1 Kings 19:11-12
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake 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:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Introduction – The two main points I would like you to reflect upon this morning with the reading of this scripture and with this message are:
1. When God communicates with us, He speaks in a “still small voice” and
- He asks us, as it said in Psalms 46 to “be still, and know that He is God”.
Since my sermon today has something to do with communication, I’d like to start with a little story about communication to demonstrate how our attempts at communication often turn out wrong. This first will be perfectly logical to all the men here today:
A wife asks her husband, “Could you please go shopping for me and buy one carton of milk, and if they have eggs, get 6.”
A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk.
The wife asks him, “Why on earth did you buy 6 cartons of milk?”
He replied, “They had eggs.”
My sermon today is entitled: Quieting the Noise to Hear God – If we are considering the idea of God communicating with us, I’d like to start by discussing what communication entails.
In a typical communication, there is a sender who has some message he/she would like to communicate to another. The sender has to try to transmit the message to the receiver of the message through some type of a communication medium. The medium could be a spoken verbal message, a written letter, a phone call, sign language, etc. If all goes well, hopefully the recipient gets the message and hopefully the receiver gets the same message that the sender intended to communicate. Sometimes, however, things get in the way of that communication. Did you ever play the party game where someone whispers a message to the first person in a line and then the message gets passed from person to person down the line. Finally, the last person states the message that he/she heard. When I have seen this done at a party, the message the last person in the line gets is usually quite different from the message given to the first person in the line. When something gets in the way of proper communication it is called noise.
If God want to communicate with us, how could He do it? Anyway He wants to right? He’s God. We’ve already discussed that in a typical communication, a sender (God) has something to say. God then transmits the message to the receiver of the message (you and me) through a medium. We already know that God has given us His word, the Bible (a written message) to communicate what He wants us to know. Can God communicate with us in other ways such as a verbal message or perhaps through our thoughts? I certainly think that He can, afterall don’t we believe that anything is possible with God. Didn’t God make our brains? So if He wanted to put a thought in our mind, I certainly think He could do that. Regardless of how you believe God might try to communicate His messages to us, in any way that God communicates with us, noise can still be a problem. Even if you are trying to read the Bible and there is too much noise, it could interfere with the communication.
What is Noise?
What is the difference between sound and noise? Sound has been defined by the Online Dictionary as “transmitted vibrations of any frequency”. However, not all sounds can be heard by humans. As an example, you’ve probably heard about a dog whistle which the human ear cannot detect, but dogs can easily hear. According to my wife, there are many sounds I can’t hear . . . like her voice when she is asking me to take out the recycling. I guess selective hearing or poor hearing doesn’t count here. That reminds me of a little story I heard about three older gentlemen who were hard of hearing. (Use old man voice) First one says, “Windy, isn’t it?” Second one says, “No, it’s Thursday!” Third one says, “So am I. Let’s go get a drink.”
Anyway, it there are some sounds we cannot hear (like the dog whistle), then if sound is to be considered something that might interfere with communication with God, it would have to be defined a little more narrowly and more scientifically as “vibrations transmitted with frequencies in the approximate range of 20 to 20,000 hertz, capable of being detected by human organs of hearing”. Certainly any sounds outside of the normal range of human hearing couldn’t interfere with God’s communication to us because we simply cannot hear them.
What about sounds within our range of hearing? Not all sounds are disruptive. Many of the sounds of nature for example, were created for our enjoyment and can be quite relaxing. (Have sound clips for each of the following sounds) Consider sounds like:
- The rush of ocean waves as they strike the shore . . .,
- the sound of birds singing in the morning . . .,
- or crickets in the evening . . . ,
- or the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves . . . ,
- or the sound of a babbling brook as the water makes its way through the stones.
I personally don’t think these sounds hold anything that would hinder a communication with God and I enjoy those sounds.
Perhaps then it is just noise that might interfere with our communication with God. Noise can be defined as “a sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance”.
Noise in Communication
Since we are talking about noise that might cause a disruption in our communication with God, we also have to consider the definition of noise in communication. This is defined in the Business Dictionary as: “Anything that interferes with, slows down, or reduces the clarity or accuracy of a communication”. In short, noise can be ANYTHING that disrupts the communication of the intended message between the sender and the receiver of the information. Hmmm, that means other things besides physical noise may also disrupt our communication. If God really does try to communicate with us in a “still small voice” as the scripture indicates, then we first have to understand two things:
1. What is the Noise in our Life that might disrupt our communication with God, and
2. How do we hear God through the noise, or better yet, how can we strip away some of the noise so we can hear God.
Examples of Noise in Life
First of all there is physical Noise or noise that creates audio disturbances such as car and traffic noise, construction noise, occupational noise (especially if you work in something like manufacturing). Physical noise can certainly disrupt communication by simply not allowing us to hear what the other person is saying.
But it is not just physical noise that is the problem. We can close the windows or we can just go to a quiet place. So what then are some other things that we might call noise when it comes to the communication process that might interfere with effective communication?
Perhaps there are many things but I’d mainly like to focus on three main areas:
1. Noise in Our Culture
2. The Noise in Our Heads
3. The Noise of Technology
1. Noise in Our Culture
In the United States we are guaranteed certain right and freedoms including the right to worship God in the way that we choose. That right is the first of the ten amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights. Sometimes people in our culture take advantage of these freedoms and make them into something self-serving. Many Americans have developed a “me” attitude. This is particularly prevalent among “baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964. Baby Boomers have often been referred to as the “Me Generation” because of a somewhat self-involved, self-absorbed attitude associated with this generation. It is also prevalent among Millennials or Generation Y (those born from approximately the 1980s to the early 2000s). The “me attitude” drives people to self-fulfillment, thinking first about self rather than others. This cultural factor along with that fact that our culture’s places a big emphasis on money and acquiring possessions, creates something that causes noise in the communication process between us and God. If our main concern is “me, me, me, I want, I want, I want” there wouldn’t be much of a chancethat we would be open to hearing from God that we should serve others or worship Him.
2. The Noise in Our Heads
Sometimes, because of circumstances, problems, distractions, finances, etc. our minds can race from one thing to another or fixate on one particular thing. Maybe our thoughts are sometimes even fixated on things we should even be thinking about in the first place. When our minds are jumping from thought to thought or dwelling on a particular thought, issue or problem, our minds are not available for messages from God. So our own thoughts can also be “noise” that interferes with our communication with God.
3. Noise of Technology
When I refer to the noise of technology, I’m not just thinking about the physical noise created by electronic or other devices. I’m also referring to the fact that technology consumes our time and distracts us from other things.
The Industrial Revolution and the Technology Revolution have given us many wonderful and amazing devices that can save time, automate what used to be done by hand, and provide instantaneous access to almost any information or entertainment we may want, anytime, anywhere. I asked Jacob to help illustrate this point with the aid of his iPhone, however, it works pretty slowly without access to Wifi. So instead, I’ll just try to explain my point. Jacob can get information from his phone by talking to it. He can ask the computer voice known as Serie a question and she (the computer) will find the answer and speak the answer back to him.
With computers and search engines like Google, and even with a voice interface like Serie, we can now find anything we want to know about, anywhere, anytime.
The technology of communication includes but is not limited to the following:
Business and Personal webpages, Blogs, Email, Discussion groups,
Chat: Similar to email where you can type a message to someone except that it occurs in real time without the need to wait for those extremely long few seconds while the email goes through.
We also have Text messaging which are messages or images sent via mobile-phones.
We have social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Linked In where we can share important information about ourselves with our friends or colleagues. I went to my Facebook page while I was preparing this and here is some of the actual very important things I found there:
- Cousin Joy, Learn about the 5 Foods You Should NEVER Eat for Weight Loss
- Friend, Three gypsies in the gypsy wagon made it to South Carolina! (Not even sure what that means.)
- Brother Herb, I have an eating disorder; I’m about to eat dis order of fries, dis order of wings, and dis order of nuggets.
- Neice Kim, Please message me if you know where I can rent a bounce house.
- Father in Law – Hit level 82 in Candy Crush Saga
- Brother Nathan – it’s about time for my favorite dream to start, so I’d better hit the hay.
Now that is all very important stuff to share isn’t it? It is amusing and entertaining, but not really very important.
What other communication technology do we have today? We have Instagram, Twitter – text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets”. And we can’t forget about Skype and Facetime that allows you to share text, voice and video to share experiences with the people, wherever they are . . .as long as they have a computer with a webcam or a iPhone in front of them wherever they are.
Not enough? We can also add to this list, access to entertainment through cable television, Netflix, Hulu, purchased audio and video entertainment such as CDs and DVDs, and we certainly can’t forget about Video games.
Although these communication and entertainment technologies are considered by most to be positive in nature and provide new options for entertainment and for connecting people and friends, they can also have some unintended, negative consequences. For example, at my job, I receive an average of about 70 emails per day. I have to ignore some of these messages or at least delay my response to them because if I were to take the time to carefully read and respond to every one of those messages as they came in, I wouldn’t get anything done but answer emails.
The technology of communication has changed so much. When I was a kid growing up in HopewellPA, we had a small external antenna which pulled in, (count with me), 1 . . . television station. Today at my home we have access to approximately 300 channels. We also subscribe to Netflix for all of the viewing of TV shows and movies we might not be able to get in those 300 channels. In addition to that, we have several shelves filled with CDs, videotapes, and DVDs of shows and movies we really liked and that we might want to watch many, many times (Personal confession time: I have watched the Jason Bourne movies many times.) We also have more than one video game system and we all have an iPod, an iPod shuffle and/or a smartphone. We have a computer, a laptop, and an iPad in the house.
I’m guessing that if we took the time to go around the congregation, we would find many of the same things in many of your homes.
What is my point here? I am NOT trying to say that technology is bad or that these inventions are evil. My point is this: these devices, this technology, the communication capability and entertainment that is so accessible to us anywhere, anytime, can be come so pervasive in our lives and can consume so much of our time, that we simply don’t have time or at least not much time left for God. Does that mean we have to get rid of all of these things in order to hear God? No I don’t think it necessarily means that.
Maybe for some of us, it MAY mean cutting back on some of these things that occupy our time. Maybe for some of us, the technology could become your mission field. For example, if you do Facebook and you have connected online with lots of people, why couldn’t you send out an inspirational message sometimes, along with the updates to your status or where you had lunch that day? I have seen such inspirational messages on Facebook. Perhaps you could post some encouraging words or perhaps a scripture verse that means something to you that day. You could post a link to a Christian YouTube music video that inspires you. In this way, you are still using the technology you love to use, but you would begin to use it in a way that might have a little more value to those you reach with your messages.
What do we do with our time? For most of us we probably sleep somewhere around 8 hours a day. Then we need another 8 hours for work or school. That leaves us with just 8 hours left. That extra 8 hours is what we use for taking care of our homes, driving to and fro, taking care of our cars, hobbies and sports, spending time with our family and friends, watching TV, and playing with our devices. I’m not going to ask this question to you personally, but I want you to think about it. Here it is . . . the BIG question for today: With all of the responsibilities we have, then with all of the communication and entertainment options we have available, when do we have time or take time to “be still and know that He is God” or to hear the “still small voice of God”?
There it is folks! Maybe it isn’t really the physical noise that keeps us from hearing what God might want to say to us, . . . maybe it’s the constant distraction of emails, text messages, Facebook posts, Tweets or Instagrams, television, computers, video games, etc. that keeps us from hearing God’s call or God’s voice.
I fear that many of us are so open to this technology that instead of replacing the last technology, or program, or app with the latest and greatest new thing, we simply add it on to everything else. When will it be enough? When there isn’t another second of free time available? Will that be enough? Or will we allow it to start invading our sleep time, or to occupy some of our work time when our employer is paying us to do something else? Maybe it already has started to invade sleep time and work time. Only you can answer that question.
Again, I’m not here to judge anyone, including myself, because I too use many of these things. I’m not here to convince you that these things are bad or evil. I simply want you think about the fact that if we do not intentionally recognize how the cumulative effect of all of these things can quickly suck up our time and if we do not intentionally control our use of them, or limit the amount of time we spend on them, they WILL consume our time and consequently. . . make us less available to hear that still small voice of God.
That brings us to the second point of the message today: How do we hear God through the noise, or better yet, how can we strip away some of the noise so we can hear God. In the second scripture passage from Psalms 46, God asks us to “Be still, and know that He is God”. If we are constantly occupied, constantly engaged with communication and entertainment, how can we hear God?
Stripping Away the Noise
This part is relatively simple. First we have to recognize what things have become the noises in our life and make a list (Is it the noise of cultural influences, is the noise in our heads or the noise of technology or a combination of all three?). The list won’t be the same for each of us. You may want to try keeping a time log for a day or too of each thing you do other than sleep and work. Then go back through your time log and add up how much time you spend on Facebook, or Tweeting, or whatever are the noises in your life. If you are surprised by how much of your remaining 8 hours is composed of phone calls, texts, Facebook time, TV, etc. then maybe, . . . just maybe you are spending too much time doing those things.
Compare the time spent with technology and entertainment with how much time you spend praying, reading the Bible, being active, being with people and I’m not talking about being in the same room with your people while you are on a device. I’m talking about how much time are you actually present with your family and engaged in conversation or playing a game or something like that?
The only solution then is obvious. Recognize how big these things have become in your life and start placing limits on how much of your time you will give to these things. Changing or not changing is up to you and only you.
Can God Communicate Through the Noise?
Sure, God can get our attention even when we don’t want to listen. Sometimes if we resist hearing what He wants us to hear, He might have to get our attention in a way we don’t like. Parents and children, does this sound familiar. “Johnny, take your dirty dishes to the kitchen.” Johnny ignores this. :Johnny, I said, take your dirty dishes to the kitchen.” Johnny ignores again. “Johnny, how many times do I have to tell you to take your dishes to the kitchen?” “ Since you can’t listen to me, go to your room. You’re grounded.” Maybe our heavenly Father has been trying to give you a message and you keep ignoring because you won’t make time in your life to listen, so God may have to raise His voice, so to speak, to get your attention.
What Might God Have to Say to Us If We Listened
You might find the thought of God, the creator of the universe, talking to you to be a little scary. I doesn’t need to be scary because we believe that God is our Heavenly Father. It should be scary to talk to your Father. I’m sure that all of you have prayed at one time or another. In prayer are we not talking TO God. If we can talk to God, that it should be unthinkable that God can talk to you. Maybe you think that someone who thinks they hear God is delusional or a little psycho like they’re hearing voices or something. It’s not like that. Let me tell you a story.
There was once a man who went to a youth retreat as a chaperone. At the retreat, there was no running water, no TV, no video games, and no cell phone service because it was in a remote area. There was however, a bunch of other Christians, great praise and worship music, and fabulous speakers talking about God. During the closing message, the man heard God say, “I want you to speak for me.” This is a true story and I can say that with 100% certainty, because this is MY story and it is why I am up here today and it is why Andy has asked me to preach other times in the past.
I am convinced that I heard God’s call that day. Even though I did not hear an audible voice, it was so real to me that I answered and said, “God if that’s what you want me to do, I’ll do it.” It was not scary. It was just conversational. Before this event, I would have to say that I would have been skeptical about God talking to me or to anyone, but not anymore. I believe that this happened because I had made myself available to God simply by agreeing to go to this event. I believe it happened because at this event, there were no computers, no email, no cell service and no text messages and there wasn’t any TV or movies to watch. It was just me, a bunch of other Christians, and God. I was still and I knew that He was God and He was there in that moment and spoke to me in a still small voice and it changed me.
Maybe God wants to say something to you. Maybe He just wants to tell you how important you are to Him or that He loves you very, very much. Maybe, just maybe, He wants to tell you something that will change your life, that will change your priorities and that will make you feel more at peace and more happy than you have ever been in your life. Wouldn’t it be worth the effort to make yourself available to see what happens?
Plans for Adult Retreat
Because I am now convinced that in the fast paced world in which we live, with all of our technology, all of our communication modes, and the constant stimuli we are exposed to, that if we don’t intentionally take the time to “be still and know that He is God” or to stop all of the madness and listen for that “still small voice” we will simply not be able to hear it. God’s voice is still there, but if we have too much noise in our lives, we will simply miss out on what He might be trying to say.
Because I feel this is so important, Andy and I have talked about trying to plan a one day retreat where you will have the opportunity to Quiet the Noise of Life and then hopefully hear God’s voice. We have not yet picked a date but we are thinking of trying to schedule it sometime in the early part of 2014. If you would like to be a part of helping to plan or coordinate this event, see me or Andy. I hope to start working on the event in the near future.
To conclude today, I’d like you to watch this short video. God might have something to say to you in it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4e87vIRpds It is entitled: Shhh. . . Be Still and Know That I Am God
Let us Pray.