The Problem with Audiobooks

Kids love audiobooks. Heck, parents love audiobooks! Our family has enjoyed listening to entertaining renditions of Mr. Popper’s Penguins and My Father’s Dragon on long car rides up the East coast. Many commuters have found audiobooks to be a handy way to redeem the time. Who can say no to a good audiobook?

The Read-Aloud Revival championed by Sarah MacKenzie has brought to light the many benefits of hearing stories and books in the home. Shared books inspire, cultivate relational warmth, and promote learning. In fact, children can comprehend advanced concepts through aural learning long before they can decode them phonetically on the page. Psychologists have found that babies and toddlers who hear more words in the home are at an advantage when they become school-aged.

Moreover, audiobooks provide a convenient compromise for parents who know their kids should read but for one reason or another won’t read. Kids who refuse to sit still and read a book are often willing to listen to a book while they draw, play legos, workout, or lay in bed.

Audiobooks end the fight over reading. Parents are happy. Kids are happy.

After all, whether your child listens to a book or reads it is really immaterial, right? What matters are the stories, the ideas, the concepts. Whether it’s seen or heard doesn’t really matter, does it?

Books and Audiobooks Are Not the Same.

I hate to throw a wrench in the works, but not all mediums are created equal. Tell me you haven’t said this before: “The movie was good, but not as good as the book.” There is a difference between books and movies, even if they are communicating the same story. This is because they are two different forms of media. There is a difference between reading a new article about genocide and seeing a photograph of the mass grave. Media are not one-to-one replacements for one another.

The same is true for books and audiobooks. Each have their benefits and disadvantages, but it would be unfortunate to assume they are essentially identical. Well-intentioned as they may be, many parents are operating under this false equivalence. We assume, or at least hope, the same educational benefits come from hearing and reading.

While audiobooks can be a great piece in the educational growth of students, there are at least three vital areas where audiobooks cannot duplicate the benefit of reading visual text.

Spelling and Vocabulary.

In my experience as a high school English teacher, students who rarely read physical books often turn out to be poor spellers. Some of this is probably due to the fact that they never mastered decoding to begin with–which might explain why they began to favor audiobooks early on. However, I would guess more of it has to do with the fact that they have a very limited visual memory.

We don’t realize it, but over years and years of reading, we subconsciously build a sight-word bank. When you send an email at work or type a tweet, I would bet you don’t think about the phonetic syllables of a single word you use. That’s because you have memorized the spellings of thousands of words from your encounters with the English language on the printed page.

Students who rarely read have infrequent visual encounters with words. The effect is cumulative and debilitating. Without years of regularly seeing text on a page they will have a limited bank of sight words. When it comes time to write papers, they will be clueless as to how to spell even basic words. Those who can decode will do their best to sound out words, but writing will be an absolute slog. Imagine: To write a basic five-paragraph essay a high schooler not only has to wrestle with complex ideas but also has to struggle for the correct spelling of every other word they want to use in composing those thoughts. Absolute torture.

A small sight-word bank will also lead to a limited writing vocabulary. Students will favor words they know how to spell over those they don’t. Even if a student has an extensive speaking vocabulary, never having seen words spelled on a page will discourage them from incorporating more complex words into their writing. While audiobooks may be the easy short-term option, good spellers are fashioned by years regularly spent with the printed word.

Syntax and Structure.

There are certain lessons I would rather not have to teach in English class: how to write a bibliography, the proper use of commas, capitalization rules. While these structured lessons are necessary, many of these concepts are caught more than taught. Students learn a language’s punctuation, syntax, and structure simply from seeing it in action.

A student knows whether a space goes before a period because she’s seen tens of thousands of sentences in books. She intuitively understands how to punctuate dialogue because she sees it all the time in her novels. She knows how a semicolon and colon function. It’s second-nature that the title of a book should be italicized and capitalized. She doesn’t know how she knows it. She just does.

There are certain questions students who read never have to ask themselves: Do I indent a paragraph? Do I capitalize the first letter of the sentence? Does the period go inside or outside of the quotation marks? They pick up these rules as they read. In-class teaching only reinforces what they already know.

Students who heavily favor audiobooks will struggle with syntax and punctuation when they do their own English compositions simply because they don’t have much experience watching the experts do it. It would be like setting your high schooler loose in the kitchen who has never seen, tasted, or smelled sofrito. Something may end up on the plate–but I’m not going to want to eat it.

Active Learning.

There’s a reason why your kids don’t fight you about audiobooks. They are easier than books. That’s because listening is a passive activity while reading is an active one. In a child’s education, there should be ample space given to both passive and active learning. Students should both hear stories aloud and read them on the page, watch documentaries and create their own WWII collages, read poetry and compose their own rhymes, learn about great paintings and try their own hand with a brush.

There is an imbalance, however, when a student’s only diet of text comes through passive learning. Often, phonetic decoding is the first hurdle for grade school children. Audiobooks can present a tempting alternative, especially when it feels like your student is falling behind content-wise. However, struggle should not be seen as something to avoid in education but as a part of the growth–both for teachers and students! Inasmuch as read-alouds cultivate relationships, the struggle to overcome educational hardships together is also a God-given opportunity to grow as a family.

Give the Gift of Literacy.

The goal for our students is literacy, the ability to read and write. While audiobooks have many benefits—especially when used in conjunction with books—they are unable to teach basic literacy on their own. Students cannot learn to read or write by listening to audiobooks. Literacy requires the written word.

Literacy is a precious gift. In the narrative of his own life, Frederick Douglass recounts how learning to read and write were the key to his freedom. His mistress began to teach him the ABCs but when his master found out, he put a quick end to it. Douglass writes,

“The very decided manner with which [my master] spoke, and strove to impress his wife with the evil consequences of giving me instruction, served to convince me that he was deeply sensible of the truths he was uttering. It gave me the best assurance that I might rely with the utmost confidence on the results which, he said, would flow from teaching me to read. What he most dreaded, that I most desired. What he most loved, that I most hated. That which to him was a great evil, to be carefully shunned, was to me a great good, to be diligently sought; and the argument which he so warmly urged, against my learning to read, only served to inspire me with a desire and determination to learn.”

At his own peril, Douglass learned to read and write through glances stolen over the shoulders of white boys, moments spent with tattered bits of newspaper, and stubs of stolen chalk. The zeal with which his master guarded the printed word only strengthened his resolve to gain mastery of it himself.

Even as we take advantage of the many benefits of audiobooks, particularly as a secondary reinforcement, may we as parents and teachers encourage our students through hardship and hurdles to take firm hold of the treasure that is literacy.

Ivan Ilych and the Middle-Class Avoidance of Death

“What do you want?”

There are certain questions that cut straight to the core. Many of us go to great lengths to avoid such questions, filling the silence with noise, Netflix, friends, busyness, work. We cope with the uncomfortable seriousness of these eternal questions with humor and sarcasm. In the end, it’s avoidance. We don’t like to sit with these kinds of inquiries long enough for them to do their work.

We are afraid of what might be unearthed.

The Russians used to call these cursed questions. In The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) unravels the tale of a man forced to confront the meaninglessness of his life pursuits by a minor injury that results in a painful, drawn-out death.

Resourceful, clever, and well-bred, Ivan was always able to avoid crises in his workplace, marriage, finances, and relationships—that is, until death showed up at his doorstep. The comfort and ease provided by a middle-class lifestyle shielded him from ever having to wrestle with questions like, “Why do I exist? What is my purpose? What do I want? Does any of this matter? What will happen when I die?”

Tolstoy’s novella is a crisis moment for anyone who reads it. George Gibian explains, “Tolstoy believed that facing a crisis was necessary, even desirable, if a person was to arrive at a genuine understanding of what he or she wanted to achieve in life. [Men] have a need to confront extreme situations in order to discover what is truly important and what is not.”

Tossing in agony during his waning hours, Ivan’s head echoes, “What do you want? What do you want?”

Angry with himself, he finally answers: “What do I want? To live and not to suffer.” 

“To live? How?”

“Why, to live as I used to—well and pleasantly.”

This honesty–that the greatest yearning of his soul is for a comfortable life–sends Ilych into a tailspin.

His life had been filled with pleasant dinner parties, games, polite dalliances, fashionable clothing, a tolerable marriage, long work hours, and a big house. He had gotten everything he wanted.

But what is the value of a soul that longs for nothing greater than comfort? Ease? A life devoid of suffering? Suddenly, all the greatest joys of his comfortable life–the fun, the admirable career, the trendy house, the pleasant relationships–now melted before his sight and turned into something trivial.

“Maybe I did not live as I ought to have,” it suddenly occurs to him.

Ought. That’s a hard word. Is there an ought to living? Ought implies there is a right and a wrong way to live. Ivan’s mind races: “What if my whole life has really been wrong?”

No more pleasantries. No more distractions. No more busyness or games or conversation or entertainment. Death has a way of forcing Ivan to finally confront this cursed question.

Ivan’s life was one big avoidance. Nice meals with friends, the kitchen remodel, the new furniture, the promotions–they were all just fancy wallpaper over a decaying soul. Ivan Ilych’s comfortable middle-class life was a giant charade orchestrated to help him ignore the existence of death.

The way we answer the question “What do I want?” reveals more about us than we’d like–which is why we, like Ivan, surround ourselves with endless distractions to avoid such cursed questions. What kind of person wants ease as his supreme desire? Could it be that a life whose chief end is to avoid suffering is a life wasted?

Unfortunately, Ivan’s adept ability to sidestep every possible crisis in his life and maintain a safe, comfortable status quo means that he has never been forced to wrestle with the meaning of life until it’s too late. It seems that Tolstoy would have us pity Ilych. Moreover, we would do well to heed his warning: Death, the Great Crisis, comes for us whether we have ignored its existence our whole lives or not.

Tolstoy means to infect our minds with this thought: “Maybe I am not living as I ought to be…” To live and not to suffer–is that really it for you? To live well and pleasantly–is that your purpose? What ought is steering your life?

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What Feels Like Suffering Is Your Salvation

There are many reasons we drift.

Familiarity.

Fatigue.

Apathy.

And pain. If you’ve had kids, you know that one way babies deal with pain is by drifting off to sleep. Sometimes, we deal with pain and suffering the same way.

The author of Hebrews knows that. That’s why, when he’s addressing “those who are to inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14), he pauses mid-sermon to warn us, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb 2:1). 

It’s sad, but often we turn our brains off when we hear the word salvation: “Oh yeah, salvation. The cross, Jesus, etc. etc. I know it all by heart. Wake me up when you get to something that’s actually going to help me in my struggles, in my suffering, in my daily life.”

But we cannot drift away, because the preacher has something intensely practical to tell us: What feels like suffering is actually salvation. Suffering–being brought low spiritually, physically, emotionally, in every way–is the means by which God saves us.

What feels like suffering is actually salvation.”

How can this be?

Our salvation is wrapped up in the fate of one particular man: Jesus Christ.

When your star quarterback goes down after a hard tackle, everyone holds their breath–because the fate of the team hangs in the balance. And, when you see him lifted up from the turf, waving to the fans and running to the sideline, you breathe a sigh of relief. Why? Because the captain is up, and the team’s fate is secure.

When it comes to what he suffered, Christ our Captain went down–hard (Heb 2:10). Crucified. Buried in the ground. And the whole cosmos held its breath. The fate of the universe, the fate of those who were to inherit salvation–our fate–hung on our Captain. But he got back up. God raised him up forever.

What is important to realize is that this suffering was not a detour in the plan of salvation. The preacher tells us in Hebrews 2:9, “Jesus, the son of man, was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering.” Suffering made Jesus our glorious King. This is what was foretold hundreds of years before in Psalm 8. The king who would rule over every created thing, to whom God had planned to subject the entire universe, would wear a crown of suffering.

On that dark Friday, what the Roman soldiers meant as humiliation, God meant as exaltation. When they put a crown of thorns on his head, when they put a robe on his shoulders and a staff in his hand, when they bowed down and mocked him in salute, when they beat him, whipped him, stripped him, nailed him to a cross and suspended his dying body between heaven and earth, they meant to lay him low.

But that moment of intense humiliation and suffering was his coronation ceremony.

We do not look away from the cross. The head of Christ beams with glory and honor because of his suffering. The truth is posted above him for all who have eyes to see: King of the Jews. He did not become king after the suffering of death–but because of it. He was made for a short while a little lower than the angels because the cross was where he collected his crown (Heb 2:9).

Brothers and sisters, the same is true for us. God has foreordained before the foundation of the world that you and I should rule the cosmos with Christ. We are “those who are to inherit salvation.” But for a little while, we have to stoop below the angels. For a little while, we have to endure suffering.

Why?

Because we have to stoop to pick up our crown.

“For a little while.” It’s not forever. When we come through the other side, when we emerge from the grave, we will be crowned with Christ because of our suffering–not despite it. Paul tells us in Romans 8:17—“[We are] fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

I don’t know what temptations you are facing today. Tempted to apathy. Tempted to doubt. Tempted to despair. Tempted to take matters into your own hands. Tempted to give up. Tempted to drift away.

Brothers and sisters, do not let suffering cause you to drift away. Christ is proof. However you may feel today, know this much is true: What feels like suffering is actually your salvation.

If you’d like to hear the whole sermon click here.

(photo credit)

‘Work’ by Daniel Doriani (A Free Discipleship Resource!)

“The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables . . .”

—Dorothy Sayers

What is good work? How do I find my calling? Can work be more than a paycheck? How can I enact reform in my workplace? How can my job be a place where I love my neighbor and serve the Lord? How do I work for a sinful boss?

Daniel M. Doriani’s Work: Its Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation (2019) answers all of these questions and more. This book has been transformational for my own understanding of work, and I am happy to provide a free downloadable study guide for you to teach this material in a 13 week setting–whether in a small group, personal study, discipleship class, or Sunday School.

Below you will find PDFs of individual lessons and whole study for download. These study materials are not meant to replace Doriani’s book, but to serve as a help in teaching the material to others. It is filled with practical questions to generate discussion, opportunities to search the Scriptures, and helpful summaries of Doriani’s points. They can serve both as a teaching guide and as handouts for the class.

The study guides are formatted to be printed back/front for each week and folded in the middle like a bulletin.

Individual Lessons:

Full Study:

Why Expository Preaching, Again?

This Sunday our church dove back into 2 Samuel, picking up right where we’d left off in November. The return gave us a good opportunity to revisit a foundational question: Why expository preaching?

Why do we preach chapter by chapter, verse by verse, through every word of books like 2 Samuel or Acts or 1 and 2 Thessalonians? Why are we committed to that style of preaching at CSBC? Four quick reasons:

1. Because God’s people are hungry.

Do you remember the story where Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness? Matthew tells us, after that time “Jesus was hungry” (Mt. 4:2). Satan came to tempt Jesus in that moment of hunger, and this is how Jesus responded, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). What we are hungry for is a food this world cannot provide. You and I are hungry for “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Not a word. Not some words. Not the words you like. Every word.

But what normal Christian is going to wake up in the morning and say, “You know what? I’m hungry for some 2 Samuel today.” Not gonna happen. Maybe a light appetite for something from the Sermon on the Mount or an inclination to read Philippians 4:13 for the thirty-millionth time, or maybe a quick bite of whatever the verse of the day is on your phone. But certainly nothing off the beaten path.

Expository preaching is like when you have never had Thai food before, and your friend is like, “Listen, you are gonna love it–you just have to give it a try! Come with me, and I’ll show you what to order.” And reluctantly you go, and you’re like, “Wow. Thai food is amazing. I would have never thought.” Later that week, you find yourself actually hungry for Pad Thai and Chicken Satay and Curry, and Friday night you say something you’ve never said before, “You know, let’s get take out from that Thai place again.”

That’s what expository preaching does. The preacher is supposed to take you to all these exotic places–parts of the Bible Christians never read–Zechariah, Nehemiah, 2 Samuel, Titus, Leviticus, and show you what to order. Once you’ve tasted it, you’re like, “Wow. This isn’t so scary. In fact, this is amazing.” And now all the sudden you’ve got this new hunger. You’re discouraged on a Friday evening, and you find yourself saying, “You know what, I could go for some 2 Samuel.”

2. Because it’s my job.

Paul commands Timothy: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). In his second letter, he reiterates the point: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). It is the pastor’s job to know how to take a fork and knife to the Scriptures and cut it up into bite-sized pieces for the people of God.

Jesus commissions Peter with this solemn responsibility: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). If you are a pastor, your job is to lead the sheep to pasture.

3. Because the Word saves.

Paul holds up preaching as a particular medium through which God saves: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). But if the preacher enters the pulpit with a few funny one-liners, an inspirational story or two, and a closing nugget of wisdom—does that preaching have the power to save? Paul continues, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).

The Scriptures are where we find Christ crucified. This is why James encourages us to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

4. Because the Word is a rock.

Can you imagine coming to church after the week we’ve had, after the unthinkable has happened—deranged Americans stormed our nation’s capitol with the intent to overthrow an election by force, some claiming to want to assassinate certain lawmakers and elected officials? Imagine experiencing such ground-shaking uncertainty during the week, sitting trembling in the pew, to find your pastor only has a few warm-and-fuzzy personal tales to comfort you?

No. We need a rock. We need an unshakeable foundation. We need something that never changes. We need to look into heaven and see a King who sits on a throne that will never be threatened by insurrectionists. We need to behold a Lord whose throne will never be occupied by some arrogant anarchist posing for a pic.

Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:24). This Jesus does not need our help to stay in power. Why would we worship him if he did? He does not depend on us. We depend on him—for life, breath, existence itself.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

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Do You Know How Arius Died?

I’ve been preaching a Christmas sermon series based on Athanasius’s seminal work On the Incarnation, and this morning’s opening illustration was too good to pass up. For context, I’m preaching on Matthew 2:1-12 (the story of the wise men), but I’ve been in the habit of setting up the sermon with some fun tidbits from the life of Athanasius. Here it is from the manuscript:

Sometimes the signs of God are subtle, a soft whisper in the wind. Sometimes they are bright and obvious, like a star rising in the eastern sky (Matt 2:2). The sign of God can grip you when you least expect it, an explosion that leaves you forever changed.

We’ve been learning about Athanasius this Christmas and his valiant battle for the truth against his opponent Arius—the heretic who famously quipped about Jesus Christ, “There was a time when he was not.” Arius believed Jesus was a created being, and Athanasius kept telling the church—indeed, the Emperor Constantine himself!—but no one seemed to take him seriously.

Eventually, Arius was summoned to give his confession before the Emperor. Athanasius writes, “Arius drew up a document with great artfulness, and like the devil, concealed his impious assertions beneath the simple words of Scripture.” As the story goes, after Arius confessed what he believed about Jesus, Constantine replied, “Are you telling the truth? If you are lying, the Lord will punish you.”

On the eve of the Sunday when he was to be fully restored, Arius was passing through the market when he was suddenly struck with . . . an intestinal issue. He ran to the nearest public restroom. Time passed. More time passed. After a polite knock, a further rapping on the door, hollers of, “Arius, sir! Are you okay in there?” and no response, they burst opened the door. And there he was: Dead on the toilet from a case of explosive . . . well, you get the picture. Athanasius swears he was blown clear through the middle. For years to come, whenever people used those public restrooms they warned their friends, “Don’t use that one! The Lord struck Arius dead on that seat!”

Like I said, the sign of God can grip you when you least expect it, an explosion that leaves you forever changed. Thankfully, in today’s passage, three pagan wise men are gripped not by an explosive digestive disorder . . . but by an explosion in the sky. Turn with me to Matthew 2:1-12.

To read more about the legend of Arius’s demise, click here and here.

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Struggling for Thankfulness This Year?

This year has been a strange one, and I wonder as you reflect back on all the hardship of 2020 whether you are struggling to find reasons to give thanks.

Traditionally, Christmas is the holiday that gets all the songs and carols and hymns. November 1st, radios start dusting off the ol’ yuletide catalog. But biblically speaking, songs are the natural outpouring of thanksgiving (Colossians 3:15-16). Perhaps a song might put us more in the thanksgiving spirit.

The Lord Is My God.

In 2 Samuel 22, David surveys his life, his heart swells with thankfulness, and he speaks to the Lord the words of this song:

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation,

my stronghold and my refuge,

my savior; you save me from violence.”

2 Samuel 22:3-4

Twelve times in these two verses David sings, “my.” The Lord is my God. Perhaps the reason you are struggling and feel thankless is because you cannot in your heart sing these words: “The Lord is my God.”

When David sings about his God, he compares him to a place of safety, rescue, refuge. When disaster struck this year, where did I seek refuge? In my God? Or in something else?

David reminds us that God is not ours on our terms: “My Savior; you save me” (22:3). We cry out to our God from a place of helplessness and need. Last night, my 7 month-old Peter was laying in bed next to me, and he reached over and grabbed my finger with his whole hand. That’s the way we possess God. My means, “I belong to him.”

I Called Upon the Lord.

As David continues to reflect, he remembers being surrounded by trouble, enemies, and menacing circumstances on all sides:

“I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,

and I am saved from my enemies…

In my distress I called upon the LORD;

to my God I called.”

2 SAmuel 22:4,7

Such a simple thing–“I called upon the Lord.” But how often don’t we? We don’t call. We don’t pray. We don’t cry for help.

Why?

Some of us don’t call on the Lord because we don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We think we can handle it. We don’t want to bother God with it.

But if it feels oppressive, if it feels life-threatening, if it feels like its choking you at every minute, if it sucking the life out of you, if you feel like you are drowning, why are you treating it like it’s no big deal? John Gill writes, “A time of distress is a time for prayer; and sometimes the end God has in suffering [us] to be in distress is to bring them to the throne of his grace…”

Others of us call, we just don’t call upon the Lord. We think that a boyfriend will save us, a spouse will be our salvation, a job will rescue us from our distress, a bailout will be our refuge, some new toy will save us from our sadness, a new church will deliver us from our depression.

Listen to David’s song: “I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised...” It’s his greatness, his worth, his majesty, his power that draws our cry.

If you were being attacked and you had to choose either a Chihuahua or a Rottweiler to come to your defense, which one are you going to cry out for?

Why are you crying out to your co-workers or your phone or your social media followers? Can any of them do anything about your distress? Cry out to the God who dwells in ineffable might, unassailable power, impenetrable victory, untarnished splendor, and terrifying power.

When I was in grade-school, my family lived in south Florida. At the beach one day, my dad was out surfing and I was watching from the shallows. I was distracted and a strong swimmer, so I didn’t notice how every wave was slowly drawing me further down the beach away from my dad, and further out to sea. Suddenly, I couldn’t touch, and a strong undertoe started tugging me under. I remember a sense of panic settling in like, I’m not gonna make it.

I start hollering, “Dad!” Every time I come up for breath. “Dad!” “Dad!” But it’s loud and he’s hundreds of yards away. And I’m giving up hope. Suddenly, a lifeguard grabs me from behind, and next thing I know, I’m laying in the sand.

You and I don’t cry out to the Lord because we don’t know what’s got ahold of us. We think sin is just a little thing. Just a little lie. Just a little stealing. Just a few careless words here and there. Just a little porn. David shows us the truth:

“”For the waves of death encompassed me,

the torrents of destruction assailed me;

the cords of Sheol entangled me;

the snares of death confronted me.”

2 Samuel 22:5-6

Sin is trying to drag us into an eternal Hell. Death has ahold of each of us, sending its tendrils out of the grave to latch onto us and drag us kicking and screaming to a watery grave. Do you realize what’s dragging you under? If you did, you’d be crying out, “MY GOD, MY GOD! SAVE ME!”

He Hears My Voice.

You may feel like this is the last time you are coming up for air before you sink forever. When you call upon the Lord, he will hear. He will hear, and he will come down, and he will find you:

“From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry came to his ears.”

2 Samuel 22:7

This is how the infinite God bestows dignity upon us, his finite creatures: He listens to us. Say this to your soul with David and feel thanksgiving begin to rise: “He hears my voice.”

My voice matters to the Almighty God. Your voice matters to your Maker.

There is a stirring in heaven in response to my voice. And this is what the stirring of my God looks like:

“Then the earth reeled and rocked;

the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because he was angry.

Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth;

glowing coals flamed forth from him. 

He bowed the heavens and came down;

thick darkness was under his feet. 

He rode on a cherub and flew;

he was seen on the wings of the wind. 

He made darkness around him his canopy,

thick clouds, a gathering of water. 

Out of the brightness before him coals of fire flamed forth. 

The LORD thundered from heaven,

and the Most High uttered his voice. 

And he sent out arrows and scattered them;

lightning, and routed them. 

Then the channels of the sea were seen;

the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the LORD,

at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.” 

2 Samuel 22:10-16

The response of God to our cry for help is an earthquake crossed with a forest-fire crossed with a thunderstorm crossed with a tornado crossed with a volcanic eruption crossed with a lightning storm crossed with a hurricane.

When he hears my voice, he bends the heavens and parts the sea. Wherever you are in this vast cosmos, whether on some far-flung planet or in the bottom of the ocean, if you call out to him, he will find you. His salvation will search you out.

This thanksgiving, in the midst of turmoil and distress, one thing should make our hearts sing: We have a God who hears us.

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