God: The Almighty, All-Powerful Whisperer?

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” ~ 1 Kings 19:11-13

Elijah

Since returning to the States, I have had the opportunity to see some really cool bands in concert.

As a musician, I really enjoy seeing musicians perform on stage in front of their fans.

But I worry about their ears. Without fail, I have left every concert with ringing in my ears (and permanently damaged cochlear cells), so I cannot imagine what the musicians must be doing to their ears each night.

Worried about my own hearing loss, I left a concert the other night and quickly consulted a reference textbook to learn more about hearing loss.

According to OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the human ear hears up to 100 decibels (dBA) of sound at a rock concert;

on any eight-hour day, to avoid hearing damage the noise level in the work place should not exceed 90 dBA.

And some headphones provide even more sound than this.

Needless to say, to think that we have enough noise in our lives to damage our hearing was pretty startling.

When you think of God, the first depiction that comes to mind is probably not “Gentle Whisperer.”

We like to think of God as an all-mighty, all-knowing God who created the universe in seven days and who is able to do all things.

But there is much to be said about the more docile component of His complex character:

In his book Seeing and Savoring Jesus, John Piper explains how Jesus is described as a lamb-like Lion, meek and gentle in humility (Matthew 11:28-29) as well as a lion-like Lamb, full of glory and demanding authority (Revelation 6:16).

During Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit was described as “descending like a dove” on Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17).

Elijah even experienced the gentle whisper of God the Father in the crack of a mountain in the book of 1 Kings.

OXYGEN VOLUME 13

While I was in Tanzania, I spent a lot of time in quiet.

The compound was not surrounded by any major roads. The nearby roads were not plagued with much traffic or travel activities.

In fact, most mornings I woke up to the sound of the children walking to the river to gather water or the shed to gather tools for the day.

As I went to bed most evenings, I could hear birds stirring outside of our window as they rustled together pieces of bark and twigs to build a nest before sunrise.

It was in these moments that I was able to pray in peace and really discern what Gods direction was for my life.

It occurred to me then that I had been living with too much noise in my life.

Maybe not enough to cause hearing loss, but certainly enough to distract me from the quiet whisper of God.

God does not always choose to reveal Himself to us in grandiose displays of splendor.

He rather chooses to meet us in a gentle whisper; as the prophet Zephaniah describes, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts,” the same Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus like a dove (Zephaniah 4:6).

Be Still and Know

How much noise is in your life?

Are you so busy that you haven’t been able to hear the gentle whisper of God?

People hate silence, that is pretty well understood.

It is easy and comfortable to keep our lives busy so we hide the demons that are otherwise exposed.

We are not reticent of our fears (the unknown, rejection, getting caught, punishment, failure, etc.) when we are preoccupied with life’s happenings.

But think about the noise in our lives that might be hindering us from approaching God intimately in His quiet.

It gives you a whole new spin on “quiet time” doesn’t it?

We have to remember that God is willing and able to wheedle through the noise in our lives to search our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10).

As Matt Redman teaches us in The Unquenchable Worshipper: “[God] might watch the show, but He’s much more concerned with what’s going on backstage.”

The question, then, is: are we able to silence this noise to meet him?

***

“Quietude, which some men cannot abide because it reveals their inward poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise, for along its hallowed courts the King in his beauty deigns to walk.” ~ Charles H. Spurgeon

Making Much of Him

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
~ Psalm 37:4

I have a confession to admit: I am a very proud person.

My pride manifests itself as excessive self-reliance.

It is very often that my thought life sounds something like, “I can do all things…if I work hard enough” (see Philippians 4:13 for the correct prayer we ought to pray).

God used His children to correct this false narrative in my life, and in so doing, how to praise Him properly.

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The City of Hope staff let us lead a few songs of worship every Sunday.

On the last Saturday at the compound, I really struggled with the set list.

I felt convicted to choose songs we had not sang yet.

I could not decide whether to pick highly energetic songs or more introspective songs (the sermon was going to be given by Jacob on God’s unconditional love for His children).

Instead of turning to God for direction, I thought I could “do it” all myself.

Of course, in real time I did not realize how wrong this was.

It wasn’t until the final Sunday that this sin was realized for me.

I settled for Set a Fire and How Great is Our God, since we had already taught the kids these songs earlier in the week.

I also decided to teach them a new song, Lord We Lift Your Name on High.

This was a personal favorite from my younger years as a new believer.

When Sunday morning came, I was nervous.

“What if they don’t like the song?”

“What if the key is too high or low?”

“I don’t even like singing in front of people.”

“What if another song fits better with the sermon?”

Moving forward in faith, I decided to not overthink the songs and just proceed with boldness & trust.

We began worship with a reading from Psalm 150 during prayer:

“Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!”
~ Psalm 150:1-6

As we prayed, I reflected on the final line: “let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

We sang Set a Fire and How Great is Our God, both songs we had taught the kids earlier in the trip.

But to my surprise, when it came time to learn the new song, the kids already knew it. It was one of their favorites.

[I probably should have expected this – Lord I Lift Your Name on High is pretty well known.]

The kids sang with new zeal I had not seen in their worship.

It was the loudest they had sang yet – even the boys in the back of the room were singing!

And I concluded God was in control the whole time.

Quick snapshot of the girls dancing during Service
Quick snapshot of the girls dancing during Service

He reminded me to “trust in the LORD with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; in all [my] ways acknowledge Him and He will make [my] paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

He made reality the truth that “let everything that has breath praise the Lord”, even if that praise consists only of a few off-pitch voices and a small Walmart bongo drum.

Moreover, I also realized that “the plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:1-3).

Regardless of which songs were chosen, He had a purpose for worship that morning.

My responsibility was to seek first God’s glory, then the rest (namely, that the kids were prepared to sing all of the songs) would be merely additions.

This put a new joy in my heart that silenced my negative thoughts.

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I realized that I had been excessively relying on my own abilities as a musician instead of turning to God as the author and director of my faith.

It occurred to me in that moment that praise cannot be about practice so that we can learn – it was about presence, so that we could love.

So may our praise ever be that – not a matter of song selection or learning which chord progressions work best in a given praise setting.

Christ does not exist in order to make much of us. We exist in order to enjoy making much of Him.

Our lives were made for this purpose.

***

Set a fire down in my soul
That I can’t contain that I can’t control
I want more of You, God
I want more of You God!
[Set a Fire, Will Reagan & United Pursuit]

[Unfortunately, I was not able to record Lord I Lift Your Name on High so I could post it here.

I look forward to the day when I can hear the children singing that song again, whether in this life or the next.]