Learning to Hear God Speak—Essential to the “Treasure Life” (Isa. 30:20-21; John 10:27)

Dallas Willard Part 14 of 22

Dallas agreed to teach two separate weeks for the Renovaré Institute in Atlanta, a cohort of 40 students, mostly in ministry positions. He rehearses many of the themes from his speaking ministry elsewhere, so there is little new to be heard, but with more time with the group he is able to be more comprehensive than usual.

§

Dallas: Now, we have begun to edge our way into this reality of God speaking and we have to go carefully because it has a lot of dimensions. We don’t want to miss the central part which is God speaking to the individual but that has to put in the larger context and then we have to focus on what that is and how it works so, we want to do that.

Let’s go back to Page 6 in your notes. We were talking at the end of last session about how communication is the way a Kingdom works and of course that’s mainly because kingdoms are made up of people and communication is “shallowed out” so much today; not least by the efforts of scientists to merge into this field of communication, break it up into little bites and things of that sort. Real communication is lost because communication is the sharing of something. [1:40]

The first part of communications is common. Communications—common—and that is not something that can be done mechanically. The spiritual being has to go out to another. They have to go out to them. That means to open themselves to them.

Essential to communication is trust and trust is at the forefront of all human relations. A basic, ethical dimension of relations is trust. Trust means that I am willing to be vulnerable. Trusting you, I make myself capable of being hurt and so much of talk between people is guarded. Yes’s which are no’s and no’s which are yes’s and how much can I trust you? How much do I care about you? Right? Because caring and trusting are two aspects of communication. [3:24]

Now, the nature of God is love, which incorporates trusting and caring. The members of the Trinity adore one another and love and care for one another. That’s why Jesus did not hesitate to turn over the keys to the executive washroom to His Father and step down into a world of limitation, of incarnation, and infleshment. He stepped down and because of His confidence and trust in His Father. And He brings the nature of that communicative community, which is the Trinity to us and that’s what the last part of John 17 is about. It is entering the life of the Trinity. [4:43]

Do you remember something about that? We don’t have time to turn to it now but we may want to go back to that later on, depending on what we have time to do but the opening part of John 17 is a statement about eternal living. John 17:3 is—“This is eternal living that they would know you, the only true God in Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Now, that knowing there is interactive relationship. That is Biblical knowing. Actually, that’s almost any kind of knowing involves interactive relationship. If someone says they know how to fix your car, you would like for them to have had some interactive relationship with cars—possibly your kind of car—not just to have read a book.

It’s important for us to put communication at the heart of things. What happens when people become angry with one another? They stop communicating. See? And if they communicate at all, they do it in a hateful way, more or less subtlety. So, when Jesus talks about His words and how they are spirit and they are life, see there, His words are bringing us into that Trinitarian context and that shifts everything in the rest of our lives because now, it’s oriented to the community of the Trinity. [6:49]

But now, that is a context in which we must freely enter and grow and on page 6, I say, communication, right at the top there, “Communication gives space for us to select what we hear and to respond. It establishes community—a personal walk.” In much of the language of Christianity today, you hear people talk of a personal relationship to Jesus Christ but what they mean by that is not actually a personal relationship. It just means that He has paid for them so He didn’t just pay for the world in particular. They have accepted His payment for them but the personal relationship that enters into character and conversation with God is not that. That’s just paying off someone’s bill and you can pay someone’s bill off and have nothing to do with them. The personal relationship here is interactive, day-by-day, primarily through listening and hearing and speaking. [8:23]

Interpretation is an essential part of Biblical religion and it is essentially communal. Interpretation is where we not only hear the words but we understand what they mean or we have an understanding. Now, an interpretation can actually be mistaken but that’s not the end of the world if you are in community because if you are in community, you will be interactive with people who have their interpretations and perhaps you will learn to love them and to listen to them and historically, all of our readings of the scripture come out of a history that is both necessary and dangerous.  You cannot escape it because you are, and I am an essentially communal being so I began reading my Bible when I was very young. I don’t know how much of it I actually saw but I saw enough to keep me going and I had Sunday school teachers and a family and especially a Grandmother who kept the thing going and that’s the process of interpretation. It is essentially communal and it is very important for us to be able to listen to others as well as to God. So, that all deals this idea of freedom and community. [10:06]

The last thing on Page 6 is I have a statement about peace because I am building up to spend most of the last part of our time together talking about the gifts of the spirit. The gifts of the spirit come in this relationship of listening and speaking and interacting with God and with His people. I say here, “Peace enters the broken soul by God speaking into our hearts in the gospel.” The gospel is essentially a “great big welcome hug.” That’s what it is. It’s just a “great big welcome hug.” “Come! Come in! How are you doing?” “Not so well.” “Well, maybe you could think it out a little differently. Still thinking you have to run your life?” God has a Kingdom and you can bring your Kingdom into His Kingdom! That’s the picture that Jesus presents and I don’t think they really get it at first. Paul is the first one I think is who really gets it and then John, even better. It’s when you come to John, he’s prepared to say, “Those who love know God.” They know God. I think Paul thought that but you know, what they were picking up on is—the amazing thing is not that God loves me—that’s not surprising at all once you understand God. What would be amazing is if there was someone He didn’t love. That’s what would be amazing. [12:16]

The knowledge of that brings peace. It grows and unites with the other parts of the fruit by a continuing conversation “with,” I would rather say “in,” the Triune God. Peace is foundational to the concrete realization of the fruit in the vessel. Peace is foundational. When you understand that and you read Romans 5, you see how foundational it is. It’s foundational in the sense that it is pretty much the starting place. Everything comes out of that and it grows into the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.

“Therefore having been justified by faith,”—just by relying on God, that’s how you justify—“you have peace with God.” The word is over. There is still some clean up as a process and what you are read in the following verses is one of the best accounts of spiritual formation that you will find in the New Testament. It’s only one and it has a special emphasis on God’s action in the process. If you read it, you will see there are some things for the individual to do but basically and mainly, it is simply a movement. “The war is over, we have peace with God through whom we have obtained an introduction by faith into grace in which we stand.” You stand in grace. [14:41]

Grace isn’t a key to the door. It’s the place where you live. You stand in grace and “we exalt in hope of the Glory of God.” You see how these things are lining up now. Faith, peace, hope, grace—not only this, we also exalt in our tribulations. That is a part of the growing process is learning how to exalt in tribulation.

Now, I hesitate to speak about that because it’s very easy for someone who has not suffered much to say these kinds of things to people who have suffered and yet there is nothing that we can say more helpful to anyone, no matter what their troubles, than that they would learn to actually exalt in their tribulations. [15:46]

What does exalt mean? Well, it means something like regard it as a good condition—a condition that it is good to be in. There is a lot of this in the scripture. The hard patches! James puts it in terms of rejoicing in tribulations but we still pray, “Lead us not into temptation” and it’s not talking about being tempted to sin. It’s talking about trials and I think that that is what we should pray. “Lord, lead us not into temptation.” It’s a child’s prayer but in temptation, we exalt. Why? Well, there is something of an explanation given here—perseverance.

Perseverance is the ability to stay steady in something and that gives us proven character and proven character, hope and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts. That’s the ultimate satisfaction is that we learn to live with love in love when loved for everything that we are dealing with. The Holy Spirit has spread love abroad in our hearts so that the great commandment of Jesus, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, your neighbor as yourself” comes to fulfillment. [17:45]

Now, for our purposes here, it’s really important for us to understand the realism of all of this. Religious people become very useful and very used to not being realistic and I want to just say that, for our purposes here in talking about the formation of the person in Christ, we want to be completely realistic and we don’t want to be “puffing” something. The test is whether or not we can do it and whether or not we are actually doing it.

So, you have to stay out of efforts to make something appear that isn’t really there. That’s what grace and faith should help us do. It should release us from trying ever having to pretend something—from “puffing” something up—and whenever we fail to just be honest about our failures and to find out what can actually be done.

This process that is described here in terms of stages are tied to a condition of soul where we come from having peace with God to having the peace of God. In several places, God is described as the “God of peace” so for each of us, the question is, “What’s the condition of our peace?” There again, you have to be very honest because human beings generally “live with a knot in their guts” that comes from anticipation of evil and things that are bad or from disappointment from things that have happened so peace is not just a feeling; it’s a condition. [20:24]

Let me just try this wording on you and see if it does anything for you but I think the wording that we are able to put on—let’s see if we can’t get it down here where they can see it—I’m sorry, my transparency isn’t very transparent. [Laughter]

What I say here is, “Peace is a pervasive enjoyment of goodness. It’s a pervasive enjoyment of goodness.” It permeates our total being at all levels. That means it’s in our body. It’s in our relationships to others. Our mind is fixed on that. That gives us peace. You may recall the great verse from Isaiah, I think 26, old version—“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” That’s where the good is and so, our emotions, our feelings, our bodily organs and muscles are all involved in peace.  Our body is not running wild. The word shalom has this big meaning of abundance—overall enjoyment of well-being. Sorry about that—there it is!

The opposite of peace is not conflict. The opposite of peace is deadness to what is good in our total surroundings and where we are dead, conflict will break out because one of the things that human beings have to have is feeling. Feelings are very important. If you are dead in your feelings, you are not at peace. You are a war waiting to break out and it will happen. So, the peace that comes with God speaking to us and inviting into His Kingdom is the assurance of goodness, of abundance of goodness for us. [23:27]

Now, we are going to come back to the other parts of the fruit of the spirit but peace primarily comes from God coming to us and speaking peace to us.

OK, well, I would like now to go on over to Page 7 and begin talking about learning to hear God speak. I think some of this we have already at least edged into and so, I can move rapidly, I think over this page. [24:27]

Let’s just look at Ephesians 3 for a moment here—Ephesians 3:10—and then maybe Ephesians 5 to get the impression of what is supposed to come out of this operation in human history. Ephesians draws a very broad picture of God’s purposes in revealing Himself through human history. Human history viewed in one way is simply a revelation of God. It’s to help the universe come to understand what God is about. In Ephesians 3:10 talking about the purposes of God in creation and redemption, Paul says, “In order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church”—through the church. Too, “the rulers and authorities in the Heavenly places.”

You know, something went wrong in Heavenly places. We think about Satan and when we read Milton’s Paradise Lost and things of that sort to try to think about it—something went wrong and the idea of Paul is God was not understood. If you are in power, it’s hard to be understood. If you are in infinite power, I suppose it’s very difficult to be understood. People in power have a problem with being understood.

The purpose of God—I personally don’t think that the fall and the jump took Him by surprise—and that He had to sort of rustle around and come up with an alternative plan. I think that His purpose all along was to use human history for what it was to help there to be a cosmic understanding of His heart and that the purpose of God in Christ in human history stands firm in that framework of what God is doing to achieve a personal order in creation that fits in with His greatness and His goodness. [27:30]

Another way of putting that is in Ephesians 5:27 where He it talking about the church now—the one that He is building—that will stand against the gates of Hades and He says here that He is working with the church—verse 27 of Ephesians 5—“that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory having no spot, nor wrinkle nor any such thing but that she should be holy and blameless.” This is a part of His effort to help us understand relationships in family between men and women, husband and wife and to see them for the glory that is in them. So the outlook now in history is for human beings to be drawn into a community and as we have said that comes in communication. [28:46]

The problem of the hardness of the human heart is the barrier. Everyone is naturally set to have their own kingdom and that is something that I think that on their own they cannot get back of. So, grace moves to help them to begin to understand and eventually brings forth Jesus Christ into the world and He forms a little group. It’s very interesting when you try to speculate what might have been some alternatives for Him to achieve His purposes in human history—alternatives to what He did. It is amazing from the human point of view to think that He chose a little group of people who had no qualifications at all. When you read the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” you want to think first of his own apostles. They were very charismatically poor in spirit. They had nothing going for them spiritually and the process of collecting them was totally different from anything that any rabbi would think of doing. He just sort of walked around town and saying, “Call me.”  These are very unlikely people. They were passed the ordinary age when a rabbi would take someone as a disciple. It’s totally an act of grace and God’s power that these people should be pulled out and that they would be told that they would be sitting on 12 thrones judging the tribes of Israel. That was unlikely a group that could have possibly been found, but that is how He came and that was His plan. It’s important for us to remember that the people of God have always been at their best when they had the least. It’s always that way and that’s because they lean on God and learn from Him and they are able to break through the hardened layers of humanity just by being humble and lowly apart and setting aside in that way, all of the human accomplishments that hinder people from living in the community of God. [31:45]

Hardness of heart is something that you can’t defeat by head on attack. You have to slip around the back and you cut the cords that hold it up and then God can have a place. In Isaiah, God speaks as the “high and holy one of Israel that dwells with people who are contrite of heart.” Contriteness of heart—a very interesting word—humility, that’s the only thing that allows people to begin to hear God. They have to be taken off of themselves and they have to want to hear God.

Q: So, the cords are propping up the hardness of heart? You said that’s Satan’s that we can’t make a direct attack?

Dallas: You cannot break hardness of heart by direct approach.

Comment: Yeah, and you said you have to…..?

Dallas: You have to slip around back and cut the cords that hold it up [Which are?] and let it collapse.

Comment: What are those cords?

Dallas: Well, cords, braces; hardness of heart is always supported on a set of habits, feelings, thoughts, and those have to be broken. Human sufficiency is the main problem.

Comment: We don’t break them though? People have to break them themselves? [33:40]

Dallas: That’s right and there has to come some light into them about what they are depending on. You may recall the story in Mark 3 about the man with the withered hand. Jesus asked the people in the synagogue, Should he be healed on the Sabbath?” The Sabbath is one of those props that were most common. I mean, Jesus got into more trouble about the Sabbath and food and purity and washing your hands and all that sort of stuff than He did anything else. Well, those were props. Those are things that people sited and said, “We are right. We know what to do.” So, Jesus had to find ways of getting past that. Sometimes, He used logic. Sometimes He just went ahead and did what He was going to do and this case is one of the places where it says He was really grieved—angry—because of the hardness of the hearts of these good people in the synagogue. [35:00]

Q: Where Paul uses the word church here in Ephesians, would you take that beyond meaning the church proper to the community of believers?

Dallas: Well, I think the church proper are the people that God is putting together over space and time to form His habitation—His dwelling place—He is going to dwell in it. God has been seeking to dwell in His people and that didn’t do so well with the covenant people in the Old Covenant but what He is intending now is a cosmic community of people who are like Jesus Christ, living and operating in the power of God.

So, church has different meanings. It had a secular meaning in Greek. It is referring to a collection of people that are pulled out of a community for a special purpose of some sort. Now, Paul is talking about the people who are going to be called out of human history. This is the one in Matthew 16 where Jesus says, “Upon this rock”—the confession of Him as the Messiah—He says, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” In other words, it won’t be swallowed up by death. It’s an eternal thing that He is creating. Not what we would call a local church or a denomination, but a people. [37:45]

OK, now, the little voice of God comes and it begins to respond to the need of the human being and it comes very quietly. One of the great prophesies about Jesus that is brought to bear in Matthew 12 is that you won’t hear Him cry. His voice won’t be heard in the spirit but what He is sending forth will conquer the nations. People hunger for the word of God, though sometimes they don’t know what they are hungering for and perhaps most of the time, they don’t. In the prophesy of Amos, the 8th chapter, verses 11 and following, you see these words, “Behold days are coming declares the Lord God when I will send a famine on the land. Not a famine of bread or a thirst for water but rather for hearing the words of the Lord and the people will stagger from sea to sea”—this is Amos 8:12—“from the north even to the south but even to the east, they will go to and fro seeking the word of the Lord but they will not find it” and that 13th verse is a haunting statement, “in that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.” They want to hear the word of God—the word that speaks peace to the human soul and says, “I am here and I am your refuge and strength. You can live in me.”

Now, again, we have to be very careful and keep that out of empty religious talk. It has to mean something specific that is experienced. When you experience it and know that it is true because of your experience and that’s the presence of God with you. That comes through speaking and praying—conversation. The speaking is never one way in either direction and that is why I speak of it as a con-ver-sation.

A con-ver-sation and in that conversation, people that are thirsting, flying— what they need for their souls, for their spirits, for their minds, because every part of the human being breaks down if it’s not organized around the presence of God—the active presence of God in their life. They start to try to get what they need out of parts of their own personality—usually, their body. That’s why sex and violence plays such a large part in human history because it addresses this drive to find something that will give me assurance that it’s okay and of course, that never works. So, once you come up against the hearing, then you are prepared, if you hear it, to submit yourself to the Kingdom of God and self-denial and humility become a natural response. [40:49]

On the top of your Page 8 of your notes, self-denial and humility, both small but growing are foundational to living in a “conversational relationship” with God. Why? Why is that? Self-denial and humility because you have to come off of yourself before you can build your life upon God.

I mentioned Calvin’s Golden Booklet. I want to come back and spend some time on that book and perhaps if you could bring that with you tomorrow so I can refer to some of the passages in it just to make sure we have looked at those.  [41:38]

But, humility and self-denial are what Calvin understands to be the heart of the Christian life. He says, that little booklet is a short version of Book 3 of The Institutes of Christian Religion by Calvin and he says in that, “I can tell you in one term what the Christian life is—self denial.” You know, you can’t deny yourself unless you’ve got something to turn to, you know? And, that’s one of the things that went wrong with past efforts to achieve holiness was the attempt to deny yourself with nothing to turn to. You just can’t do it. It’s impossible. You can pretend but it will come over very badly and gives substance to that wonderful phrase where Mark Twain thinking about a lady about whom he said, “It was good in the worst sense of the word.”

So, you go through that, you hear the word of God. Sometimes just in nature. Some people are able to receive an awful lot just from nature because they see in it the Kingdom of God and that is the Kingdom of God. Nature is a part of the Kingdom of God and you step out into it and it’s very hard to express what it is but you have a feeling of immense power and beauty and strength and goodness and all of that just looking at a bunch of dirt and rock—but the affect of it is self-denial and humility and when God speaks, that’s what comes when we hear it in our hearts. [43:39]

Now, I’ve given you some other verses there but I think I had better not go into them now. Do look at 57:15 and 66:2. You have it there in your references and you can do that at your convenience and I think it will help you grasp what we are getting at.

I want to turn a corner here in my few minutes left and talk about how the issue of hearing God goes far beyond knowing God’s will for my life.  This is one of the common mistakes that really shut down the conversation and that is the idea that “I’m just waiting for God to tell me what to do,” and that, “I want to know what He wants me to do.” You know, if you had a relationship to a person who only came to talk to you when they wanted to know what to do, you wouldn’t think that was very much of a relationship. You think about God showing up in the garden in the cool of the evening. It wasn’t to give orders about what they were to do for the geraniums. It was for fellowship. Communion is an ultimate good for human beings and for personality generally. Personally naturally overflows to share life with others. Sharing life with God—the arrangement for the Tabernacle in the wilderness was explicitly so that human beings, in their limitations could have a place where they could share fellowship with God and the way it’s expressed is God’s desire to have fellowship with them. [46:09]

So, now obviously you know all this that God didn’t need that tabernacle. It was a concession that He made to the people of Israel and you know, we can go back Biblically and try to make it look good but it was a pretty shabby little tent, to tell you the truth but it served the purpose of providing a place for God to regularly manifest Himself mainly through Moses but to the people of Israel. It was because He wanted fellowship, not just because they needed it. He did what was at least to His mind, regarded as the good arrangement for that purpose and that points us again to the problem of the difficulty that God has in communicating.

You will remember when He came down on the mountain and the mountain was jumping up and down and smoking and all of that, all these  ___________ and there is one trip to that and they basically just said, “Don’t ever let him do that to us again. You talk to Him and then you come and talk to us.” I think probably I would have felt the same way. I mean you stand on a mountain that’s doing that sort of thing and you would think, “I don’t need this. I want to get out of here.”

So the problem of approaching humanity is one that requires very specific arrangements and God concedes to that. He didn’t need to a temple but He allowed it and He had an arrangement we find in 2 Samuel 8, the story of what He supposedly said to Solomon about how it needs to be used and so on and his likes became attached to that and He had to blow the thing down and teach them that God was also in Babylon and Nineveh and that He could speak there. When you think about the so called Babylon in captivity, you want to understand that this is part of God’s approach to human beings that He allows but is was a humiliating one. He broke their pride and dragged them off in chains and put them in slavery. It was then that they began to hear Him as they had never heard Him before. The prophets take on a different cast in that context and it’s quite an interesting project just as a student tot study the difference between the pre-exilic prophets and the ones that come during the exile and afterwards and note the differences in the message and how it comes to people. [49:14]

So, what God desires is people who share His life with Him and that comes through conversation and the main form of that—we will talk a little bit more about this in the morning—but, the main form of that is God speaking in the minds and hearts of individuals. That’s not the only way. It’s essential that there be other ways but when we come down to talking about you and me and living a life with God, we want to focus on that conversation that goes on in individuals’ minds between oneself and God. [50:04]

In fact, if you come to God wanting to know His will, you really come from a particular kind of life that is already there. That life is one where there is constant interaction around the written word of God; seeing Him at work in history and in the lives of other individuals, accepting that, studying it, seeking it, and if we come to know the will of God, it probably isn’t going to amount to much unless we are already doing the will of God. If you are living in a life that is surrendered to the will of God, then there is a point to talking about, “What do you want me to do, God?” But if one is not already surrendered to doing the will of God, what is the point of God telling them more to do?

I give in the notes here—1 Thessalonians 5:18 and that’s a statement that commands, “In every thing give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you.” Well, that’s a good start and if I am doing that, then I can learn how to go to God for things that I need to know what to do. There is a time and a place for that but what I am trying to emphasize here is simply that this is out of a life that is already surrendered and over and over, you see people who say they want to know the will of God but they are not doing the will of God that they know. It doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work. I have watched this for centuries and I know my own experience. People simply never find satisfaction and I’ve known people who hounded themselves through life with their question of the will of God and sometimes they are running into mistaken ideas like they knew the will of God at one time and didn’t do it and now they are out of the will of God for the rest of their lives. [52:27]

So, there are all kinds of misunderstandings that grow up around that but what we aim at is the kind of person who would do what God told us to do if He told us. See, that’s a different kind of person. That’s where we want to be. Now, we grow in that as we have specific communications with God but the really big question for me is, “Do I want to communicate with God when I don’t have a problem? Do I want that?” Or do I just think of God as someone who solves my problems? It simply does not provide a basis for a life with God of love, joy, peace, longsuffering and so on if you are thinking of God communicating in terms of specific needs that “I have a problem with and I am trying to get that solved.”

Life is bigger than problems and being in the will of God is not just a matter of doing what we are told to do. It’s a matter, again of living within a certain framework and I like to use the illustration that I give in the book of Hearing God about my children being in my will when I wasn’t’ telling them what to do. Now, sometimes they weren’t in my will when I wasn’t telling them what to do but, most of the time, thank goodness, I wasn’t thinking about “Are they in my will?” nor they thinking about, “Am I in Papa’s will?” No! They were just enjoying themselves and having a good time playing or occasionally, they would be studying a little bit for class or something of that sort. Fortunately, there are some people who can’t think of being in the will of God as simply doing what He told them to do and then if He hasn’t told them anything to do as far as they know, then they think, “I must not be in the will of God.” [54:53]

So, even before we begin to think about the texture of the conversation which we will do all of it later, you have to think about the kind of life—the kind of life to which conversation is suitable and if we are burdened with our disobedience, whether we believe we have trusted Christ or not, we will be hiding in the bushes like Adam supposedly was when God came looking for him. That’s what we need to change. [55:38]

Well, then why would we want to talk with God or Him with us? Why would we? I’m just pausing to give you a chance to think about that because what we have said already does answer the question. Communication and communion between persons is a good thing and one of the few good things in reality. And if Mr. Obama had spoken with me, I might not be ashamed to tell you; actually, I might be boastful about do I feel something appropriate when God speaks with me? Or when my granddaughter speaks to me? It’s in that relationship. Jane and I have had times in our life when it was enough for us to just look in one another’s eyes—“Greet to me only with Thine eyes and I will pledge with mine.” So that’s communion and it is among the most precious, if not the most precious thing, in human experience.

Now, Jesus comes by and sits down and we have a chat. You talk about things. I may ask him about some things I am facing or dealing with but sometimes I think we ought to, when we come to God, we ought to say, “How are you doing?” just to see what happens. [57:47]

Q: What kind of response do you get to that?

Dallas: Well, He tells you about what He’s concerned about in the world and how things are going with His people; maybe about some of the bad things that are going on in the world. It’s hard to think about some things that He must think about with great sorrow. The statistics I hear are that 25,000 children die everyday of preventable diseases and lack of food and so on. I’m sure that’s on His heart. What would He say about it? And again, I think not just in terms of what you’d better do about it but what could He be doing about it? [58:49]

So, you listen and that’s the kind of thing that you want to experiment with. Try it and see what happens.  You know, He might say something like, “I’m glad you asked. Not many people ask me about that.” [Laughter] So, you know, the thing about a conversation is you never know where it is going. That’s one of the delightful things about a conversation; it’s not controlled but I think that in the conversation comes the peace and joy of abiding with Him and when we talk about abiding in Him, as John 15 does, see, we want to try to get some specific content and perhaps just using the imagination to think enables us to bring Him before our minds. When the Lord said, “Seek my face.” I said, “Thy face oh Lord will I seek.”—Psalms 27. How do you do that? And I am saying, “Conversation. Conversation—speak and listen. Don’t try too “can it;” speak and listen.” And this is a primary way that we experience the presence of God in our lives.

Well, I had some other verses there that I wanted to do but mainly just on this theme of rejoicing in the Lord. Rejoicing in the Lord? What does that look like? Well, put the pressure on the preposition for a moment—in—rejoicing in the Lord and think of it in terms of focusing on Him and rejoicing because of who He is and you have a lot of this discussed in the scripture. I give you a few in your notes—the story of David when his troop is about ready to kill him, you know because he had been absent with his warriors and another group came and carried off all the children, and the families and the goods and all of that. One of the most interesting phrases in that story is, “he strengthened himself in the Lord.” Paul says to Timothy, “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” See, that’s keeping company with Him. That is bringing Him in particularly, individually before your mind and staying there and speaking to Him and listening to Him. [1:01:57]

Brother Lawrence has so much to say about these things and he talks in one passage about how to have the Lord present to you. Well, talk to Him. Talk to Him and I want to come back to that in the morning and say a little more about it.

Do remember to try to bring Calvin with you tomorrow because I want to try to give a new face to him in these matters that we are talking about.

Jan? I think you have something to say to us.

Listen to all parts in this Renovaré Institute: Atlanta Cohort series