Loving His Voice

© 2012 Elizabeth Anderson

A few days ago I was hiking through the woods with my family.  As we walked, we passed a father and his little son on the trail.  The father was sharing something with his son and the little boy was listening with shining eyes. The boy could not have been older than six or seven, but every part of his being was enthralled by his father’s words.  He was so eager to hear that he walked as closely to his father as he could and kept looking up into his daddy’s face.  As they passed, I realized that the father was saying something important: he was sharing a vision, a dream, that he had for his son.

Even now I do not want to forget the image of that little boy’s shining eyes.  Do I listen to my heavenly Father’s voice with the same excited attention?  Do I walk as closely as I can so as not to miss a word?  Have I caught the vision that He has for my life?  Is every fiber of my being bent on hearing and obeying Him?  Sadly, I am often not like that little boy: I stumble through my devotions, try to walk as closely to the “line” between right and wrong as I can, and push His vision for me to the side, while focusing my energies on the things I enjoy.

Our heavenly Father’s main vision for every Christian is to live like He is real and like His Gospel is powerful.  The Lord will direct each person to accomplish that vision in different ways.  Do you love to hear His voice?  Have you caught the specific vision He has for you?  If you do not know what it is, ask Him!  Then be like that little boy and treasure your Father’s every word.  Let’s humble ourselves as little children, like Jesus told His disciples, and listen to our heavenly Father’s voice as if we can’t get enough.

Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.” 1 Chronicles 16:11


The Desert: A Place to Grow?

Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan ©2010-2012 David Sant, used by permission.

The sun beats down until the rocks are so hot you could literally fry an egg on them.  Finally the sun drops below the horizon and the temperature plummets to near freezing.  Winds whip across the parched landscape, blowing sand into your eyes, nose, and mouth.  There is little to no water and only the sturdiest, most efficient plants and animals survive here.

The desert is a wasteland.

Or is it?

Often Christians describe bad times in their spiritual lives as “desert times”: times of dryness, apathy, and seeming distance from God.  I believe there are actually two types of spiritual deserts: those God leads us into and those that we make for ourselves by losing fellowship with God.

Throughout the Bible, God led individuals into the desert and used that time to grow their faith.

Moses spent at least eighty years of his life in the desert.  During the first forty years, God was preparing him to lead the Israelites across a desert into the Promised Land.

John the Baptist grew up in the desert. (Lk. 1:80) Then God used him to prepare the way for Jesus.

Jesus fasted for forty days in a desert in preparation for His ministry.  The Bible tells us that He was led there by the Holy Spirit. (Lk. 4:1)

However my favorite Bible story about a desert concerns Philip.  Philip was a leader of the church in Jerusalem.  He had just participated in an amazing spiritual awakening in Samaria, preaching the Gospel and baptizing new believers.  He was seeing God work and getting to be a part of it.  It must have been like working at VOICE multiplied by about a thousand (and watching God work at VOICE is incredible!).

The next thing Philip knows, he’s sitting in Jerusalem and God is telling him to go to the Gaza desert.  There are no people in the desert.  If I had been in Philip’s shoes I would have been thinking, “Um, we are on a roll here, God.  Why on earth do you want me to go to this desert?  You aren’t making any sense!”

The next sentence simply says, “And he arose and went.”  Wow.  That’s faith.  That’s living like God is real and truly all-knowing.

Philip followed God to a seemingly barren place, but he was able to share the Gospel with a man from the court of the Queen of Ethiopia.  We can’t ever know how many Ethiopians believed on Christ just because Philip “arose and went” to the desert!  (Read Philip’s story for yourself in Acts 8:5-40 in Chinese or English.)

God can make good things happen even in the desert.  My question for all of us is, do we try to flee the spiritual desert too soon?  Of course it’s uncomfortable.  Of course it’s lonely.  However, maybe we seek escape when we should be seeking God.

Each of us will probably spend time in a spiritual desert.  Let’s be careful we are there because of God’s direction and not as a result of our own sin!  The Israelites disobeyed God and because of their sin they were forced to wander in a desert for 40 years.  If you take yourself into a desert by disobeying God and losing fellowship with Him – repent!  Don’t waste your life wandering in a spiritual desert of unbelief.

If God leads you into a desert, seek Him.  At the very least He wants to draw you closer and perhaps prepare you for something in the future.


Turn the Light On!

A man ran through a pitch dark room shouting, “I hate you, darkness!  Go away!  Stop being dark!”

Silence.  The darkness didn’t go away.  In fact, it didn’t even budge.  For hours the man ranted and raved against the darkness in the room, but the darkness never wavered.

Finally another man walked into the room.  He did not scream and curse the darkness.  Instead, he walked resolutely across the room and turned on the light.  The darkness was gone.

Sometimes I get so frustrated with the evil in the world that all I do is complain about how dark the darkness is.  There are so many issues that I can get upset about, but there is only one solution: Jesus, the Light of the world.

A few days ago, as I was reading in the Gospel of John, I was excited to find Jesus’ description of how He “turned the light on” for the world.

   “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
“If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin…”  John 15:22, 24a

Jesus spoke and lived in a way that set Him apart from everyone else.  However, Jesus was not just trying to be unique.  The purpose of His set apart life was so people would know that they had sin.  Unless light shines into a room, there is no way to tell what is in the room.  Similarly, unless the light of Christ shines into a person’s life, that person will never know the true state of their heart or see their need.

Think back to the day you accepted Jesus as your Savior.  Think about how different your life would be now if you had never done that.  I remember what I was like.  I remember feeling miserably hopeless – and I grew up in a Christian family!  I would never have had peace, I would never have gone to VOICE, and my life would be a wreck right now if it weren’t for Jesus in me.

“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared” (Titus 3:4).  No one becomes a Christian without the kindness and love of God “appearing” to him.  That’s “turning the light on!”

As we learn to see unsaved people the way God sees them (see Joel’s post for more on this), let’s look for ways to “turn the light on” for them.  How can we speak and live in a way that will shine Jesus, the Light of the world, into the lives of others?


God Mended My Hoodie

One winter day, during my second year in Taiwan, the weather was cool so I had taken my favorite blue hoodie along to school with me. On the drive to school, I noticed a tear in one of the sleeves.  I couldn’t wear it like that. I resigned myself to toughing it out in my t-shirt.      When I arrived at school, I plopped my bags, books, and purse down on and around my desk. My coworker, Xu Jun, and I greeted each other with smiles and “Good morning!” Then I showed her my hoodie.”The grandma can fix it,” she responded to my tale of tear.

The “grandma” is a bustling, kindly, older woman. What her official job is at the school, I’m not really sure. She bandages, combs disheveled hair, scolds, comforts, and generally ‘grandmas’ everyone in the school – except the principal, of course.

“Yes!” exclaimed another teacher, “We have a very good seamstress!”

“Here, here. Bring it here.” Grandma ordered in her gruff, yet good-tempered, way.

I gratefully handed my hoodie to her. I expected to teach at least one period in my shirtsleeves, so I settled contentedly down at my desk for a chat with Xu Jun before class. Not five minutes later, bless her heart, the grandma tossed my sweatshirt to me. She had mended it beautifully.

I thanked her profusely. I thanked the Lord, too. I knew He had directed me to take that particular hoodie to that school (as opposed to the others, which don’t have ‘grandmas’) just so it would be mended.

A couple of days later a friend of mine was trying to tease me about the hole. “Look!” she commanded several of our mutual friends. “Look! There’s a big hole in her sweatshirt… Where is it?” she asked in surprise.I laughed and explained how God had mended my hoodie.

Sometimes I’m tempted to think that God doesn’t really care about what is happening in my life. Then He reminds me of times like this when He has proven that He is concerned with even the smallest details. Why should I doubt His loving care? After all, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
This Easter, as we celebrate God’s greatest act of love, may we all continually marvel at and trust in the faithful loving-kindness of God!

The Right Reason

In the book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul tells us that no matter what we do we should “do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men”. (Col 3:23)  Often I find myself concerned about what other people think of me instead of what Christ’s opinion is.  Of course, this is caused by my selfishness and pride.

This past semester I started studying at home for a college degree.  Every time I sit down to study it’s important for me to remind myself for Whom I am studying.  The purpose of anything I do in my life should always be to please Christ.  By earning this degree, I am working towards something that will give me more opportunities and make me seem more successful to other people.  However, the real purpose for acquiring the degree is not so that I can have a great career or impress people.  My purpose in earning the degree is so that I will be able to serve Christ in different ways than I am able to now.

Sometimes when we do something good and right for the right reason (pleasing Jesus!) people may think we are doing it for a selfish reason and they become upset.  At other times when we do something right or wrong out of a selfish reason people will praise us.  God understands our true motivations.  “…man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)  Jesus should be the most important person and His good opinion the most treasured in our lives.

When Jesus’ opinion is my highest priority I always have a great peace.  I am free from the pressures and opinions of other people and can focus wholeheartedly on doing the best I can for Jesus’ sake.  However, this does not mean that I ignore my authorities’ wishes!  It means that when my authorities give me a task to accomplish I should see it as a personal commission from Christ and do it diligently with a cheerful attitude.  It also doesn’t mean that I can ignore other people!  It means that I should see each person as an opportunity to show Christ’s love.  Unfortunately, I don’t always do these things, but the Lord has been faithful to provide me with many opportunities to practice. 🙂 He will give you opportunities to practice in the coming year, too!

Happy New Year!