John E. Marshall, Jr.'s Blog

Page 1 - Holy Thursday

Page 2 - Emergence

Page 3 - Where Is God Located?

Page 4 - Words

Page 5 - Faith, Hope & Love

Page 6 - What God's Voice Telling Us

Page 7 - Are We Wrapped Up Too Much in Earthly Things?



by John E. Marshall, Jr. | 2015

We, like Samuel in our first reading today, 1Samuel 3, all hear the voice of God. We hear Him most of the time in the form of our intuition that tells us to be more compassionate, be more kind, and, most importantly, be more loving. To others, but especially to ourselves. However, if we were to really be honest with ourselves, we either ignore what He is trying to say to us, or let other non-productive or other inconsequential and petty voices drown Him out. We always seem to fail to see and be aware with God’s ever presence with us and, let’s face it; it affects all of our wellness. I am not talking about our physical health, although our not listening to God’s voice affects that too, but what I am really talking about is the wellness of our souls. Too often, we let the voices of others tell us what to do even when it directly contradicts what God’s voice is telling us.

Why must we always do this? Why do we persist in jeopardizing our wellness like this? Don’t we know that it is God that has made us on purpose and for a purpose? We were all made to be unique and bring our own special message to the world. We act as if the world makes us into who we are when, in reality we were made as God’s response to it. His answer to its many problems. The real problem, though, is that we create more problems by not listening to His voice. What makes it worse, is that most of the time He speaks to us in the language of intuition. I remember my father once told me that if I have to ask whether something was right or wrong when I was about to do something, it was probably wrong. I never forgot that, though, like most humans, I often, at least too often for my tastes, make mistakes and errors. Even then, I’ve found that God used those instances to teach me lessons about myself. Deep and powerful lessons, if I’d only listen.

Let us not forget our Psalm reading today, Psalms 139. It bears repeating for this sermon, today. “LORD, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar. You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways. Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O LORD, know it altogether. You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it. For you you created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well. My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them. How deep I find your thoughts, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.”

We too often forget that God knows us better than we know ourselves. We act as if it is the other way around. We also act as if God is our servant. There to cater to all of our wants. This is our biggest mistake and error, I think. God doesn’t serve us. We serve Him. He does not cater to our wants, He caters to our needs. Not for our egoistic purposes but for His more glorious purposes. He is our maker and no one but the maker knows the purpose better for that that He makes.

No growth, at least no fruitful growth, no wellness, at least no wellness that is lasting for our souls, no prosperity, at least the prosperity that really means anything, comes without our listening to what God is saying to us. He gives us our special instruction this way. He feeds us directly through our interpretation via our intuition that speaks to us clearly in His voice. That is how we come to meaning in this world. Meaning, mind you, is wholly different from knowledge or teaching. I could try to teach you every word there is in the Bible, give you my take on what the stories mean to me, how I interpret passages or even give you my take on Jesus and His message in this world. But I would only be giving you knowledge, and frankly, that knowledge is nothing to you without your understanding of the meaning of what was conveyed to you. If you read the Book of Proverbs closely, you would get this. To get real meaning in this world, you must hear the voice of God in your head for yourself.

So, you might ask, what purpose do we come Sunday after Sunday and listen to preachers talking about the Word of God? Indeed. Why? I think it can be helpful in that what they say can spark your own recognition of the voice of God within your own heads. Let’s face it. No matter how they want to prop themselves up as being more connected to God than you are, or how more righteous or more pious they might be than you are, they are certainly not. What drives me mad more than most any other thing is how people put preachers up on pedestals, treat them as better than themselves, or even affix them with a status that only justifiably should be given to Jesus Christ, Himself. Hint: If a preacher allows you to think of him that way, he or she is a thief with his or her hand in your pocket. He or she is not really looking out for your own good. If he or she is even thinking this way, your finding the presence of God in your life is only a secondary thing for him or her. Your subsidizing his or her lifestyle is the primary thing. No. A preacher’s only purpose is, perhaps, to bring enough light that you should find your own doors to God and open them. Light that might spark your own listening to God’s voice in your own head. The maker knows His product more than anyone else does. Neither I, nor any other preacher can give you instructions for your make and model. You have to go to the instruction manual from the Maker. You must hear Him. Not me or any other preacher, but hears Him. And, for God’s sake, you should not be looking for the approval of me or any other preacher. God’s approval is the only approval that you should be looking for.

You know, one of my most favorite passages in the Bible was read in last week’s Gospel, Mark 1. In it, to me, John the Baptist shows himself as the ultimate preacher. One that is humble. One that sees himself as only a light to the door that others should open themselves when they hear the voice of God. He said, “See, John knew his place. Imagine his shock when Jesus Christ, himself, came to him to be baptized by him. To me, Jesus’ message was this. Even He should humble Himself when it came to being in the presence of God the Creator. What a powerful teaching by our Lord. He ain’t the Way, the Truth, and the Life for nothing! What I dug the most in this passage is when God made His voice heard. “And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’"

You know, ladies and gentlemen, this should be, in my mind, all of our ultimate goals. To hear God saying this to us. The only way to get to that is to listen to God’s voice within us. To be more compassionate. To be more kind.  Be more forgiving. And most importantly, be more loving. Wait, Wait, you tell me. You can’t do this all the time or you will get hurt. Indeed, you may be hurt by being compassionate, kind, or loving all the time. People will, sometimes, take advantage of you. People will use you. You may even get in trouble in this world and by the so-called authorities in this world. Yet, the pain you get will be lessons that we are supposed to learn if we are to live out our purposes in this world. And I will guarantee you it won’t be to be less compassionate, less kind, less forgiving, or less loving. It will be about how to use compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and love more strategically to suit your own unique purpose in this world. You will learn God’s reason for making you in the first place.

We undercut ourselves way too much. Just because we do not see ourselves as God sees us. Just because we feel too uncomfortable with not knowing what will come and knowing everything. We penalize ourselves too much for being what God made us; Human. God made us human for a reason. Not that we should make our humanity an excuse for behaving badly. Our humanity should teach us to be more forgiving. Of others. Of ourselves. We undercut ourselves by selling ourselves too short. We let the voices of insecurity and unsureness sometimes drown out the guiding voice of God. “No, you cannot achieve that.” “I know you think you may be able to do that with kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love, but that is not how the world works.” “You know, you are really better than them.” “Yeah, I know your heart says to be more open and embracing, but you’ve got to protect yourself in this cruel world.” You know, voices like that that has no interest in your wellness. Those voices may protect your body as you know it in this world, but they are likely to leave your soul unguarded. That is why we should attention to what we are listening to. God builds. Ego destroys. Even when God is telling you something that appears to our puny brains to be negative, His purpose, His Way, always brings the greatest fruit. Take, again, Samuel in 1Samuel 3. “Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ Then the LORD said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.’ Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ He said, ‘Here I am.’ Eli said, ‘What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.’ So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, ‘It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.’ As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.”

Look, we are all going through what we are going through. I could poll the lot of you and I guarantee that not one of you will be able to say that they not going through any trouble. All of us have issues that they are dealing with. It could be financial. It could be associated with some type of relationship, familial, friendship, or otherwise. It could be in reconciling ourselves with how we actually are with how we think we should be. It could be about missing a loved one who passed away or has found themselves to be outside of our lives. We all have something that we want to be better. Most of us, even, can’t even see exactly what we want or what we need. We, who are Christian, are taught to pray about those things. We need to realize, especially in the case where we are in a fog as to what to pray about, that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need and when we need it. Our problems, more often than not, have to do with our Faith that God will see us through. That nothing we go through will ever be without His presence with us. As Paul said in Romans 8, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

So, if you are going to pray about anything, pray to thank God for all that He has giving you. Pray for His guidance in all of your steps that you make on this Earth. Pray for your increase in ways of compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and Love. And most of all, pray that you might hear Him when He speaks to you and that you have the good sense to follow in His speaking. That is the only way for you to become well. And you do wish to be well, don’t you?

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Social Security Administration:
Chicago Metropolitan Area Work Incentives Coordinator · January 1983 to present · Chicago, Illinois I am the point person for the agency in the city for issues surrounding people with disabilities and work. I am also the point person for the agency in the city for issues surrounding the homeless. I represent the agency in coalitions boards, and other organizations to establish joint policies, programs, and events that seek to engender and facilitate work for people with disabilities and help to entitle the homeless to Social Security benefits. I am also the coordinator for 28 Work Incentive Liaisons/Technical Experts located in all 20 SSA offices in metro Chicago.

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University of Chicago:
Masters · School of Social Service Administration · Chicago, Illinois

Northeastern Illinois University:
Class of 1984 · Sociology · Chicago, Illinois

Mendel Catholic College Preparatory High School
Class of 1977 · Chicago, Illinois

Bradley University
Peoria, Illinois

John E. Marshall, Jr.





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