Episode 1. Bridging the Communication Gap
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Communication – I mean real, meaningful communication is becoming harder to come by. Technology lets us be more connected – but somehow we communicate less. With people, and with God… Join …
Communication between people – I mean real, meaningful communication is becoming harder to come by. Technology lets us be more connected – but somehow we communicate less. With people, and with God…
The Communication Gap
Now this week on the programme we are starting a new series that I’ve called, “The Power of Prayer” – the power of having a conversation with God – a relationship, an intimate, delightful relationship. But you know, the more technology we seem get in our hands, the more connected we become.
Way back when, the postal service was a major innovation, then came telephones and cars and then faxes and mobile phones and emails and these days my daughter communicates with her friends through websites like myspace.com.
And the other thing you notice is, the more of this stuff we have available in our lives, the busier we become, the more options we have. So we cram pack our lives full of doing and stuff and stuff and stuff. And the incredible paradox of all this is that the more communication devices we have at our fingertips, the less we communicate.
You know the sort of communication that happened when we went camping as kids or sat around a fire and just talked. Somehow we are so busy these days that that sort of comfortable, relationship building, affirming communication seems to have gone out the window, whether it’s with other people or with God.
This paradox is real; it’s alive; it affects almost everybody. Somehow, technology and work and all the entertainment options that people have these days, instead of opening us up to other people, closes down. You see teenagers who are wired to their ipods.
On the news last night, they were saying here in Australia that one in three adults has an MP3 player. And I proudly thought, ’well, that’s not me’ and then I realised that my mobile phone is also an MP3 player.
It’s all so seductive – cable television, internet movies, restaurants, on and on and on and ok, we can’t all afford all of those things all the time, but we all go chasing after some of that stuff and we want more and more and people are working longer and longer. And you know, those leisurely lunches with families and friends on the weekends are replaced with rushing around shopping centers, and buying stuff and trying to get this organised and that organised.
I’m as much a victim of this as anyone else. One of the things that I’ve had to do is to deliberately carve out time with people. To deliberately say, ’no, those emails can go unanswered today because I need to spend some time with my wife.’ I have this very good friend, his name is James. Once or twice a week, James and I will catch up for coffee, just to have someone to talk to and some friendship.
We need to decide in all this busy-ness, to stop the merry-go-round, get off and smell the roses. And these days it’s a deliberate decision – these days we almost have to go against the flow to get that sort of communication happening.
It’s true in my relationship with people and it’s true in my relationship with God. Lots of people know how wonderful it is to pray – regular communication with God – stopping and pausing with Him, just resting there with Him every day. But many of those people are just too busy to do it.
You get up, have breakfast, you commute to work, you’re flat-out all day, you come home tired. How do you fit in great family communication, let alone spending some real, wonderful time with God in prayer?
Well, that’s a good question. I spoke on this subject a couple of years back at a conference of Christian leaders in the field of media and communications. And I made the point that the most important thing each one of us has to do in our lives, is have a relationship with God.
A young lawyer came to Jesus and said to Him, “Jesus, what’s the most important thing to do in life?” and He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength. This is the greatest commandment and the second one is just like it – love your neighbour as yourself.”
So on my ‘to do’ list and on your ‘to do’ list, the most important thing – THE most important thing – is to spend some time with Jesus every day and we call that ‘prayer’. And you know, one by one, at this conference, afterwards, these leaders came up to me quietly on the side, and said you know something, “I have such a problem with this. I’m so busy I don’t know what to do.” And it’s a really common problem – it’s not just me; it’s not just you; a lot of people have this problem. How do I find time to pray?
Most people know that a regular prayer time, most days, is one of the best things they can do. When I spend that time quietly each morning with God, the peace and the joy and the rest getting ready for the day, I seem to handle things so much better – it works! But we are so busy doing the urgent things; we don’t have time for the important things.
Priorities – we set our priorities; we allocate our time; we decide and if we don’t do this, what happens is a communication gap. It happens in a family; it happens in a marriage; it happens in work; it happens in any relationship you care to mention. If we don’t spend good time together, we drift apart and the communication gap gets wider and wider and wider.
You know what I’ve noticed? My fellowship with God gets deeper and richer when I regularly, every day, have this prayer life with Him. If I let it go a day here, a day there, then it becomes two or three days, then it becomes a week, then I sit down and try and pray and it’s like the conversation is bouncing off the ceiling. It’s the nature of relationships really, isn’t it?
We have a decision to make – do I want a rich relationship with God – I mean do I really want that – is that the most important thing on my heart? And if the answer is ‘yes’, then it has to translate into the priorities in our ‘to do’ list. We have to carve out that time and keep it whether it is quietly in the morning or on the bus or the train or in the car or in the evening, whenever it works for you and whenever it works for me.
There is power in prayer, real power and rest and delight and wonder but it just ain’t going to happen if we don’t set that time aside each day.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
Prayer is such a funny thing. I mean it is based on this notion that we can talk to someone we really can’t see or hear, at least, not in the same way we see and hear the people around us. Sometimes people pray out loud, other times in their heads, so He can read thoughts too? And after all who are we praying to – this God, this Jesus – who is that?
It’s kind of like we go looking for someone – God – but do we ever find Him? And who is He anyway and do we want to find Him? Where do we go looking for Him in the first place? I mean they are all good questions. If you are going to be talking with someone you can’t see, then surely, first you have to seek Him and find Him don’t you?
I don’t know where you are on your spiritual journey or whether you’ve ever pondered those questions. Maybe you’ve just assumed them, maybe you’ve never worried about them. Prayer is a wonderful thing but it’s a step of faith. It’s talking with someone that we just can’t see. Now, either He’s there at the other end and all that makes sense, or He isn’t and we’re kidding ourselves and then it’s a loopy thing to do.
This week on the programme and over the next three weeks, we’re talking about the power of prayer because I believe that prayer is a powerful thing. It is a wonderful thing to do. But before we can go there we have to go back to square one to seek out this God that we are praying to in a time of need. I did – life’s going along ok and all of a sudden – bang! And you think, “help and who do I turn to?” – I’ll pray!
It happens over and over again. Sometimes it seems the only way God can get our attention is in those times of need. And it happened to the nation of Israel. They were exiled in slavery in Babylon for seventy years and Jeremiah, the prophet – you can read about it in Jeremiah chapter 29.
If you have a Bible, grab it – we are going to Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 11. They were going through some really tough times in exile – wondering where God was and how come Jerusalem had been destroyed and here we are in slavery and whatever happened to all of God’s promises?
And God speaks to them through Jeremiah and He says this:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Now this is really interesting because here God links the two things I have just been talking about – seeking God out and praying. Have a look at it again, verse 12:
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.”
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you declares the Lord.”
It kind of makes sense – before we can really have any deep relationship or communication with someone, you seek them out.
I mean, today, my wife Jacqui and I have a really close relationship and I communicate with her in a way that I don’t communicate with anyone else. It’s deep and intimate, but when we first met she was just a face in the crowd and our courtship was really when I went seeking her out.
And that’s exactly what I did – in a sense I had to go after her and she had to come after me. And we had to seek each other out before we could have the relationship we have today. And my hunch is it’s exactly the same with God.
One of my favourite books of all time – “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer – this is what he writes on the subject of seeking out God – he says:
“Where the modern scientist has lost God amid the wonder of His world, we are in danger of losing God amidst the wonders of His Word.”
You know, we’ve almost forgotten that God is a person and that, as such, a personal relationship can be cultivated with Him.
In this hour of all but universal darkness, one cheering gleam appears. Within the fold of Christianity, there are to be found increasing numbers of people whose lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They won’t be put off with words or shallow logic; they won’t be content to busy themselves with nervous activity, and yet still they know this inner emptiness.
These people are athirst for God and they won’t be satisfied until they have drunk deep at the fountain of living water. They desire God above all – they are athirst to taste for themselves, the piercing sweetness of the love of Christ, about whom the prophets wrote and the Psalmists sang.
They want to taste, to touch with their hearts, see with their inner eyes, the wonder that is God. And I want to deliberately encourage this might longing after God. Jesus waits to be wanted – too bad, that with many of us, He waits so long, so very long in vain. And that’s exactly what God said through Jeremiah:
“When you seek me with all your heart, then and only then will you find me.”
“Oh Berni, I’ve tried praying on and off, but you know, it’s empty and hollow and, I don’t know, it doesn’t work!” Ok, let me ask you a question – have you sought after God Himself, with all your heart – have you gone after Him? Do you want a relationship with Him more than anything else on this earth – with all your heart?
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Then I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.”
My hunch is that this is the starting point of a powerful, and rich and rewarding prayer life with God.
Coming Just as we Are
Whenever I speak with people about praying, you know, one of the most common reactions is ‘well, I’m not good enough; I’m just not good enough. I mean, that person over there, well, she probably would be and that one over yonder, well, yea, I think he would be, but not me.
You see, you don’t know me – I mean, the things I’ve said and done and thought … “no, I just can’t bowl up to God and start praying.” If that’s your reaction, in one sense you’d be right, but in another, completely and utterly wrong.
Because on the one hand God is a perfect and holy God and we fall well and truly short of that but on the other hand, He knows that and that’s why He sent Jesus Christ His Son to die for us, to pay for all our falling short, so that we can have free access. Jesus, it turns out, is the key. God is having a party and it is come as you are.
I’ll share a story with you – a few years ago I went to Government house in Australia where the Governor General, the Queen’s representative, the head of state, lives. His name at the time was Sir William Dean. And Government House is a beautiful old building, in a place called Yarralumla, just outside the national capital, Canberra. I’d asked him to do a short radio interview and his secretary rang and said, “yes” and so I drove there.
Now when you drive up to Government house, there are two gates – there’s kind of, you know the staff entrance or the servants’ entrance and then on the right hand side there’s this big gate with this sweeping drive and that’s where Prime Ministers and Kings and Queens and Presidents drive up to see the Governor General.
And I arrived and I went to what I thought the staff entrance and they said, “Oh no, sir, please go to the other entrance, the main entrance and we’ll let you through.” And you drive up this huge, sweeping drive and you pull up where Queens and Presidents have pulled up and James, the butler for thirty eight years, opens the door and ushers me in.
And as I’m driving up this driveway I look on the bonnet of my car, dark, beautiful car it was back then in those days, and there’s this big bird plop on the bonnet and I’m thinking, ’oh my goodness, you know, if I’d known I was driving up this driveway I would have washed the car.
I was so self-conscience and yet, when I met the man, when I met Sir William Dean, the Governor General, he was the most humble and delightful human being you would ever hope to meet.
He almost made me feel as though he was the one who was honoured by me being there. He is a small man physically, but huge in stature. He didn’t give a toss about whether I had washed my car – I don’t think he even noticed. And he even invited me and my wife and my daughter back the next day to have a wander around the grounds.
I mean it’s a great picture – I never forget it – it’s so ‘not’ what I expected and over the years I’ve discovered it’s exactly the same with God. He looks straight past the spots and blemishes and stains, to our hearts. He just takes us the way we are – He can because of Jesus – because of the price Jesus paid on the cross, if we believe in Him, you and I are wiped clean. If we just believe – just put our faith in Jesus and what He did for us on that cross – we have open access to God.
Have a listen to this huge, eloquent, well-structured, articulate prayer, prayed by the first person who ever went to heaven because he believed in Jesus Christ. He’s one of the two criminals who were crucified alongside Jesus.
Now one of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Jesus.” We’re reading from Luke chapter 23, beginning at verse 39. “One of the criminals, who hung there, hurled insults at Jesus, “Aren’t you the Christ? Go on, save yourself and us,” but the other criminal rebuked the first one. “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? Here we are hanging on a cross – we’re being punished justly; we’re getting what we deserve, but Jesus, Jesus hasn’t done anything wrong?” And then this second criminal said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, before today is out you will be with me in Paradise.
This criminal is about to die – he has nothing to give Jesus – he couldn’t do anything for Jesus – you and me, we wouldn’t have given him a prayer, but that’s all he had and that’s all it took. From one cross to the next, out of his pain, hanging on the cross, about to die, all he says is, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Just a few short words – but you know what they were? They were words of faith; they were a prayer of faith. And Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, before today is out, you will be with me in Paradise.”
When are we finally going to wake up that that’s what prayer is – just a simple step of faith – right from where we are; right from who we are? God is having a party and it’s ‘come as you are’ and the key is Jesus. Just a simple faith and all my ‘yuk’ is paid for on that cross. I can come to God – you can come to God through that faith in Jesus in our time of need.
And that’s exactly what God says through the Book of Hebrews – have a look at Hebrews chapter 4, verse 14 and it says something like this:
Jesus isn’t just some God in heaven; He’s walked in our shoes; He’s been through every trial and temptation that we have to deal with, so He gets it; He understands exactly what we are going through and because of that, we can come boldly before the throne of grace, with a quiet confidence, that we’ll find grace and mercy, just in time to meet our very need.
He gets it! That phrase: “come boldly before the throne of grace” speaks of a confidence, not in ourselves but in what Jesus has done for you and me. And that’s why we can come as we are – that’s why we can say, “I’m going to seek out God through Jesus and I’m going to find Him and I’m going to spend time and I’m going to pray.” That’s why we don’t have to be afraid to sit down and pray, “Lord, I blew it today.”
I want to share with you a phone message, from a listener, that I received just the other day and it says it all. This is what he said; his exact words on the phone: “I’m only a new Christian and I’ve been with the Lord probably about ten weeks and I’ve been going great guns and then I had a night when I went out drinking and I told my friend, whose not a Christian, I wasn’t sure if I could be a Christian any more.
I felt real terrible about it and I thought I had really blown the whole thing with God. It’s only when you came on the radio tonight that I realised that that’s why Jesus died for me. I want to say, “God bless you guys and thank you for His grace. God bless you, man, it was really awesome tonight.”
And it is really awesome when we finally realise that we have free access to God through what Jesus did for us on the cross. We can get really busy and run around and chase after this and chase after that, but at the end of the day, you know something, there’s power in prayer. We are going to look at that power over the coming weeks. And there’s a joy and a peace that happens in prayer.
And we can come to Him just as we are, seek Him out with all our hearts, say, “Lord, I want to have a fantastic relationship with you and the way I’m going to start, the way I’m going to take my first step, I’m going set aside just ten or fifteen minutes every day, quietly, alone, just to spend with you.”
And you know when we do that, something awesome happens … Jesus shows up!