From early on, God ordained new beginnings in the form of new months and new years.
January's our month.
For me, this first month of our new year is typically a time of reflection.
I'm fairly certain this is true of most folks (even those who left Egypt and found themselves floundering a bit).
We can't help looking back as we tie up loose ends from the previous year and put a period or exclamation mark at the end.
However, in the case of some I've spoken with recently, the more accurate punctuation might be a question mark…
For those of you who find this to be true, may I remind you that the question you raise matters in the long run:
With this said, more than looking back, I tend to point my toes in a forward-direction; and, ask: What can I do to be more prepared for what might come my way around the next turn?
That's what makes new-months-in-new-years the perfect time for a Re-Set (which also happens to be the theme I picked back in November for a conference where I'll be sharing this next month).
Just yesterday, Bay and I discussed the importance of being certain that we hear God's voice as we make decisions that will affect the months to come.
The conversation raised yet another thought I began to ponder through the rest of the afternoon and evening...how can I prepare myself to truly hear His still small voice, and not just blindly wander about, trying this and that, hoping I stumble on His good and perfect will?
Once more, I doubt I'm alone in those simple things that swirl around in my brain.
In the reflecting, I thought about Ananias (Jehovah-is-Gracious), the man the Lord asked to go to Paul following his Damascus-Road-Experience. Please read the story here from Acts 9:10-18: Ananias' Call
As I read that passage, I asked myself if there were any Girl-Scout-type-hints to be found, because 1) sometimes I think I might be hearing God's voice, but tend to dismiss those thoughts as my own imaginations; and, 2) out of all the "voices" I hear calling my name during the course of the day (from laundry to dishes to bookkeeping), how do I pick out God's voice among them?
Yep, the Lord unveiled a few pointers in that pretty incredible story!
There are two hints in the first verse (above), and those are the only two on which I am still chewing:
1) The first descriptor of Ananias is "disciple." Those who lived in Damascus KNEW THIS to be true. It goes without saying, Ananias was considered by all to be a follower of Jesus, walking in His footsteps, committed to learning how to live life by imitating the Teacher/Master.
This means, Ananias had a habit of seeking the Lord, no doubt through spiritual disciplines that were common in the early church. These disciplines included fasting, praying, sitting under the teaching/mentoring of others (maybe he was a teacher), memorization, sharing of one's faith, giving, and most of all -
- Reading (!) from the history, the law, the poetry, the prophets...and not just reading...marinating on the Word, studying it, practically applying it. Remember this - meditation and memorization were popular disciplines of the early church since the Scriptures were only on scrolls in the temple.
I know Ananias did these things, because in Acts 22:12 it says:
As I researched the word "devout," the definition contained a lot of good information. Here's what stuck with me:
Ananias didn't just take hold of the law*, the law took hold of Ananias.
(*The law is equivalent to THE WRITTEN WORD OF THE LORD...)
Truth seized the heart of Ananias and he learned to appropriate it unto himself.
What Ananias read, he carried out (& according to the Greek prefix of this word - he did so REALLY WELL).
Wow! I have had to stop and ask myself if this is true of me? I can read the Word til Kingdom comes, but if I don't let it take hold of me, I can never truly be transformed by it. I must give it space to renew my mind and direct my path. Ananias had learned how to do this.
2) The last six words of Acts 9:10 speak volumes. "Here I am, Lord," he said.
"Here I am, Lord..."
These are my favorite four words in all of Scripture, which translate from Greek down to one Hebrew word I consider my favorite:
Oh, how I long for a "hineni-heart."
I've blogged on it before (a quick search will bring those entries up). The word literally means, "I'm here and I'm ready for action."
Hineni is a ready response from one who has heard the voice of God before and is humble, ready, submitted, willing, and available to do whatever the Lord asks.
A statement of such magnitude doesn't come from hearing the voice of God one time and doing the BIG THING...
Ananias began with little obediences, quick obediences, from other times of paying attention...from morning and evening praying, "Sh'ma, O Israel..." and meaning it from the depths of his heart.
Ananias had learned to trust the Lord, his One True God, and because he had, the Lord trusted Ananias to be His messenger.
(P.S. God trusted Ananias to carry His message to the man who would become one of the greatest of God's messengers. What an example he set for Paul.)
Second application question: am I learning to obey God in the obvious, little things He asks of me, that He might trust me with the bigger asks along the way?
I'll only become an Ananias as I spend time in God's Word (meditating and applying) and having a ready available heart to do His will.