But let justice roll down like waters, 

   and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5: 24

When the prophet Amos looked out upon the world around him, he saw a really troubling and darkened place. There were nations all around that were engaged in various forms of idol worship, violence against their neighbors, and the oppression of the weak. Things did not get any better at home, either. Both Israel in the north and Judah to the south were engaging in similar practices. It seemed as if following God had become an outdated and forgotten aspect of living. The Lord’s provision in the time of the exodus, His victory over the powerful inhabitants of the land of Canaan, and all of the intervening years of care and protection had just been erased from their collective memory. So, God’s heart of loving kindness and desire for justice to rule the day were set aside in favor of doing whatever seemed most profitable at that time.

So, God spoke to and then through people who loved Him and who had continued to remain true to His Word and to its intent. The Lord gave such people a vision for what was to come and for why it would be so. God interrupted the routine of their lives and sent them into the world to speak about the painful reality that would come if repentance were not the response to the message. The Lord also made it clear through these visionary speakers that condemnation and judgement were to be applied universally to all people regardless of nationality, race, or other distinctives. The concepts of mercy, care for the weak, and justice are universal truths that God pours out upon the earth and that all people are required to observe. Amos promised a day of reckoning when everyone would be called to account for how they have lived and for what they have done by way of bringing about peace upon earth or in the propagation of violence and suffering. There were direct and verifiable outcomes for the people that Amos addressed. The events that are called out in the text did come to pass. But I doubt that this is the end of the story. 

God always looks ahead and takes a very long view regarding His interaction with His creation. The events that we read about in these ancient histories have application and purpose in our world and during our days. When the Lord speaks about His heart for justice and the relationship between being a just and living as a righteous people, His message was not directed at the mere thousands that would have heard Amos. He is warning and instructing us regarding what matters to Him. God speaks about people, nations, and a world where justice is the stream that washes away the pain of violence, poverty, and oppression. Christ gives us a picture of a world where wealth and power are tools in the hands of righteous people that are used to bring the needy into places of provision, safety, and respect. God’s perspective on what constitutes need and on who suffers from lack is much broader and wider than mine. His concept of what is wealth and regarding its righteous use is also far superior to the one that I perceive. In response to my lack of understanding today, I pray for Christ to open my eyes and redirect my heart to love justice and to seek to live righteously as a follower of His perfect and eternal will.   

For God alone my soul waits in silence;

from him comes my salvation.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62: 1, 2

 

I fear that I am guilty of polluting my environment, but this is not the customary sort of crime against nature and my fellow humans. My misdemeanor is directed at myself and involves an insult to my Lord as well. You see, I have engaged in a substantial and an on-going barrage of words that my mind directs at my heart. These words tend to take over my understanding and serve as the revealed wisdom that I attempt to use to guide my days. Unfortunately they are too often negative or contra productive in their nature and content. They are generally formed out of the poor soil of my fears, doubts, and the desires of my flesh.

 

Thus, God asks me for my silence. He directs me to His Word of truth and desires for me to meditate on that revelation of His wisdom and guidance. This is not always as easy to do as it sounds, for my mind is active and I want to hear my own words above all others. However, the Lord is remarkably patient with me in this matter. He allows the opportunity for me to exhaust my own supply of thought while He waits for me to relent from my process and settle in at His feet in an attitude of submission that is often driven by the exhaustion that comes from my own striving after answers and direction.

 

When I am finally still, silent in God’s Word and before His presence, the Lord’s words of counsel, guidance, and comfort are poured into my thirsty heart and mind by His loving and gracious Spirit. As I am truly present before the Lord so that my words are turned off and His truth feeds my understanding with eternal wisdom, my situation is not always easy or comfortable. God speaks truth, and that rare commodity can be troubling and challenging; however, it is always what I need and it directs me onto Christ’s path of righteousness and into the fullness of His life. In these quiet times of listening to the Lord, David’s images of rock, fortress, and salvation are made tangible to me as Christ directs my heart into the truth of His calling for my life.

 

Day and night they did not cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

Revelation 4: 8b

 

Take a moment and call to mind the brightest and most glorious sunrise that you have ever seen. Consider the beauty of it and the feeling of peace that comes as the light fills your eyes and sinks into your heart. There is a sense of awe, wonder, and amazement that comes into my mind as I look on this wonder of God’s creation. Yet, this is nothing; this is as the darkest moment in the blackest of nights in comparison to the scene that John is describing from his visionary visit to the throne room of God in Heaven.

 

Still, in the presence of all that is glorious, those who know and serve God are continually engaged in prayer. They speak their love, understanding, recognition, adoration, and praise for the Lord of the Universe. This is the constant expression of their hearts as they stand before God. I will point out that they do not have any needs, for they reside in the continual presence of God and He has eliminated all needs, worries, and concerns. Sometimes I wonder if we are not missing something in the way that we approach our relationship with God. Consider that, in and through Christ, we, too, do not have any needs that will not be met. Our lives are in the hands of the Almighty Lord of the Universe, and He loves each of us totally. Although I believe completely that God wants us to talk with Him about everything and to take all of our cares and concerns to Him, I do think that most of us don’t spend enough of our prayer time doing what those who are gathered around the throne of God in Heaven are doing. Remember, we are there, too.

 

So, here is a challenge for today. This is a personal challenge as well, for I certainly do not have this handled in my own life. As you pray, focus on God Himself. Speak of His character, attributes, and worthiness. As you do this don’t be concerned about repetition, for those who surround God seem to have reduced it all to a few simple phrases. Let the wonder and the majesty of the King soak in to your being. Quiet matters too. I tend to fill my prayer time with my own words and thoughts when God has so many of His own that He will speak to me when I listen. Try this and see how God speaks back to your heart.

 

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof

will dwell among the wise.

Proverbs 15: 31

 

There is something truly special about biblical proverbs. They are these short, to the point bits of thought that bring a piece of truth and a taste of how we can live better in this life. Most of the time, they are just two lines long. None of them offer a complete picture of Godly living in themselves, but each of them contains truth that when applied moves us closer to knowing God’s intent and desire for how we should live. This is one of those simple couplets. It is easy to say and also too easy to skip over without much real thought.

 

So, let’s think about this together. No one likes to hear about their faults and their failings, but that is what it means to be reproved. In this section of Proverbs, the Lord is the one who is speaking truth and wisdom to the reader. So, God is the one who is providing the reproof. When I think about it, this is a true statement about most of the valuable correction and redirection that I have received in this life. When I have needed to be set straight, which has been and still is too often, God has spoken to me. Some of the time He uses His Word to state the truth, at other times He speaks through people, and there are instances when the Holy Spirit, Himself, lets me know about my sin directly.

 

Regardless of how the Lord chooses to bring His righteous way to my attention, He is speaking. So, it is then up to me to listen. The listening that God desires for us to engage in is different than much of what we do in our daily lives. When God speaks, He is not just filling space with sound; rather, God is giving us wisdom that when acted upon brings us into the center of His will. So, the listening that the Lord wants from us involves the intake of His thoughts and direction, and it also requires that we respond to them by changing the way that we are thinking and acting. As we act upon what we hear from God, we are moving more deeply into the heart of the land of those who are spiritually alive, and our lives become a voice of God’s wisdom in our world.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10: 10

 

There is an old cultural expression. It is one that is not used all that much any more, and it goes, “This is living!” Yet it was almost never applied to anything that had all that much to do with true life. This exclamation of pure joy at life was typically used to refer to desirable or aspirational aspects of life such as cars, vacations, and houses. There is nothing wrong with any of these things; yet, they do not bring life. In fact, these sorts of things, when they become the center of our focus and when seeking them forms our primary motivation for each day of life, can become dangerous distractions away from God’s purpose for us. Even more disturbing is the fact that anything that turns us from God and His will tends to cause people to make themselves the center of their own universe.

 

For many of us, it is fairly easy to say, “Yes” to this idea, and we do this as we feel good about the fact that we have mostly left those days and that manner of thinking behind us. It is relegated to a phase in our personal history that might be known as the Time of Maturing. Yet, almost everyone continues to struggle with making choices about the way that we think and the things that we do that profoundly impact our personal life-death balance sheets. All people who live in this world are dwelling in a place where good and evil spiritual forces are engaged in a constant struggle for control and for dominance. Everyone who seeks to follow Christ is not just living in this place, but we have chosen to live here with a large target on our backs. Our minds and our hearts will be assaulted and assailed in an unending attempt to pull us away from Christ and His purpose for us.

 

However, God does not leave us alone in this struggle. He calls us to Himself first so that we can get to know our Lord and Savior in an ever deepening and intimate manner. As we know Him, God gifts His people with understanding, wisdom, strength, and discernment so that we can face our daily struggles with a peaceful mind and a fearless heart. As we seek Him and meditate on His word, God speaks into us and provides us with the ability to make choices between those endeavors that will lead us toward the abundant life that He desires for us to live and those other options that we have which would deplete and discourage us. We are all gifted and called by God into service to Him. No one can do everything; in fact, that is exactly what God does not want. Instead, as we submit our will to Him, Christ will lead us into life.

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46: 10, 11

 

There are times when the best thing that I can do is to just stop. Stop moving, talking, planning, considering, contemplating, worrying, debating, deciding, and solving. Just be … just be truly … just be absolutely … still. I need to allow myself to go to the level of calm where all I can hear is my own heart beating, and then allow it to slow and embrace the stillness.

 

When I get all settled in, and the world around me stops pulling at my mind, the voice of God starts to fill my heart, and His words are like a whispered promise and like the roaring of ocean waves against the rocks. They speak of His love and of His peace. The Lord reminds me that He won’t ever leave me for He meant it when He spoke His eternal vows to me. My heart hears God’s love song, and it is a song that seems to have been written especially for me. He speaks about my life, my fears and concerns, and my glorious future with Him.

 

It is in the stillness that God speaks most clearly. These are the times when my mind just gives up on trying to solve it all and when I stop feeding a tired heart the adrenalin of my attempts to run the race of life on my own and in my strength. The Lord says that I just need to listen to Him and reflect on who He is and on what He has done throughout history. Just be still, and know with all of my being, know from the depths of my soul that there is only one God, and He is my loving Father, my Lord and Savior.

 

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.”

Hebrews 3: 7, 8

 

Alright, I admit that these words concern the telling of an extreme situation. Not many people today will be sent on a forty years long circular journey to nowhere. Yet, there are times when life feels like that. We are seeking after God, and waiting to hear His will expressed to us. We say to all around us that we are waiting and praying; yet, there has been no response. However, in our heart, we know that God has spoken, but what He said was just not what we wanted to hear and would lead us to do things that we are not comfortable in doing.

 

Although this is a hard fact to accept, the truth is that God does not always call us to engage thoughts and actions that are easy and comfortable. He is a God of challenge and growth. Our Lord leads us to places where our fears and anxieties are met by His grace, love, and strength. As we follow Christ we will be taken to places where the only resource we have is faith, and the only viable response is trust in Him. In other words, we will be required to set aside all of ourselves and every ounce of our capacity and capability in order to be fully overtaken by Christ.

 

This degree of surrender is not easy for most people. It is frightening to consider. So, when Christ speaks the sorts of words that seem to require radical thinking and action on our part, we might rather filter out that voice while piously continuing to wait for the direction that we would prefer. However, God can be relentless, and He has patience and perseverance that can outlast even our most stubborn of times. When we seek God’s will, we need to be prepared for He will speak. When the Lord speaks, we can trust Him and follow wherever He sends us, for God’s will is perfect and His provision gives us all we will need for the journey.