Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:2-6 (MSG)

If prayer is conversation with God, as those who pray have discovered it to be, then a paraphrase of this passage might read;

Enjoy your conversations with God. Be sure to listen to Him; being gratefully aware of His goodness. When you do speak to Him, ask Him, in our behalf, to give us access into men’s hearts so that we may plant the eternal seed of His Word there. Here is fair warning; it is for doing this very thing I have been jailed. Wisdom informs us that there are no “chance” encounters. Seize the opportunity to connect with those the Lord brings you into contact with. Speak with them and treat them as graciously as the Lord Himself has treated you.

What follows is the is how the listening part of this conversation with God is evolving for me…..

When I paraphrase a verse or a passage, I try and honor the text and the context. When I expand on an idea, I do it because I hear other truths from scripture amplifying a word or a phrase. It may no longer be holy writ but is a way for me to carefully chew each morsel of spiritual food; enjoying its flavor and hopefully benefitting from the nourishing life within it.

I used to fret that I did not hear God’s voice like others seemed to. Looking back, I think that was a subtle (yet reasonable sounding) lie flavoring my inner conversation with doubt, fear and condemnation. I finally came to a place, not too long ago, where I decided that whatever “hearing God’s voice” involved, it was not going to be helped by entertaining this track of mournful, hopeless thinking however reasonable it sounded.  This lie stuck because it seemed reasonable and natural that a depraved man’s receptors would be in a fallen condition and thus impaired for the task of listening to and hearing God’s voice. But, I had failed to fully realize that the temple veil was torn in two, signifying new access to the Father. We were created in the likeness of the God. We have been re-joined and reunited with the One who sits upon the throne by the One who hung upon the cross. In Christ, we share, at the core of our being, the same DNA as the Father. Oh the glory this world will see when the redeemed grasp that our new natures in Christ trump all things fallen and natural and that the channels have been re-opened between us and God and that they are 100% free of condemnation!

A young businessman man in China, who I don’t think would have known my phobia regarding hearing God’s voice, was praying for a team of three of us who were going to do some ministry in South Africa. As he prayed for me, he heard God say, “Rob does not hear my voice the same way others do. I have given him language.” For those unfamiliar with this sort of thing, this would be dubbed, “a prophetic word”. It is was not issued forth with the force of an old testament prophecy. (therefor no stones will be cast if this does not prove to be true. OK?) It was just a simple word received by one who is learning the art of listening as they pray and simply sharing it as a word of encouragement. I treat prophetic words as holy clues. God knows His children love to discover things and this is just one of the ways He chooses to encourage us to press on. Prophetic words are not directives to be robotically obeyed by slaves; They are  invitations from Father to draw near and listen for possibilities on this wave length because there are presents to be unwrapped!

I love to read and I have always loved the language that God has given others. When I read I am typically savoring the thought as well as the art of its presentation. There is life in words. When the right idea is delivered in the right spirit at the right time, they have incredible power. When I picked up the Blue Book a few years ago, I was encouraged to experiment with reading the scriptures with a listening heart, not just an inquiring mind. I was also encouraged to start journalling. It was in this simple act I began unwrapping a surprise from the Lord. Indeed, he had given me language.

Consequently, the pen (now the keyboard) have become the rope and the bucket for me that I use to dip into a deep well of Living Water. Here is how this frequently plays out; After reading a passage several times (often starting the evening before) I listen for something that is vibrating at a bit higher frequency. In other words, what word, phrase or idea seems to be emboldened or highlighted? I will usually reread the passage and permit it to amplify and modify that original morsel. As a backdrop, I am just presuming that God is desiring to reveal Himself and make Himself known. I lower the bucket by writing out an initial observation and draw it up by meditating on it and typing out my reflections; seeing how they connect with the rest of the passage or the author’s intentions and especially to life right where it is today. I have discovered that in the process of writing in this style that I am also listening.

I know. There is a frightening amount of subjectivity in this. You may be asking how Rob, with his fallen nature and independent stiff will, will keep from drifting in his subjectivity from modest error today into gross heresy tomorrow. Good question. I have at least three things going for me that should serve as a hedge against this possibility.

1) The deepest truth about me is not that I have an independent and rebellious nature. The deepest truth about me is that I have a brand new nature and identity in Christ. Christ Himself and His Spirit reside in me. My new DNA (which is also God’s) is formatted in Truth. This new nature instinctively recognizes the Father’s voice – the Spirit of Truth. That’s the first thing.

2) God does not give a serpent to his children when they ask for a fish; nor does He give them a stone when they ask for a loaf. God is a really a good Father! If I go ape with subjectivity, He has the ability to correct me. He isn’t going to let me drive the train off the track.

3) I also have you and others who I deliberately expose my heart to. If you are my true brother or sister, you will ask me, when something seems off, if I may not need to reconsider my thinking in light of the whole counsel of scripture. If you have that level of courage then iron will have sharpened iron and we will both grow as a result. If not, our apathy and cowardice will likely perpetuate our errors and consequently our lukewarm condition.

Father, as we move through our lives, help us to see the beloved people all around us. Help us to boldly, lovingly and wisely draw near to those who You have sovereignly appointed us to connect with. Grant us open doors into their lost and wounded hearts. Grant them open doors into ours. May Your Holy Spirit in us decode our inarticulate pleas for living water. Pleas re-pray them in our behalf. Grant that, from the water we draw from You, we can offer each other the refreshment of heaven that resides within us. Amen.

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