John Stumbo Video Blog No. 17
December 12, 2014
What are the voices, the noise, the messages that work their way into our mind and begin to have influence?
Hey, team, the theme today is noise, and I’m coming to you from Bangkok, Thailand. This bustling city of 12 million people full of life and activity 24 hours a day. We left from here to go to a conference with some of our international workers, leadership teams from the Asia region. I had the privilege of speaking a few times. Ron and Wanda Walborn and the Nyack team had powerful ministry among us that was outstanding. Loved getting to spend times at meals and breaks and interactions with our international workers. And then came back early to Bangkok to catch the Sunday services at the Evangelical Church of Bangkok, ECB, a significant ministry, probably 50 nations represented 1,000 people. Preached the two services there on Sunday. And today, courtesy of Debbie Vik, one of our international team members, finding us one of the few quiet spots in this entire city to shoot this video blog.
You know, from my devotions lately, there is has been this thought arising from the Psalms that has become increasingly significant for me, and it follows along in this theme. One of the most significant daily disciplines that I can have in my spiritual journey is to choose what kind of thoughts I allow space and which ones I reject. One of the greatest determinates of who I become is which thoughts I allow space and which ones I reject.
From the very opening word of the opening salms we find out that this world can be a noisy place, that there’s competing voices that want our attention. Psalm 1, verse 1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel or the advice of the wicked.”
Competing voices are in this world, dangerous voices, distracting voices, detouring kind of messages that want to come to us. And so, I find it intriguing from the opening words of the opening psalm, we are warned to be aware of the voices, the messages, the noise that can come to us.
Flip the page to the second psalm, and you immediately find out that the psalmist is quoting some of the noise that he hears. Psalm 2:2: “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.’ Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’”
I don’t know how I missed this in my reading of the Psalms, but a number of the psalms include actual quotes from the world around, or from voices within, or even what friends are saying. So right here in Psalm 2, he is very aware. The psalmist can quote what is being said by the nations, the rulers, the kings.
Was it the common headline of the day? Was that the noise that was getting to him? Was the message so shocking, disturbing that it worked its way into his soul? I don’t know, but this psalmist is crafting a song, a psalm around, based on, the noise that he’s heard and his response to it.
Psalm 3: “O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’”
Did you hear that? He’s quoting what many are saying to him. This voice of discouragement, this oppressive, “Give up dude; God is not going to deliver you.” The setting of Psalm 3 is when Absalom, David’s son, has had a revolt—a coup. David is fleeing for his life. This is older-man David. This is David who has outrun Saul for over a decade. This is David who has fought battles all over the place. This is David who’s withstood all kinds of oppression. But now, this one has come from a very personal place—it’s his own much loved son that’s taking over the Kingdom, and many voices are coming to David in this process, saying, “God‘s not going to deliver you. You’re not going get out of this one. You’ve escaped lots of times before, David, but not this time. It’s over; it’s over.”
Many are saying to me God will not deliver him, and he takes that noise, that message, those voices that are coming to his mind, and he deals with it by way of a poem, a song, a prayer. He grapples with this. He doesn’t just say “Ah, shut up!” in his own head, as if that can shut it off. He doesn’t pretend that it is not affecting him. Nah, this message is starting to find its way into his soul, and, as a result, he’s got to deal with it in a very personal—and for David that was a poetic—kind of way.
Some of you are “journalers.” Some of you are verbal processors—ways that we deal with the messages that come to us. Let’s not pretend that when many are saying something to us that it never finds its way deep into our heart. Sometimes it only takes one voice—that coach that said something demeaning to you decades ago; that parent that said, “What’s wrong with you anyway?” Those voices, those messages sometimes have found their way from years past into some deep caverns of our soul.
Well I’m going along to the psalms in my devotions, and I’m fascinated that here, in the first two, they’re already quoting from other voices. Psalm 4, verse 6: “Many are asking, ‘Who can show us any good?’” It seems to be the theme of the day that God’s not active; God’s not involved; there is no good happening in this world.
I won’t try to do all the Psalms that deal with this kind of quoting-noise-from-the-world kinds of themes, but let me jump to Psalm 11. “In the LORD I take refuge.” A statement of declaration—“I take my refuge in God. He is my shelter.”
But here is what he’s hearing as he seeks God as his refuge: “How then can you say to me . . .” I hear frustration in this one, and because he uses more of a personal pronoun—not “many are saying to me” but “How then can YOU say to me: ‘Flee like a bird to the mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows of the upright in heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?’”
That whole section seems to be the quote that he is hearing from this friend, or family member, or advisor—whoever it is—that is saying to him, “Everything is falling apart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? Not even the righteous can do anything when it’s getting this bad. When the world is falling apart like it is today, not even the righteous can do anything about that. This is all a mess, so you know what you need to do, David?”
And here is where the voice gets really powerful. It’s when the voice starts using a picture, a metaphor. “So, David, you know what you need to do? You need to flee like a bird to the mountain.”
It’s one thing for the voices to give us a bunch of discouraging, distracting, detouring words, but when those words become a picture, they can find its way into our brain, make its way into our soul. Ooh, that’s for some of us when it becomes extra strong—this noise, this message.
Just in recent days and weeks as I’ve been thinking about this theme, you start to hear the metaphors people use just quite naturally. “Ah, I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.” “Well, I’ve got so many plates spinning, I don’t know what to do.” “Snowballing.” “Stonewalling.” We have so many of these metaphors. And some of those pictures, although they may feel accurate, are very discouraging. I’ll probably speak at more length on this particular subject of metaphors at some future time, but I’m challenging us today to think of it in terms of the voices, the noise, the messages that work their way into our mind and begin to have influence.
My challenge to us today comes down to this: What thoughts are you allowing to have dominance? When I wake up in the morning, the very first thoughts greeting me, many days, are thoughts of discouragement. I don’t feel good physically sometimes when I wake up, and so there’s that distraction. Often, the opening voices greeting me are something stupid that I did recently or decades ago, a distant memory, a distant thought that for whatever reason, the voice of condemnation wants to lead my day and discourage me from the opening moments.
And so that’s why it is so important for me some days, before I even get out of my bed, to shut the alarm off on my phone and hit the Bible app and begin to read a chapter before my feet even touch the floor. Not as some religious ritual to prove some righteousness or to say that I started my day by reading my Bible—look how spiritual I am. No, but because I need to have intentional practices to fill my mind with that which is good, true, right, lovely, peace giving to start my day identifying the voice of condemnation, renouncing the fact. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
So perhaps that’s why this understanding of the Book of Psalms has become so significant for me, because I realize, well, I’m not alone. All the way back to David the psalmist, there is this personal awareness that these voices are getting to me, and I need to deal with them in a realistic and significant way—in a spiritual way.
I hear what is being said. I’m aware of the headlines. I’m aware of my opponents. I’m aware of the discouragements. But I don’t have to allow those voices to have final say. I want the Word of God—the Spirit of God, the love of God, the voice of God—to be directing my days, to be forming who I become.
And so, my friends, as I was thinking about the video blog for this busy, noisy holiday season, I thought that the noise of my own soul and the way that God has been teaching me through the Psalms might be helpful for you. And a word of permission, a word of challenge, to identify the competing voices. Build the spiritual disciplines into your daily routine so that you can begin to live and minister out of a still place in your soul, not a noisy place. That would be a work of God in your heart and mind, but I’m experiencing it increasingly and pray that you will as well.
Merry Christmas! Delighted to be on the same team with you. We’ll talk to you again in the New Year.