— Mark 1:35 (New International Version)
The alarm sounded. Not the harsh hounding of horns, nor the frightening bleat of an emergency. ‘Twas but a gentle, repeated angelic rhythm: harps.
Morning has broken.
My eyes opened.
Ding-dong. God Calling.
A new day. A new month. New adventures await…even though old issues remain.
Today there will be family matters: rides to arrange, lunches to make, receipts to reconcile, budget to plan. Church to attend. People to see. Demands. Requests. Pets to pamper.
The sun has scarcely begun to light the sky, and pondering the list has already brought fatigue. I’d rather stay in bed, yet, those things still need to be done. As I am alone, before the others stir, I have time to contemplate the tasks. Or go back to sleep.
There is, of course, the television background diversion. Or the social media. Maybe the news to read in some form. But the silence beckons.
In the silence is solitude. In the silence are the sacred sounds of creation awakening. In the silence is the voice of creation. The voice of God.
People often ask how you can hear the voice of God. I’ve had the query come frequently in recent weeks. They read the headlines, or anti-social posts, and wonder if God speaks. Or even exists. They see the human failures of souls who have claimed to speak for God — priests, pastors, politicians — and wonder why God chose such flawed people to represent Him; and if God did, He must not be worth following. Not long ago, a noted writer of Christian worship songs renounced his faith citing, among other reasons, he doesn’t see God doing miracles any more.
I admit having difficulty hearing God’s voice, but not for reasons of global proportions. When I read the news of hurricanes and fires and shootings and evil people in the streets, I do neither doubt God nor His existence. In fact, those things cause me to believe in Him more. Which is why my difficulty hearing Him is personal, and my desire urgent. My problem is too many voices. Too many needs. So, early in the morning…
The questions asked of God and the distracted busyness of the day are not new. Nor are they relegated to this century.
Jesus faced such questions, temptations and doubts when He walked the earth. Studying how He responded to such moments is not only a study for Sunday school. It’s a model for those who claim to follow Him.
In his full humanity, Jesus was subject to every emotion, temptation, uncertainty as we. The New Testament writers recorded these moments in their journals we call “the gospels.” They also wrote their observations of Jesus’ habits, one of which is for mornings as this. For when the alarm sounds.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.Mark 1:35 (New International Version)
Jesus knew that, though his over-arching mission — His calling — was to provide a path for people to have an eternal relationship with God, that to do so, He needed strength each day. Super natural strength. Jesus knew that, left to His own human confinements, once he began interacting with people, he could become crabby, too tired, tempted to abuse his power, or ineffective when asked. The gospel journals include snippets of snippy Jesus.
READ MORE: Jesus “snaps” at the crowd.
READ MORE: Jesus “snaps” at his disciples.
And so, when God awakened him each day with the natural alarm clock, Jesus went to a solitary place to be with Him. It’s a familiar passage to many, and a personal favorite that long ago altered my life. And in recent months, a concept I’ve gotten away from. Thus, my auditory difficulties.
Despite the familiarity with the verse, do you ever wonder what Jesus did in such moments? Dare we imagine what He prayed for in His fortresses of solitude? And how long? Perhaps Jesus’ prayers were not much different from ours.
He prayed for strength to address His to-do list. He prayed for those in His inner circle of friends and followers. He prayed for the people He would meet and serve today, asking, likely, for the Holy Spirit to provide words to say when such moments came and words failed Him.
Maybe He prayed for the religious and government leaders, that they — having been given their appointed responsibility — seek and follow the will of God. Perhaps he asked that they — the priests, pastors and posing politicians — repent, and change behaviors that are contrary to God’s law.
Yes, difficult as it is to imagine, Jesus likely prayed for himself, that He not yield to temptation when human passions were stirred. Jesus likely confessed and asked forgiveness for moments of His humanity (dare we say, sins?). Moments when He was angry, didn’t feel like_____: caught himself doing a double-take at an attractive person. Maybe He acknowledge the moment, gave thanks He didn’t yield, asked forgiveness and strength to move on.
In the early morning hours, Jesus likely … mostly … gave praise to God, quoting back the Hebrew Bible scriptures He had studied and memorized; for in those scriptures God spoke to Jesus, as He speaks to us. “His compassions fail not; they are new every morning.”
In the early morning hours, Jesus likely reflected on the beauty God created in that quiet or desolate place; gave thanks to God for His chosen assignment; expressed how grateful He was to be chosen to lead, and asked God’s strength, wisdom, honesty and live to walk with Him and show through Him as he prepared to interact with the people during the day…the earnest, the hypocrites, the hopeful, the ailing, the people like him, the aliens among them.
In his prayer Jesus may have sung his praise, and then, sated and filled with God’s strength for the day, come to his Amen with strength for the day to fill the hopes of His followers for tomorrow.
I like to think Jesus prayed like that because…because I did.
And having completed his prayer of thanks, confession, requests and praise, Jesus may have sat in that quiet place feeling the presence of God…His voice…until choosing to rejoin the people, or until they, missing Him and needing him, called out, “Jesus! Jesus! Oh! Found You.” And He, in reply, stood and said, “Follow me.”
Later That Morning…
Not 30 minutes after completing my reflections and writing the above, I turned to my regular, two-minute audio devotional on Abide. The first image that came on the screen floored me. I broke the early morning silence with a loud guffaw. The last line of the cover photo (below) left me speechless. It was my first #HolySpiritMoment of the Day.
But wait…there was more.
We pulled into the lot of “the wrong church.” That is, when my wife and I decided where were worshipping, she thought we were heading to another place. Similar names will do that.
Rather than turn around, we continued in. We’ve been to the church frequently, presenting sometimes, but wanted to blend in and worship inconspicuously.
The preaching pastor, in my wife’s words, is “the bomb,” so we nestled in. Early into the in the sermon, #TheBomb began ticking. We began audible responses, then #TheBomb exploded #HolySpiritMoments.
LISTEN: Let Prayer Change You
READ MORE: 13 Verses Telling How God Called You
The message, based in 1 Timothy 1:18-20, began tapping into an element of “Jesus’ prayer” above: individuals who have left the faith, or who misuse their responsibilities and need redirection. #HolySpiritMoments, for the record, cause me chills. I sense and see God in action.
Near the end of the message, my guffaw went to “spent.” Having already written and titled this missive, I became slackjawed when the pastor said, “Now, what has God said about ‘calling?’ “
He then began reeling 13 New Testament passages that explained the responsibilities to which a Christ-follower is called by God.
Between my early awakening, the audio devotional, the sermon theme and the 13 verses, by noon, I had no doubt about the question of whether or not God was speaking to me. He does. Loudly, clearly. He starts by saying:
“Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture …?”
So, I re-read my notes instead of taking a Sunday nap. That’ll help me sleep more soundly overnight. And get up early in the morning.
Story Song: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
We don’t hear hymns much anymore, but once introduced, their power lingers. Much of the reason, I believe, is that the influence of Scripture is more easily discernible than many modern tunes. Here is how Lamentations 3:22-24 affected author Thomas Chisholm.
Story Song: “My Prayer”
It’s not exactly a Christian worship song. In fact, it’s a popular R&B tune from the 1950s. However, as with many old songs I grew up listening to, listening through the filter of God’s ear gives a worshipful interpretation in the proper context.