I’ve had a frustrating week. Each week, after hours of research, preparation, several drafts and revisions, our Notes hit the Internet, heading toward friends scattered about the world. And many return unread. Why? Spam filters. They’re designed to look for words someone somewhere has decided are often found in Spam. Simple words. Ordinary words. Words we use every day. Even religious words.
Numbers are assigned to each one and when a certain score is reached, the email is labeled as Spam. And unless you’ve told the program to put such email in a Junk box so you can make sure it’s actually something you don’t want, the email is rejected. And you never…ever…know it was sent.
Recently Notes have returned with messages like, The message has too high Spam probability, Subject of email not allowed by server, Email contains content rejected by filter, Server permanently rejected message, Filter will not allow this message, and my personal favorite, This smells like Spam.
I complained to God and asked Him for a solution to this terrible dilemma. He gave me none. Instead, He answered with a question. Why do you treat my messages like Spam? There is a lesson here, one that reaches beyond emails and servers all the way to our hearts. This is what I’ve learned.
Like those sophisticated programs, we have our own filter, selecting what we will receive and what we will reject. Words are identified…command, obey, instruction, trust, faith, judgment, always, never. Phrases are flagged…follow me, you must, believe in, the will of God, stop sinning, don’t be afraid, you are, I am, listen to my voice. And the result? Filter will not allow this message. Long ago, God saw this.
Do not merely hear the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who hears the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25
Akroates, the word used for hear, means merely to hear. It’s like music playing in the background with no one paying attention. We hear it and somewhere inside know that it’s music, but we don’t pick up on the words, the melody or tempo. We never stop our talking or doing whatever it is we’re doing long enough to recognize where the music is trying to take us. It is nothing more than noise to us.
But parakupto, which means look intently into, is very different. Imagine a man, woman and child on a quest for treasure buried deep in a forest. The man looks up to Heaven, talking without end of their need for a map. The woman looks at the trees, plotting a course around what could stand in their way.
Ah, but the child. For hours he searches through the roots and leaves until at last he finds a hole dug in the soft earth. Intent on his mission, he bends over, leaning far inside. His eyes adjust to the light, and there, within easy reach, he finds the prize. That’s parakupto! That’s the kind of listening we need. No constant talking or chosen distractions. But real effort to find and understand.
Solomon once wrote that when we call out for insight and understanding, searching for them as though they are hidden treasure, we could understand the fear of the LORD, find the knowledge of God, and know what is right and just and fair – every good path. (Proverbs 2:3-9) But he also pointed out that before any of this can occur, God places a requirement on each of us.
If you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding… (Proverbs 2:1-2) No filters. No conditions on what we will accept from Him. No reply, Subject of message not allowed. Only the response that declares, We will listen, we will seek understanding, we will do what you tell us, and we will be blessed in what we do.
The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. (Psalms 14:2) Where does He find you? Take care and be God’s,
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