Off The Grid

My kids always complain when they try to call my cell and I don’t pick up.  I think they assume I’m watching the screen like a hawk, waiting to talk to somebody.  At work, I will often leave my cell on a desk as I wander around the hallways–behavior which is unthinkable to my teens.

I have found it nice to play music on my phone while I work around the house or in the yard.  It keeps my mind focused and my attitude positive.  But sometimes, I will intentionally leave it behind.  I am still a believer in the sacredness of quiet and the importance of getting “off the grid” from time to time, disconnected from the whirring chatter that surrounds me.  As I write this, my family and I are vacationing at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  We just got back from a great hike to Bierstadt Lake.  It was just us, the path, and millions of whispering pines overhead.  The air was still and quiet.  I felt completely disconnected from the world.  Well, almost.  My daughters discovered an extremely rare Pokemon dragon on that hike.  

I’m not the only crazy one seeking disconnection.  I recently learned that Andrew Luck, multi-million dollar quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, sees no need to stay connected.  He still carries a flip phone.  I like being disconnected, for it is there I often find connection with God. God is relational and wants to communicate with us.  Ironically, in our ever-increasing need to be connected, we often miss this most important connection of all.

Some people don’t believe God exists.  Others accept the possibility of God, but only as a distant deity, aloof and unconcerned with the trials of mankind and disinterested in communicating with us.  I will not attempt to persuade or convince any readers who hold these beliefs to see things my way.  What I will do is present God’s words, inspired and recorded for our benefit, so you can see that He desires to communicate with us if we are willing and able to hear Him.

God Speaks Through His Word

First and foremost, understand that the Bible sitting on your shelf is unique from all other literature, because it is the only book self-reportedly and legitimately inspired by God[1]. He used multiple authors and a variety of forms to communicate His message to us, but every word is carefully chosen that we might know Him. He commits Himself to fulfilling everything He says about Himself in that Bible[2].  We just need to take the time to read it, and think about it.  It may come as a surprise–God promises success to those who meditate on His words throughout the day[3].

Pity the nation that neglects careful attention to literature and the practice of reflective reading and writing. God did not leave us videos and netflix originals to explain Himself; He left us a book, and we must read it and study it to know Him.  Knowing God through His word is the measuring stick against which all other forms of His communication are assessed.

God Speaks Through Music

Sometimes, God speaks to us through music.  When Paul encouraged the believers in Colossae to teach each other, he suggested using songs to do so[4]:

“…let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Music has a way of penetrating our soul.  It has power to change our attitude, to inspire us. Music that is centered on the adoration and praise of God does this too, but it also has a mysterious way of connecting us with God no matter where we are.  

I must admit, on good days–when I have been effective at work, have stood up to opponents, have shed light on a confusing topic, have casted a vision for the future, or helped people overcome fears–on those days, I will crank up Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” or John Cougar Mellenkamp’s “Crumblin’ Walls” on my way home, singing at the top of my lungs.  There are other times when I am completely lost, unsure of myself, disillusioned or despairing.  On those days, I have found renewal of hope in songs like Plumb’s “Need You Now” or Jars Of Clay’s “Love of a Jealous Kind”, and many others.  In the right moments, God uses songs to cut through the melancholy mist that shrouds our minds, and revives us in our soul where we need it most.  

Hearing songs of praise while I’m in the yard is one thing; it is entirely another to communicate with God in praise in the company of many like-minded believers.  To anyone who didn’t grow up going to church, the Christian Sunday morning worship service must be a strange phenomenon–some guy gets up and talks about the Bible for 30 minutes, and then everyone stands up and sings a bunch of unfamiliar songs.  Some people even raise their hands and sway back and forth to the music!  Honestly, there is much to be said about Christian worship–good and bad.  Many people leave their church and join another just because they don’t like the style of music. There is much to be said here, but for now, let me just say this…I have been in very moving worship services in which I felt very near to God, and I wish those times were more frequent.  With the right combination of humility, conviction, sincerity, and even a little desperation, shared together with hundreds of others in the same boat, I have experienced a mysterious connection with God and have found reassurance, encouragement, comfort, and hope.

God Speaks Through Our Conscience

God also speaks to us through our conscience, that troubling inner voice that pulls at us when we know we’re doing the wrong thing and yet go ahead anyway.  I think a lot of people want nothing to do with their conscience.  We don’t like to admit it’s there and don’t like to talk about it.  We have managed to work the word shame out of our vocabulary.  Can you imagine Disney using a character like Jiminy Cricket today?  No way.  

Your conscience will never leave you.  You may ignore it so many times that you become callous to its promptings, but it will always be there.  Paul says that God has written His Law on our heart, and He uses our conscience to bear witness to it[5].  We innately know what it means to be selfish.  When we act selfishly, we should not be surprised when convicting thoughts pop into our mind.  When we see brutality or oppression, we should not be surprised when we feel a sudden urge to step in and do rightly.  That’s God speaking through our conscience.

God is personal.  He wants to help you, to teach you how to live and find success.  Like a close friend who only wants the best for you, God is there, lovingly correcting you when you make a bad decision, showing the right way, and gently giving advice.  The prophet Isaiah described God’s correction as a gentle voice speaking as if right behind you[6]:

“He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”

Of course, you will only hear so gentle a voice if your soul is quiet.  Sometimes I think we try to drown out our conscience with media–music, videos, games, and such.  We don’t like feeling guilty and we misunderstand God’s character and purpose for us, so we block out the gentle voice and press on.  That leads to my last point.  We need to learn to be quiet.

God Speaks Through Quiet

It is rare to find someone possessing a quiet spirit these days.  When I was in high school, the pastor in my church used to always begin prayers with the phrase, “be still and know I am God.”  This is from Psalm 46, a beautiful song of praise that brings attention to God’s sovereignty over all things, and the serenity we can find when we go to Him, even in the midst of striving all around us.  We need to remember this psalm–it will come in handy.  The recent increase in violence and terror is evidence that the world is heading not into a better place, but rather into greater chaos.  In the midst of the chaos, God is there.  He is not diminished.  It is imperative that we learn to quiet our soul and wait for Him, listening.

When the prophet Elijah was feeling alone and dismayed, God put him through a little test.  He had Elijah stand on a mountain while He passed by.  I’m not sure how this worked–God is so big, He fills the heavens and the earth!  But somehow, He made His physical form pass in front of Elijah.  As He did so, God caused great and terrible natural disasters–loud, disturbing, and unsettling. But then, to make a statement, God used a gentle breeze to catch Elijah’s attention[7]:

“…a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.”

After this, the Lord gave Elijah clear and specific instructions for what to do next.  In the gentle, quiet breeze, God spoke.  It is good that Elijah did not have his earphones on at this point.  In the quietness of that moment, he heard God speak.  I don’t mean to imply that God will always speak to us.  However, in this lesson from Elijah’s life, it seems like God is deliberately making the point that sometimes, we just need to be quiet to hear Him.  

Once in awhile, it might be a good idea to just leave your phone on the desk, go outside, and listen for Him.  Let your soul connect with your Creator.  Think of His words and reflect on them.  He might have something specific to whisper to you today.

 

Notes:

  1. II Peter 1:20-21
  2. Jeremiah 1:12
  3. Psalm 1:1-3
  4. Colossians 3:16
  5. Romans 2:15
  6. Isaiah 30:20-21
  7. I Kings 19:11-13

 

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