You gotta be diligent when discerning which voice to listen to.

It’s not as simple as, “Was it God, or just my imagination?” Because God can speak through your imagination.

It’s not as simple as, “Was it God, or just a person?” Because God can speak through people. He does it all the time. I’m counting on it, in fact. It’s why I preach. I’d hang up my spurs if I thought it was just me up there at the pulpit, blahblahblah-ing every Sunday. No, I believe that as I let God get a hold of me through scripture, my words can become his. Or at least some of them. Enough of them to make a difference in people’s lives.

And people make a difference in mine. A precious soul approached me after today’s sermon and felt prompted to say, “This advent series was the best one I’ve ever heard.” Which touches me deeply, not because my sermons are at the top of her particular sermon slush pile but because the look in her eyes when she said it spoke volumes. It said, “I’ve been touched deeply. God has used you in my life.” Or the newcomer who came forward at the end of one of the services to light the advent candle. I’d asked for a volunteer who felt the message had spoken to them personally. About being overlooked by God. Every step he took that day spoke to me. Affirmed the direction I’d taken that morning. He was worth it. Or the woman today who grabbed me in the foyer at the coffee bar and crushed me in a hug bigger than her giant smile while whispering, “Thank-you.”

I don’t know if you’d ever thought of this, but what we pastors do with what people say about us can literally make or break us. The affirmation, the compliments, the blessings — these can all be gifts from heaven that we ache to receive. Or they can be pride-propping flesh candy we relish too much, too long, too late.

Apparently Corrie-Ten-Boom would say, “Thank-you,” to each affirmation she received. Each one was a flower to her soul. And then, at the end of each day, she’d get on her knees and present the bouquet to God. “This is rightfully yours,” she’d pray, or something like that. Amen. So Jesus, for the blessings I received today, here is my bouquet. This is rightfully yours. I love you. Amen.