given on Sunday, October 16, 2011
Sounds like a great book title. Wait, I think it has been a book title: there it is on Amazon, with a subtitle—If you could ask God anything, what would it be? The author is Alton Gansky. Sorry to say, but I am unfamiliar with that individual. In fact, scrolling on through the Google page, I discover that having a conversation with God is a pretty common theme in literature and in music.
What does one do? Maybe the conversation needed is how does one have a conversation with God. Remember that in a conversation there is a speaker and a listener. In polite company, one speaks while another listens respectfully and patiently. Do we talk to God following those guidelines?
Talking with God means listening for a non-existent person standing beside us. Talking with God means accepting his presence even though we are not able to see or to touch that presence. Still, we talk to family members, friends, and even business personnel when we cannot be in their presence in order to see and touch them—at least not until the recent past when video messaging has changed that. We do not seem to have a problem talking over the phone or the internet. Why do we have trouble talking with God?
In Exodus, Moses converses with God trying to deal with the wayward tribes of Israel. Moses did talk directly with God, but he wanted to better understand God’s “glory” and asked for additional visual proof. God listened, and he compromised. He agreed to pass by Moses, but he placed his hand over Moses’ face only allowing him to catch a glimpse of him after he had passed Moses.
Consider this: If only Moses has talked one-on-one in God’s actual presence, how do we talk confidently with God? Moses was born in 1526 BC, and as the leader of the Jews out of captivity in Egypt, the people still did not understand how to talk with God, much less to trust that Moses talked with God. When Moses asked to see God’s full glory, he was pleading that the Israelites would truly trust in God if God’s glory were witnessed.
Moses’ plea lead God to offer a compromise—seeing just a glimpse after he had passed by him. The result of this conversation transformed Moses’ physical appearance that provided the Jewish people to see the truth of Moses’ message.
Understanding the Old Testament story means understanding the language and the traditions of the 1500 BC years. The versions we read today, over 3,000 years later refer to Moses’ face as “the skin. . . glowed (the MSG)” or “face was radiant (the NIV)” or “the skin. . . shone (the NRSV)” because he had been talking with God. Moses’ shining face was so commanding that after he had spoken to the people, he had to cover his face with a veil. The shining face was evidence that Moses was God’s mediator, according to John Wesley’s note.
Today are we failing to hear God in our conversations with him because we do not physically and personally see him? Do we struggle to continue our conversations with God or do we give up? How do we converse with God? We do not have a leader whose face is going to glow, radiate or shine revealing the direct message from God. Or do we?
Consider this statement from the Life Application Bible’s study notes:
Moses’ face was radiant after he spent time with God. The people could clearly see God’s presence in him. How often do you spend time alone with God? Although your face many not light up a room, time spent in prayer, reading the Bible, and meditating should have such an effect on your life that people will know you have been with God.
Having a conversation with God comes down to living a disciplined life that opens us up to talking and listening to God. We do that with those three steps—praying, reading the Bible, and meditating. Do we follow that method?
As the years marched ahead, the Israelites struggled waiting for the Messiah. The birth of Christ began a new phase in God’s guidance for his people. The prophets have prepared the people for the Messiah, yet the process takes time, 30 years plus the three years of Jesus’ ministry. Yet hearing the New Covenant and adopting it was difficult for many. For others, they heard God’s message through Jesus’ words and works. They saw a shining face and believed.
An example of this is found in the letter to the Thessalonians. Paul is writing to the young Christians and thanking them for their faith. Their faith was reflected in their modeling that of Paul and his disciples who visited with them. Paul explains:
6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.
The Thessalonians’ faith was seen by others and it was evident that the Holy Spirit shown through them.
The NIV study notes add to this understanding:
. . . Whenever the Bible is heard and obeyed, lives are changed! Christianity is more than a collection of interesting facts; it is the power of God to every one who believes. . . . The Holly Spirit changes people when they believe the gospel. When we tell others about Christ, we must depend on the Holy Spirit to open their eyes and convince them that they need salvation. God’s power changes people—not our cleverness or persuasion. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, our words are meaningless. . . .
The New Testament now provides more understanding for us in how to talk with God. The Old Testament said pray, read the Bible, and meditate; now the New Testament in I Thessalonians 1:9-10
. . . They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
Understanding this may not be as simple as seeing Moses’ shining face, but the translators share with us that the Holy Spirit provides the power to the gospel: All of us should respond to the Good News as the Thessalonians did: turn to God, serve God, and wait for his Son, Christ, to return from heaven.
How do we talk with God? We pray. We read the Holy Scripture. We meditate. And then, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we turn to God, serve God, and wait for Christ to return.
We may not see God’s presence pass us by like Moses did, but others who see us know that God is real because with the power of the Holy Spirit they see lives which reflect God’s love as modeled by Jesus Christ. We listen to God and model his love in a world that is not conversing with God. We are following the example of the Thessalonians, just as they modeled Paul’s.
Are you having regular conversations with God? I know I need to work on the discipline needed to truly join in a conversation with God. Prayer is not the hardest part, the hard part is stepping away from the daily grind to read and study the Bible and then meditate. In today’s world when multitasking is considered an admirable trait, stopping everything for even a few minutes becomes a hurdle in talking with God. Remember that a conversation has one speaker and one listener. If we do not stop, read and meditate, we fail to listen. The conversation dries up. Our face does not light up. Suddenly we are powerless because we have closed the conversation.
We know that we are not listening well
to the messages of the Old and the New Testament.
We know that we are so focused on multitasking
that we fail to stop and listen for you.
We know that when we do not hear you,
we are not filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Moses listened, Jesus taught, Paul modeled,
and the Thessalonians demonstrated the Holy Spirit’s power.
Today, help us turn to you, to serve you, and to wait
Today, help us become more disciplined as Christians
so we may honestly share with you and listen to you.
Today when we hear your answers, empower us
with your Holy Spirit so others may be transformed by your love.