The 7-year-old & The 77-year-old

Many believers claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a favorite verse. Rarely have I heard anyone share the next two verses along with it. There’s more to claim.

You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

Wednesday morning I shared verse 13 with a lady in my office. It came to my mind while I listened to her explain how she has been drawn to God by attending our church since moving to Bradenton. At the age of 77, she is seeking God with all her heart for the first time in her life. And God is keeping His promise.

Yesterday God showed himself to a 7-year-old. The nurse at her school inquired if we could help this little second grader with some new shoes. She has tremendous health issues, so her family struggles to meet basic needs. When we showed up with a pair of shoes for her, unbeknownst to us we were showing her God listens. She loves pink. And we had brought a pair that looked like these:


God cares about your details.

God listens to your calls.

God sees all hearts, the 7-year-old whose heart is suffering and the 77-year-old whose heart is searching.

Call. Come. Pray. Seek. Search. With All Your Heart.

Heard

(Post #2 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Bob Morrissey (bio below)

On March 19, 1995, I had just arrived home after serving with my dad on the church Sunday school bus. I was 14 years old, and the events of that morning were not on my mind; and shockingly enough, neither was the lunch my mom had prepared for our family. I was interested in what was on NBC. My mom told me to stay at the kitchen table, even though my eyes kept drifting toward the opening above the kitchen sink which looked toward the TV in the living room. Finally my dad interrupted with permission for me to leave the table and to watch Michael Jordan as he was returning from his first retirement from the NBA. I remember nothing of church that day. But I do remember that game.

I didn’t know what Jordan would do in the game, but I knew I could see him if my mom would just let me turn on the TV. How did I know he was playing? Why was it so important that I watched the game?

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Because:

  1. I saw so many commercials of him with Nike, Wheaties, Gatorade, and McDonalds.
  2. I had two glass-framed posters of him hanging in my room.
  3. I had watched 5 years of him playing previously.
  4. I pretended to be him in my driveway.
  5. I wished that I owned a pair of Jordan shoes.
  6. I knew all of his stats.
  7. I collected as many basketball cards of him as I could. (Which I still have!!!)

I didn’t miss seeing his first game back because He was on my mind.

It reminds me of Matthew 6:21 which says, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” I had invested so much time and money into him I could not help but to ignore everything else going on that day.

I do not want to just hear from God when I read the Bible or when I hear a sermon. I want to know everything I possibly can about what He is doing every moment. I think I often do not hear His voice because He is not on my mind, because He is not more important to me than my church, my wife, my kids, or what I have to accomplish that day.

When I hear from God throughout the day it’s because:

  1. I put Him first early in the day. – Psalm 63:1
  2. I’m asking Him to speak to me. – Matthew 7:7-8
  3. I’ve made His priority my priority. – Colossians 3:1
  4. I’m talking about Him to others. – Matthew 28:18-20

Doing these things is taking my treasure, my time, and focusing it on Him. When I do this my heart follows, and I can’t help but hear Him all throughout the day. These four things cause greater anticipation to hear Him and be in His presence, therefore I seldom miss His voice when He chooses to speak.

What could you do to create anticipation in your own life to hear God speak to you?


Blogger Bio:  Bob Morrissey grew up in a Christian home. From an early age he knew that God had called him to ministry. He started The Church at Clawson where he is the founding/lead pastor. He enjoys bringing truth from God’s Word and making it practical and relevant to our everyday lives. He met his wife Cindy while attending college. They have three sons: Bobby (15), Tyler (13), and Jaydon (10). Bob and Cindy love to go out and get a good steak, hit up the local ice cream store, watch The Blacklist, or re-watch Star Wars. They love taking their kids to the park and watching them in their sports leagues. Bob loves playing and watching sports. His favorite Detroit teams are the Tigers and Lions.

Heard

(Post #1 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Dawn Stark (bio below)

This morning in my daily devotion I’m reading from 1 Chronicles 14 where King David is fighting the Philistines. In preparation for the battle, David inquires of the Lord about strategy and God answers very specifically: “Do not attack them straight on. Instead circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees.  When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, go out and attack!” (NLT). I don’t know about you, but throughout a lifetime of inquiring to the Lord I’ve never been given such a specific and detailed answer.  Yet, this type of communication was commonplace for David and many others as recorded in the Old Testament.

God speaks this clearly to believers throughout the New Testament too. A good example is the back and forth conversation between the Lord and Ananias in Acts 9.  God’s instructions were very detailed: “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now.  I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” Acts records Ananias’ response to these instructions and God’s reply to his questions too.

I believe God still speaks to us today. Scripture explains He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 18:8, Mal 3:6).  He speaks to us through general revelation, such as what we observe in nature and from history; and, He speaks through special revelation as recorded in Scripture.

Worship and prayer are both powerful ways I hear from God. Worship is the cornerstone of my spiritual life.  Many days I wake up in the morning with a song running through my head and heart.  I’ve come to wonder if this is the Holy Spirit helping to prepare me for the day ahead.  Prayer is also a huge factor of my faith life. I’ve found that prayer quiets and heals my soul, or as Ole Hallesby so powerfully writes, “prayer is the breath of the soul, the organ by which we receive Christ into our parched and withered hearts” (Prayer, 1936, p.14).

God speaks to my heart during personal devotion time and through the preaching of the Word too. These are aspects of his special revelation, which require me to faithfully attend to the habits of reading the Bible and attending church.  I’m constantly amazed how often these activities seem to overlap and confirm each other-for instance, when a passage I’ve studied during the week just happens to be a key component in pastor’s Sunday message.

Meditating along the ocean shore or hiking through a nature preserve become holy places where He will reveal something new about His faithfulness and strength to me. Soft as rain, these gentle whispers create a new thought that cause me to suddenly see situations in my life differently. In the “be still and know” solitary spaces, God is near and always leading me forward.

Finally, and probably most profoundly, I hear from God through the relationships we form in this life.  Within the context of family and friends I learn of His faithfulness, compassion, and enduring love.  As I wipe away my children’s tears, I know that God also wipes away mine. Not only can I understand His patterns and purposes deeply through these vital relationships, my desire for His presence deepens.  When earthly relationships bring pain and disappoint, I run to the Creator to be healed by His unconditional and steadfast love.

How do I hear from God?  Oh, I hear from him in so many beautiful and powerful ways. I may not be the recipient of full conversations as the saints of old; but His presence fills me, heals me, and guides me daily. He is imminent and He is faithful.  I just need to be quiet and listen.


Blogger BioDawn Stark and her husband Tim ministered to youth of all ages, from babies to young adults, all while enduring their own private infertility battle.  Throughout this process that spanned a 23-year period, Dawn learned to worship her way through life’s challenges and heartbreaks.  As with Hannah of old, God was faithful and eventually granted Tim and Dawn three biological children, including a set of twins, and two adopted children from Guatemala.  

It was during Dawn’s adoptions from Guatemala that her eyes were opened to the complicated and lasting effects of poverty. Stuck in the process for years, she dedicated the rest of her working years to be an advocate for children and families in need.  Serving in the non-profit arena since 2013, she has worked for the Both Ends Burning campaign as the Director of Faith-based Initiatives and One More Child + FBCH as the Orphan Care Coordinator.

Her advocacy journey led her to Operation Blessing in May 2019 where she now serves as the Regional Philanthropy Manager for the Southeast Region.  In this role, she works in a 9-state region to match the philanthropic goals and interest of partners with the needs of the most vulnerable in 39 countries, including the U.S.   She is passionate about the work Operation Blessing is doing to bring hope and help to suffering families through innovative programs and partnerships that maximize resources and save lives. 

Dawn graduated from Regent University with a degree in government/ international relations and is currently completing a master’s degree in international community development at Southeastern University. She is a blogger, aspiring author, public speaker and a beach lover.  She currently lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband of 34 years, five children, and Siberian Husky puppy. 

Break a Cup

Here’s one other memorable story from David Platt’s book Something Needs To Change. While visiting a home housing girls who had been rescued from trafficking, he learned one example of how they were led to see themselves.

On a table in the room, I see cracked glass tea cups. The woman who leads the home, Liv, tells us how these cups were an art project. In a recent class, the group talked about seeing beauty in the middle of brokenness. Each girl was given a glass tea cup and asked to break it by throwing it on the floor. The girls were hesitant at first, but one by one they threw their cups and watched them shatter into pieces. Then each girl was asked to glue her cup back together, piece by piece.

Next they placed a small candle inside each cup and lit it. The cracks in those broken cups actually allowed the light of the candles to shine brighter. That led to a discussion of how in our lives we might feel broken because of what we’ve done or what’s been done to us. But if we let him, God puts us back together and the light of his love shines brightly for others to see, even through our hurts.

There are many “ifs” in this scene.

  • If they talked
  • If they threw them down
  • If they put them back together
  • If they lit the candle
  • If they let God

Beauty is hidden when we stay stuck in the ifs. The enemy loves our being stuck; our Redeemer longs to fully free us in order to shine through us. Are you stuck? Maybe it’s time to break a cup.

Are We Doing Church Right?

A friend (thanks, Pat) recently loaned me a copy of David Platt’s latest book, Something Needs To Change. If you’ve read anything by him, I’ll go ahead and suggest you haven’t read anything like this one. Platt chronicles his week-long journey through the Himalayas where he came face to face with some of the most difficult questions and challenging needs in the world. Because he’s reacting, you react. Because he’s questioning, you question. And nothing is outside the realm of analysis. Even the church.


In chapter six, Platt shares the lives of church leaders in the Himalayas. Their work is not easy. And it’s quite different than the majority of church leaders in other countries-vastly different from American churches. At the end of the day, he was asked to do some teaching and training. Here’s an excerpt of his thoughts about that time:

Over the coming hours, we walk through all kinds of pictures and passages in the Bible describing the church as God designed it. As I’m teaching and we are all discussing what we see in God’s Word, I am struck with a fresh realization.

Looking at the Bible to see how God has designed the church is exactly what needs to be done. As I had reflected a couple of days ago, these villages needed the church in them, but they don’t need an American version of church; they need a biblical version of church.

As I walk through the Word with these leaders, it hits me that so many of my conversations about the church in America are often focused on cultural traditions that are extrabiblical at best and unbiblical at worst.

For example, as I read the Bible with these brothers and sisters, we don’t see anything about constructing church buildings or organizing church programs or managing church staffs, topics that so many church conversations in America revolve around. It makes me wonder, Why are Bible-believing, Bible-preaching churches in America so focused on what is not in the Bible? As I ask myself this question, I can’t help but think that one of the greatest needs not just in the church in the Himalayas but in the place where I live is for us to open our Bibles with fresh, unfiltered eyes and ask, “Are we really doing church the way this book describes it?”

American Christian, it’s a fair question. If you aren’t convinced, get a copy of this book. After you’ve read it, come back to the question. We must be open to the possibility that we are not doing it right. And if that’s true, what are we going to do about it.

Heard

(Introduction to a 5-part series collaboration)

Recently I had a brief conversation based on this statement: “I don’t know how to hear from God. People around me say they hear from God, but I don’t. I pray, and nothing. I feel like I’m doing something wrong.”

Due to the social context, that conversation was one-sided. That person’s tone and spirit has stuck with me. So much so that I’ve recruited some friends/thinkers to add many sides to the conversation. A team of five is writing blogs answering this question: How Do I Hear From God? You can read each post as they upload each Friday in November.

Besides me, here is a little bio introduction to the other four bloggers:

Dawn Stark: Mother of 5, Beach Lover, Manager of Philanthropy for Operation Blessing

Aaron Pilant: Father of 2, Lover of K.C. sports, Bradenton Police Officer

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Erin Pilant: Mother of 2, Lover of Disney, Marketing Director for Chick-Fil-A

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Bob Morrissey: Father of 3, Lover of Detroit sports, Pastor of The Church at Clawson

bob

We don’t have to wait until November. Want to answer the question and start the conversation? Go ahead and leave a comment. Be Heard!

Self-Compassion

Finished my first Brene Brown book this weekend. 

Walking away with so much. I’ll share my two favorite things in a few posts. Here’s the first one:

Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love.

This quote came from a section entitled How To Practice Self-Compassion. She shares this definition of self-compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin: “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” Brown translated that definition to her simple mandate.

I’m guilty. Chances are the vast majority of us are. Sharing high criticism like, “John, that was stupid,” or, “You are such an idiot.” I’ve even said recently, before I read this section, that that is how God talks to me because he speaks my language. So, I’m going to go ahead and call myself out. “John, that’s a lie. When you come to him with honest repentance, God doesn’t respond like that. Stop putting God in your shoes. Try stepping into his shoes filled with love for you.”

If you share my tendency, I issue you this 7-day challenge: 

For the next week, listen to your self-talk. When you catch yourself saying something that doesn’t sound like God would say to you, hit the pause button. Restate the sentence how you believe he’d say it. And, just in case you can’t figure it out, ask him. This could be a classic “you have not because you ask not.” Go ahead. Call yourself out for some self-compassion.

We Can All Be Multilingual

In today’s global economy, multilingual skills are in demand. To prepare school-age children for their careers, they are learning multiple languages, not just their primary language. That wasn’t a thing for my generation in the 70s. And in my 51 years of living, it hasn’t been a necessity; so I do not possess those skills. 

There is a reading plan on @youversion entitled Speak Over Me. Each of the seven days considers how God speaks over us; for example, he speaks affirmation, restoration, and healing over us. My reading this morning included this statement regarding his speaking grace over us:

On the cross, Jesus restored all things. He taught us grace and it was a language that, until that moment, we did not understand.

Interesting. Not only does God speak over us, he also teaches us how to speak a language we did not understand previously. How about that? And I’m guessing it’s a language I need, and so does everyone else around the globe.

So what languages can we learn from God, languages that we maybe didn’t understand until he started teaching us? Languages that his Son spoke while here with us in statements like…

  • Neither do I condemn you” – the language of hope
  • I lay down my life for you” – the language of sacrifice
  • They know not what they do” – the language of forgiveness
  • I have come so you may have life” – the language of purpose
  • I know my sheep” – the language of connection
  • As my Father loved me, I have loved you” – the language of love
  • Love your neighbor as yourself” – the language of peace
  • Do not despise one of these little ones” – the language of protection
  • No one can snatch you out of my Father’s hand” – the language of security
  • Be not afraid, only believe” – the language of faith 

When Jesus spoke these words, some understood the language immediately. And their lives were not the same. And they began speaking new languages. They became multilingual in spiritual languages. 

It was needed then. It is needed now. These languages can be taught. They can be learned. We can possess these skills. We can all be multilingual.

Look at Me

“You, O Lord, are the lifter of my head.”‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I witnessed this the other day. Actually, we all do every day. People walking around literally and figuratively needing a head lift. Sometimes it’s the person in the mirror.

When I read this verse recently, a familiar image came to mind. Picture a discouraged child, head down, not wanting anyone to see their eyes, possibly hiding their tears. They’ve been asked several times, “Look at me!” After several refusals, the inquirer gently puts their first few fingers under the child’s chin lifting their head in order to force eye contact. With that gesture, change becomes possible. The child looks into another pair of eyes offering forgiveness, understanding, empathy, strength, hope, protection, peace, or love.

In my relationship with God, I can often forget to allow him to lift my head. I’m satisfied to look down. To see what I want to see. To accept less. To tolerate guilt. To self-protect. To wallow. To be a stubborn child.

This Psalm was written by David in an extremely sad time. His own son was after him. Can you imagine how downcast David was? David helps us see how important it is to allow God to lift our heads. To be Fathered. To see what we need to see. To receive more. To embrace mercy. To drop our guard. To stand tall. To be a changed child. To obey the first time God whispers, “Look at me.”

Blind Believers

I’ve believed a lie all my life. Or maybe it’s a self-made myth. Or maybe an unexplained misunderstanding. Whichever, enough already.

It’s embedded in the lyrics of one of the Church’s most famous hymns. I’ve heard it, sang it, and played it a gazillion times in 51 years, but only recently realized I’ve missed something. Maybe we all have.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.

Christian friend, before you lose your mind, take your hand off your heart. I’m not saying this hymn is a lie. What I’m saying is we’ve believed an implied principle that isn’t truth.

The lie/myth/misunderstanding is found in the word once. Of course there is a before and after at the moment where grace and faith embrace, what we call salvation. Before lost, after found. Before blind, after see. The lie we tend to believe is this: “I’m 100% healed from my spiritual blindness. It’s one and done. I shouldn’t feel susceptible to sinful blindspots ever again.”

Newsflash: That’s a Lie. Acknowledging a general blindness to sin resulting in repentance rarely goes deeper than the surface. New vision is received. But only through growth and maturity are we able to see our deepest need of grace.

I’m 51. I’m still “seeing” for the first time, finding blindspots I didn’t know I had. Envy, prejudice, anger, judgment…on and on. Why? Tons of reasons. Does it matter? Of course, but what I have to admit is pride can keep me from acknowledging they exist. I am still in need of grace to release me from being a blind believer. I will never not need it. Is it available more than once, every time I need it? According to Paul, yes. And that’s why we can call it amazing. It’s there every time we see for the first time.

“When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.” Romans 5:20 MSG

“Where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more.” Romans 5:20 CSB