are going be full of SOMETHING. We have to set parameters and say no to what the Holy Spirit cautions us to avoid. And even though we feel we shouldn’t have to be careful around others, yes, as believers we have an obligation to walk blamelessly before the world. We need to think before we act and do. And we need to arrest that spirit of offense when we feel it rising in us.
At some point over the coming weeks and months, you may feel the enemy say something like:
“You should just leave/quit/resign/divorce/part ways. You’re not appreciated. Your (spouse, job, family, group, ministry, church, etc.) ought to have to suffer a little bit and then they’d see how much you are worth.”
“They did that on purpose! Are you going to just stand there and take it?”
“God didn’t answer your prayers. He must not really love you after all.”
“So and so just gave you the stink eye. That person doesn’t like you.”
“They just did you wrong because you are (too young, too old, not beautiful, they’re jealous of you, not the same color as them; or they think they’re better than you).”
“Your church takes too hard a stance on that point of doctrine. They act like a cult. You should find a church that agrees with what you consider truth.”
“Who do they think they are to judge you for your choices?”
“They’re not the boss of you.”
“You should just go ahead and (hurt/kill) yourself and get out of the way. That’d make them sorry.”
“That attitude can go two ways. If they’re asking for trouble, you know you can’t back down now.”
“If that person were really a Christian, he/she would (look, act, vote, participate, speak) just like you. Don’t trust him or her!”
Well friends, we have a choice. We can do the work in our prayer and study time to toughen up, or we can run around constantly wounded and on the defensive. People hate having to always tiptoe around one certain person in their lives! Don’t let that person be YOU! Remember that much of the time, folks don’t even know that their words were inappropriate or caused you to be hurt. And yeah, some people are not going to be fair with us—now or ever. The Word tells us to pray for, forgive, and love them anyway. Sometimes we have to do it (without gossiping about them behind their backs, by the way) from a distance—but near or far, God’s grace can enable us to shake it off.
Pray with me: “Father, I don’t want to be overly sensitive. I don’t want to stumble on the rock of offense, this year or ever. I don’t want to abort my mission or abandon a divine assignment You’ve given me over becoming hurt, mad, or offended at someone else. Jesus, some of your followers even abandoned You when Your words offended their sensibilities. Please help me!
There are any number of opportunities in a day for me to have my feelings hurt, if I choose to. Crucify the drama queen nature in me! I reject that tendency to want to dramatize and rehearse and nurse and tell others about how this person or that organization or that race or this group was unfair to me. It’s hard, Lord. Sometimes people’s words and actions are downright intentional! I feel sometimes like people who don’t understand my pain are against me. But by Your grace I am rising above offense, in Jesus’ name.
Today I put on the whole armor of God. I protect my mind with the helmet of salvation, my heart with the breastplate of righteousness, my whole being with the shield of faith, my vital organs and private parts with the loinbelt of truth, and my feet with the gospel of peace. I have the Word and Your Spirit in my hand as a sword of defense from the attack of the enemy. You have equipped me to protect my spirit, soul, mind, will, emotions, and entire body. I will not leave the place of prayer improperly dressed to meet my day!
Lord, Your Word tells me in Matthew 18 exactly what to do when a brother offends me—it’s actually a good template for my other relationships too. It starts with personal communication, not a Facebook rant. I will handle situations the way the Bible tells me to. I will not assume that the other person automatically knows, and I will not read his or her every action or inaction as some kind of negative response! I will be civil but honest when these kinds of communications must happen. The object is restoration and forgiveness. Father, in this moment I release and forgive every person who has knowingly or unknowingly offended me!
Lord, I remind myself today that the enemy’s goal is collateral damage. A hit at me is intended to wound and scatter and render ineffective my whole circle of influence. The offense was a weapon not of flesh and blood, but unseen wicked spiritual forces at work. I can’t afford to see this attack in the natural! I will ask what the devil is trying to accomplish if I accept his bait—for that is exactly the post I can’t afford to abandon! I refuse to leave my family, my church, or my assignment over becoming offended!
Finally, I will exercise more caution in the way my words or decisions affect others. When I know I’ve hurt someone, I will man or woman up and go make it right. I won’t just let that person simmer and stew in offense. I won’t just write it off as the other party needing to grow up. Maybe that’s the case and maybe it isn’t; but God isn’t judging me on someone else’s actions. He judges me by how I handle things from my end! I will take the high road. I will at least initiate the conversation that opens a door to reconciliation.
And finally, Father, I thank You for not leaving me comfortless! In a fallen, unfair world, Your Holy Spirit consoles and gives me peace. In the name of Jesus, I go forth today declaring that I AM NOT A VICTIM! I WILL NOT LET THE DEVIL MOVE ME FROM WHERE GOD HAS ASSIGNED ME! I am a Psalm 1 believer who refuses to be influenced by the negatives of others—a tree thriving in rich soil, which bears fruit and whose leaves aren’t withered. I am not ignorant of the devices (strategies, traps) of the devil. I won’t miscarry my destiny because of a vagabond, offended spirit. I am strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Amen and amen!” 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼
People who only “sort of” know me are actually quite surprised to find out that I am an introvert. They see me minister weekly on the platform with multiple instruments and singing, or see my blog and the book, or me breezing through the hallway shaking hands and hugging necks. They think I am bold as a lion and to a certain extent, they are right. I suppose it does take a lot of courage to grab a mic and play a song in front of a large group of people. But still, there’s the safe, invisible “space” between me and those who might be sitting there listening. It’s the same with writing…a way to project thoughts and bring inspiration and glory to God from a comfortable distance. I guess some gifts even develop or evolve from a necessity to make the best of the personalities we’re born with. At any rate, here I am, a bit of a recluse, with gifts that make me look like the exact opposite. A true paradox.
The reason I’m sharing this so transparently is that some of you have this same personality quirk; and you feel it renders you useless in the kingdom of God. I wasn’t always sure myself that I’d be able to work through this nagging need for personal space; and some days I still have to hack through the cloud of self-doubt. But I know that the Lord was not on autopilot the day He created me to be who I am! And He wasn’t half-engaged the day He made you, either.
We aren’t social misfits, we introverts. I heard it described perfectly not long ago: introvertsgetenergyfromtimespentalone, andtheyfindbeinginthepresenceofothersenjoyablebutabsolutelyexhausting—physicallyandemotionally.
I married a man who understands this part of me, and he loves me anyway. We have built a life together where we respect one another’s need for quiet and space, and times for social engagement, too. He’s better with people one-on-one than I am, and that’s the place in ministry where he fits so perfectly; but at the same time, he actually gets me. And though sometimes even he overrides my need for alone time, he actually works at protecting my boundaries, love his heart.
So where do you fit on the broad spectrum of the body of Christ? Don’t let anyone, especially the devil, convince you that you cannot be a fruitful yet quiet person who craves solitude. There are places where you can serve which require minimal interaction while still meeting vital needs in the church or community.
Volunteer to do the downtime, behind-the-scenes work. You may not enjoy being the person performing in the Christmas drama on stage, but you can help build the set or run the spotlight. You can come in and tidy up the nursery after church if you want to help the kids’ ministry but aren’t great with kids. Bake the cookies for the funeral reception. Stock the food pantry shelf after hours. Fold the bulletins or manage the website. Agree to lead the devotions for the small group held in someone else’s house, if having people in your own home is too disconcerting. Send the care cards to shut-ins and write them personal notes of encouragement. Be a youth leader’s assistant who handles the side stuff…it may give you just enough people time to feel bonded without getting pulled into relationships you’re not feeling comfortable enough to sustain. Interestingly, introverts often become powerful intercessors because of their ease with praying for extended periods in solitude.
And yes, you can absolutely teach and preach with an introverted personality. I’m constantly surprised to find that some of the best pastors and ministry leaders are a lot like me–hidden away enjoying time away from the crowd–when they’re not doing ministry!
I won’t tell you that as an introvert in ministry, you’ll never be misunderstood. This is that “suck it up, Buttercup” moment. Yeah, by people who don’t know how your unique personality nuances affect your responses to being thrust into scenarios that are awkward or downright terrifying, you may get judged unfairly. You may be perceived to be stuck-up, snobbish, strange, stand-offish, eccentric, too private, too serious, or just…an odd fit. You may, as I have multiple times, hear people say that if you don’t love being around people, you’re probably not really called into ministry; or that your love walk is jacked up on cinder blocks. That’s not quite true. There’s a huge difference between loving people and actually wanting them in your personal space! Wink!
But newsflash… Jesus got misunderstood and He ministered anyway. He migrated toward the fringe people and in so doing, was called a drunkard, winebibber, and friend of sinners. While being judged inaccurately or unfairly isn’t utterly avoidable, remember the law of sowing and reaping. Be careful of how you judge other people. There are a lot of odd sorts in the body of Christ and elsewhere who merely have personalities different from yours. Before you write others off, consider how you yourself struggle with where you fit. Sometimes someone who’s the exact opposite of you has the same difficulty finding his or her place in the kingdom, too. Judge not; it may help you to be less-often on the hot seat of judgment yourself. Moreover, it’ll make you less likely to try to pressure someone else into serving where and how you serve.
It’s ok to be an introvert…but the spiritual issues that you allow God to prune off you in prayer and the Word (like insecurity, fear, judgmental nature, selfishness, unbelief, lack of love, and suspicion) will be what make you an introvert who is fruitful. Learn what spiritual traps are more common for those who have that tendency to be loners…and do the work to strengthen yourself from what could destroy the unique and beautiful you whom God created!
A plus to being an introvert in ministry is the comfort level of the briar patch of aloneness. Ministry and leadership can be lonely to someone who’s always got to have a cheering section, always needing a Facebook “like.” So the place which is difficult for the extrovert is actually where you thrive. There’s a need for all kinds of personality types!
To share with you my strengths and weaknesses as an introvert is a little awkward; but I think it’s necessary because people like me (maybe you’re one of them) feel the need to be understood. For me, I can only handle being around people for a limited amount of time before I retreat to my home. It’s fun to fellowship, and I love people. I love to laugh and make others laugh with my quick wit and silliness, and I like to engage in deep conversation and to listen genuinely when others are talking. I especially love to be an encourager who speaks positive things into someone’s life.
But all of this interaction, even the fun kind, can exhaust me quickly. People I would expect to bond with, I don’t always…and I haven’t learned how to make myself enjoy those connections; and yet I’m sometimes surprised at who turns out to be an easy fit. So knowing how I am, I tend to try to compartmentalize my social time and my alone time; and I keep as much as is practical of that time to myself.
I am also not a person well-suited to be the “face” of the ministry—haha! Working as a church administrative staff person, I learned quickly that I’m terrible at being the receptionist. I don’t have the sparkle, the gregariousness, the gift of gab, the sheer patience; and people who talk a lot, are negative, manipulative, or overbearing make me very nervous. I try to hide that, but unfortunately, don’t pull it off very well. I can be social or I can be productive, but I’m a train wreck if I have to combine the two. Nope, put me in a room off to myself with a stack of work, and I’ll work till the crickets stop chirping. Yet I’m effective in my element.
At home, I’m pretty low-key. I generally don’t host overnight houseguests; and I prefer a little notice when someone decides to drop by, just because I don’t fancy myself a great housekeeper. I’m not so great with kids and babies because I never had any, even though I love them. I also find myself backing away when someone tries to bring unwanted drama into my sphere, or who “hems me up” in a corner.
I have a gift of hospitality that clashes with the introvert in me. For that reason, I usually prefer to be a contributor to someone else’s get-together, where I cook and send/bring the food (Dana and I share a love of cooking for other people, so this way I can do it without feeling the pressure of being the hostess). We love to make food sometimes and just drop it off to people. That blesses them, and it blesses us without stressing me out over the pressure to entertain!
The biggest shock of all to me was when the Lord spoke to me three years ago and impressed upon me to get credentialed in ministry. As you know, I’m a writer, and I’m very content to make books and the internet my pulpit. I don’t relish the thought of standing behind a podium and doing public speaking. Nevertheless, I said yes to God and completed a two-year process that earned me an Exhorter’s and then an Ordained Minister’s license in the Church of God denomination. All the while, as I went though the process, I wondered why the Lord would pick a virtual hermit to be one of His messengers. I had to arrive at peace with the fact that, while He will stretch this wineskin a little out of her comfort zone, He won’t rupture me and waste His investment! I did a lot of soul searching, and it was healing to discover that I’m not less holy than an extrovert who by nature loves being in the company of others constantly.
Introvertedness is not a measure of one’s heart or holiness. I like to think of us as the edge pieces of the puzzle. We are connected to the body, too, but we have a specific place to fit in the overall synergy of the picture that perhaps makes us connected on fewer sides. But, even corner pieces are necessary!
I’ve seen so many bold preachers and teachers and lay people who are incredible with people; and thought that there must be something wrong with me for not handling the close proximity thing with their kind of ease. At times I have felt as if perhaps I weren’t as good a person as those who are comfortable with people in their face constantly. I know people who make great foster parents, or who host a lot of company and love having people in their houses—even strangers. Their driveways are always abuzz with cars coming and going. Some of them even raise their grandkids and love it.
They’re also the sort who love to take a dozen people with them on vacation and always have a posse running around with them, hanging on their every word. Conversely, people who are extroverts don’t do alone very well; and they thrive on that constant interaction. They have a wonderful work to do, God bless them every one. I admire them, I cheer them on, but I am not them. Other people’s drama can quickly spiral me into exhaustion and then depression. But there is still a place for me in the body of Christ, and there’s a place for you if these scenarios aren’t your cup of tea, either.
Yes, it took a while for me to realize that not everyone in ministry is or has to be an extrovert! Some of the people I thought were the most grand social butterflies are in fact, very much like me–the square peg introvert. They have just learned the fine art of emotional management, time management, and adhering to a schedule where there’s promised alone time. I’m better than I used to be, but I’m still after all these years trying to find that happy medium.
I remind myself often that Jesus craved alone time and that He would routinely spend time away from His disciples to pray and recharge. Sometimes His compassion would override His need for separation (as in the time He pitied the multitude following Him and ministered to them even while tired…seeing them as sheep with no shepherd). But the Word does not tell us that He did that every single time. No doubt He was always in demand; but He still got alone with the Father; and the Word even tells us His custom was to do it early in the mornings. Perhaps that was the only time He could guarantee that other people weren’t stirring around looking for Him.
I do know that the more time I’m in the company of others, the less time I have for collecting my thoughts and pouring them onto paper. I need that aloneness in order to release the essence of my gift. So the introvert nature is a bit of a blessing for the writer/artist part of me.
I just don’t get lonely very often. I was never the girl who could never go to the restroom without asking one of the other girls to come along. I love to go on long drives by myself, and some of my happiest prayer times have been on long, lone commutes. Much as I love my husband and other members of my family, I still need that space. It energizes me. It heals me. It’s the “beside still waters” place where my Shepherd restores my soul and my sanity.
I’ve rambled a bit, so thanks for your patience. I guess this is all gushing out because I need to say it as much as someone possibly needs to hear it. Maybe I just need to get it off my chest. If you’re a friend or family member who wishes I would give more of myself, thank you for enduring the fact that I’m only good for a short stint before I retreat back into my cave. I’m just like a cordless phone that can’t be off the charging cradle too long!
But seriously, back to the subject of ministry and the introvert, I encourage you not to perceive yourself as unfit! Find a place where you can serve, that stretches you just enough to keep you growing, but that doesn’t let you make life all about you, either. There is a way to connect with other people even if you don’t want to have an entourage following you and calling you constantly! I think Jesus May have deliberately chose 12 disciples with enormous differences in personalities and gift mixes. It teaches us that it takes all kinds to make up His church. Some of His disciples we know about practically in name-only. They didn’t write canonized epistles or have particularly daring historical accounts, but their presence was significant just the same. Jesus even chose the one who would ultimately choose whether or not to betray Him…and did. Interesting, isn’t it?
Hey, I’m in my 50’s and I’m still trying to overcome the desire to pull the covers back over my head a lot of mornings. I could choose to let this introverted nature completely rule me. At times, perhaps I have. Becoming bold to be a writer and musician and to wear other hats has surely been a long process. But I do want to be fruitful and to let Jesus conform me to His nature; so I keep trying, and I keep putting myself back up on the Potter’s wheel to work out the marred parts of my clay jar.
If you’re wrestling with your place in the kingdom and in ministry, pray with me:
Father, I identify with Paul when he wrote about wanting to be one way but found himself being another way. He was referring to his sin nature which constantly needed put in check; but sometimes I find my personality just as frustrating as a sin nature. I need your help. I present my body to You as a living sacrifice. Make it holy and acceptable. Take the parts of me that need perfecting, and work them over (and over again if necessary).
Paul said that he became all things to all men so that he might win some to You. Help me to identify with others on a more Christlike level. Help me to have the wisdom to make room for sharing Your Good News while navigating this life as someone whose personality prefers aloneness. Show me ways to make a difference in the world in spite of my need for an arms-length relationship with most people. Help me not to be blind to elements of my nature that warrant change; but also help me not to judge myself unfairly based on the accuser of the brethren’s voice, who tells me that I’m unworthy, not holy enough, or not fit to serve in the role of ministering to others.
I want to be involved, truly—but I want to be involved in a way that is energizing to me and not just draining. I need Your wisdom to pair me with what fits the person You created me to be. Give me opportunities to sow into the ministries of those who can handle the more dramatic one-on-one encounters! There are people who are perfectly crafted to minister in some very difficult social settings which I cannot deal with effectively. If You lead me to support those ministries, I will back them however You tell me—financially, behind-the-scenes, or just merely in prayer. Give me a servant’s heart that overrides my will, when my need for aloneness crosses the threshold from healthy to just plain selfish. Even though I need down-time, help me to always be generous and compassionate. Give me balance.
And Lord, help me to be less judgmental of others. I’ve often mistaken other people’s personalities for being something they weren’t. Just as I don’t want to be misunderstood, help me not to misunderstand. Help me to be more tolerant of those I perceive to be overbearing people, because in some cases, it’s just their extroverted personality showing through. Help me work through my desire to retreat from and avoid the hard, necessary business of loving and tolerating people who aren’t just like me. Some of their strengths can compensate for my weaknesses, and vice versa. We need one another.
In whatever areas You have gifted me, I’ll serve to the best of my ability. Yes, I can have a bold message of faith to share and still be someone who has a quiet nature. I’ll draw strength from my time alone with You and will carry it out to a lost, hurting world who needs to know that You love them. I’ll fight the doubt that tries to make me feel disqualified from ministry. You made me; You can use me in any way that You choose…and not even my weaknesses can change that. They are only crippling weaknesses if I were to refuse to let You work on me. I surrender to You what I have. I am the loaves and the fishes. Bless me, break me, and feed the hungry.
I wonder over the years just how many lies and half-truths we have believed about other people just because rumors got started…or news stories got published/aired…or how many times a tale got repeated with a little “yeast” added to it in increments? How many people have had a stain permanently grafted onto their reputations because of spoken/written words which weren’t true but just a matter of conjecture? We put so much stock in what we hear or read because we put stock in what we perceive to be “reliable sources.” Unfortunately, perception, even false perception, becomes the reality to whoever buys into it. We would all do well to ask ourselves more often, when exposed to information, “But what if it isn’t…true?”
We are bombarded on all sides with too much information. It’s yet another reason why I’m spending less time around social media. I don’t want to hear the dirt on people or situations. I don’t want to have to decide, in situations which aren’t my business, whether what I hear is fact or fiction; and truthfully, fact or fiction, some things I just don’t need to know! I don’t want to hear things that violate the peace in my spirit, or invite unnecessary drama into my life–or even open doors for the enemy of my soul to have legal access. Not everything passes through the filter of Philippians 4:8: things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy.
I’m trying to be more mindful of this. I have gotten swept into believing certain things before, just because I put confidence in “they” when I heard that “they” said or say. As I gasp at how easily people buy into believing horrible things and how anger and outrage and hatred explode, I’m reminded of times when I too have believed reports that weren’t true. It’s a time to pray daily for revelation and discernment so we won’t be deceived; and it is a time to pray daily for fortitude when we could find ourselves in the crosshairs of the accuser.
Persecution and opposition will come, believers…we haven’t had to see much of it here in this country, but we need to brace ourselves for the idea of being hated for what (and Whom) we believe…and a lot of it will come through people who believe lies. Be quick to repent, and be quick to forgive. Remember that the Word says to be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…and it also says not to believe every spirit but to try the spirits to see if they be of God; but to try the spirits, because there are many false messengers in the world.
Lord, help me not to be deceived even in seemingly inconsequential things, because it never is inconsequential. Help me to shut down what I allow into the gateways to my soul–my eyes and ears. Help me to be courageous enough to tell people, “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to know,” instead of having to try to cleanse my spirit of what I’ve allowed in. Help us not to be deceived by false messengers, and help us not to be guilty of being a relay runner of false messages by passing on what is not true. Keep me pure in heart, in motives, in intentions, and in truth always! In Jesus’ name…
I remember a time when, here in these tightly-clustered mountains, an AM/FM radio signal had its work cut out for it. You pretty much had to settle for only being able to pick up the very closest station or two, and not necessarily with clarity. But for me, that didn’t work because I liked the kind of music most local stations didn’t play. So I would lie there in the bed at night, or later on be driving in the car, with some obscure, faraway station playing that was barely audible. Sometimes it would be competing with another station of similar frequency and you could hear both at the same time. So what did I do? I listened THROUGH the interference. I would disregard the static and the other voices and simply focus for as long as I could on that faintly central sound.
Nowadays in the digital age, we hardly ever tune into FM radio; but the reason I am sharing this isn’t so much about the “good old days” of technology but instead about cutting through interference to get to what you desire. Specifically, the voice of God.
In these last days, there is a heightening of spiritual activity. Many voices and much static tries to drown out and overpower and make of no effect the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Word tells us of a famine of the hearing of the Word of God, and I believe in part that is what we are experiencing in the form of static interference in the heavenlies. You are going to hear some loud voices denouncing your God, trying to shame you for believing in Him, or at least trying to shame you for believing EXCLUSIVELY in Him. There’s a lot of distracting noise and drama and chaos that at times causes the message to feel faint or garbled. Praise the Lord for good days, but other days you are going to have to listen THROUGH the interference. You will have to move that antenna around and hold the radio right up to your ear. Part of your survival in the final days before the Lord’s return will be keeping your desire SHARP, your senses focused. The world will offer many options of other gods and even competing similar frequencies so close that at face value it’ll be hard to tell which source you’re hearing…EXCEPT, Jesus assured us that His sheep know His voice and another they will not follow! He even invites us to try the spirits–weigh what you see, hear, and feel against the Word to see if it’s really of God or just another noise.
How badly do you want to hear from God? You can just shut off the receiver and say it’s too hard; there’s too much static and it’s too much trouble for too little return; maybe try again later. Or, you can do as I did with that old radio. When I really focused on what I was listening for, I would become less distracted by the noise and more in tune with what I had DEEP DESIRE to hear. Sure, it’d have been nice to have internet radio in the 1980’s, or at least money to buy the records I couldn’t afford, but that’s beside the point. I thirsted after a certain sound and this was my only means of getting it. There’s a bittersweetness in that hard-sought voice of God. You might wish there were a gallon of that water but you will savor the droplets like a dying man. I made no apology for my affection, and I didn’t let my location, my liabilities, or my lack stop me from listening with all my might. Shouldn’t I at LEAST be willing to put that same diligence toward hearkening to God’s voice that I once did into trying to listen to a little jazz radio, smack dab in the heart of bluegrass country?
Tune out the distractions, for there are many, and LISTEN for God. You won’t be denied.
One night a man had a dream that left him quite shaken upon awakening. He dreamed that after repeatedly getting a busy signal into heaven, God finally answered.
The man cried out, “I have been trying to get ahold of You for DAYS! I needed Your help but every time I tried to reach You, all I got was a busy signal. Why did You have to be unavailable when I needed You the most?”
God answered, “I’m so sorry to have missed your call. I’ve implemented a screening mechanism to eliminate prank and junk calls; so perhaps where your number has shown up previously as a frequent non-prayer call, it’s been automatically routed to a busy signal.”
The man was very upset. “What do You mean, Lord? When have I ever placed a prank call on You? That’s an unfair accusation.”
The Lord said, “Well, the new system might not be without its glitches. Let me pull up your records and let’s review them. Hmmmm…I do see your number showing up quite a few times these past few days, but I don’t see any actual calls placed to speak directly to Me. The system logs each time you say My name as a call. Wow…you do say My name…a LOT. And yes, here at end of the printout, I do see where you were indeed trying to talk to Me. Your requests, however, just got shuffled in with all the other false alarm uses of My name, and thus triggered the busy signal.
You see, I used to handle all your calls directly, because My ears are attentive to the cries of my children. Any time My name is spoken, I stop and lean in to hear the conversation. Is it to Me? Is it least about Me? But reviewing these 347 times you’ve said My name over the past month, almost none of them fell into either category. You’ve exclaimed it a few dozen times while watching the ball games, the fights, in traffic…sometimes in elation, sometimes in disgust, sometimes in surprise. You’ve typed OMG about 100 times in your recent social media texts…and said it about that many times as a casual response of fake awe to other people’s stories about nothing in particular; but again, not praising Me or talking to or about Me. You’ve uttered My name every time you’ve rolled over or stood up or climbed a long flight of stairs, when you were in pain or out of breath, when the alarm clock went off and you weren’t ready to get up; but nope…not to really get My attention…not even to complain to Me or ask for My help. Again, false alarms…like a phone call where the caller hangs up as soon as I answer it. You even said My name two or three times last Tuesday after taking a bite of your wife’s freshly-baked carrot cake. Were you perhaps thanking Me retroactively? …because you didn’t give thanks before you ate it, or any of the other meals and snacks you had over the past several weeks. A deer ran out in front of your car and startled you a couple of days ago, and you blurted out My name with a couple of other words you shouldn’t have said with or without it.
So you see, My child, I wasn’t deliberately trying to ignore your call…but you have short-circuited the prayer bells of heaven by using My name in vain. I love when you say My name as you talk to Me, or to overhear you using My name in a conversation with someone else about Me. It’s sad, however, that My very own children—not just strangers who don’t even know Me—are blurting out My name as an expletive, sending scrambled signals into the heavenlies. It’s a holy name, child, and you’ve made it common by using it as a byword…not to praise Me or speak to Me or testify of Me. You’re misusing one of the most powerful gifts you’ve been given, and you’re rendering it powerless from your own lips.”
The man woke up trembling, deeply convicted because he knew that, although it was just a dream, he had indeed done exactly what the Lord had said. He got out of bed, got on his knees, and cried bitterly. He said, “Lord, I am so sorry for the many times I have misused and abused Your precious name and the name of Your Son. I will make it a point, from this day forward, to use Your name only when I’m speaking to You or about You! Forgive me for all the times You bent Your ear from heaven in response to my words, only to find out I wasn’t talking or even thinking about You at all…just blurting out empty false alarm words. I will reverence Your name for the rest of my life; and in the future when You hear it from my lips, it will be something worth lending Your attention to.”
So how about it, friend? Are you (like me), guilty of sometimes idly invoking the name of God or Jesus in times when there’s no prayer, no praise, no testimony? I’m convicted in my own heart to do better…I pray you will be, too. Let’s not disappoint the Creator of the Universe who took time to hear us even mention His name. Of course, He has no telephone answering machine, no screening service…but even in the Ten Commandments, we are instructed not to take His name in vain. We are also told that we will give account for every idle word. What do you say we work on this together? Let’s please Him when He hears us use His name. It may hasten the answer of our prayers, heighten the level of priority, when our use of that holy name is reserved only for special communication that doesn’t fall into the “junk call” category…