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From the Blog

The Listening Life, Part Three
May 05, 2016

(this is part three of a three part blog. Go here to begin the series)

We are created to be God-listeners. What is more remarkable to me and even more awesome to consider, is that God listens to us. In fact, He is a God who bows down and listens to us. Ps. 86:1 David prays, “Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help.” In our imagination we can see the Master of the Universe bending his neck so the servant David can speak into His ear. God is a God who listens! Adam McHugh in The Listening Life put it this way, “Listening is not something that becomes necessary for God only after the world is created. Listening is who God is. In God’s very being, communication does not move unilaterally but flows back and forth and around the three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The triune nature of God puts listening right at the center of the universe. God is love, and love requires listening.

The two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. If we are called to love, and if love requires listening, we need to become God-listeners.

We all know that the best way to get to know another person is by listening to them. The more we listen, the more we know about them. It’s in listening that we gain access to their mind, discover who they are and begin to understand their heart.

And just as this is true with the relationships in our lives---listening to God, is the only way we will truly know Him, too. Yet, in our prayers, we do most of the talking. Listening is an afterthought. Prayer without listening is a one-sided conversation. I imagine if we could sit at the feet of Jesus this morning, we would be far more interested in listening to what He had to say, than monopolizing the conversation.

If God loves us enough to listen; maybe we should love enough to listen, too. And that brings me back to the beginning of my quest. Perhaps praying without ceasing is continually listening. Listening to the whispers of God as I’m reading His Word. Keeping a soft heart, so I don’t develop spiritual deafness; listening to Scriptures so I learn to recognize God’s voice; immersing myself in a listening community; and finding God not just on the mountain tops but in the walking in between. In a world that has fallen from a natural listening relationship with God, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to reopen our ears---for He helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us we know not what to pray (Rom 8:26). The Scriptures also give us examples of God listening to the contrite, the humble, the poor, the sincere…and it seems that God’s ear is inclined towards those who are listeners themselves.

I would contend that prayer without listening is not truly prayer. I took an unscientific survey of our men’s and women’s Bible study groups. The elders were also included when I asked them to describe in a few words What is Prayer? 

From the survey results, most of us have approached prayer the way I did. Thessalonians 5:16-18…not only tells us it is God’s will for us to pray without ceasing. This command is sandwiched between His will for us to rejoice always, and His will for us to give thanks in all circumstances. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I wonder how our relationship with God would be---how He would change us---how much better we would be at loving Him and loving others---if we approached prayer with a listening life. Maybe we should reverse our prayer priority and adopt more of a ratio of 20% praying and 80% listening. Missionary and prayer warrior Andrew Murray said, “Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue; God’s voice is its most essential part. Listening to God’s voice is the secret of the assurance that He will listen to mine.

From the Blog

The Listening Life, Part Two
May 04, 2016

(This is the second part in a series. Go here for the first part.)

We fail to listen, and yet one of our deepest, intimate longings is to have someone listen to us. We all long to be heard…and therapy offices are filled with people who are not being listened to in their most important relationships. In fact David Augsburger, a pastoral counseling professor at Fuller Theological Seminary says, “that being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable”.  I wonder how our relationships would change…how we might change….if we approached every situation…every relationship with the intention of listening first.

It’s not that we can’t hear----maybe it’s just that our ears are distracted by God-other voices. I heard a story once of two men walking down a busy street in New York City. In the midst of horns blaring, people bustling, and subways whirling, one of the men said, “Aren’t the birds signing beautifully today.” The other man exclaimed, “What birds! How can you hear anything in this chaos?” To that the first man replied, “You can hear what your ears are trained to hear.” And he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of coins. As he let them fall to the sidewalk, several people passing by turned their heads and paused to search the pavement.” Though seeking material things might not be my biggest distraction or yours, certainly some other earthly treasure blocks our listening.

I guess at least for me, I know I need to learn how to listen better, so I can learn how to love more. I want to be a story-hearer and not just a story-teller. I want to find an internal quiet and stillness that will open me up to being changed. I want to become a better God-listener, so I can become more like the image-bearer I was intended to be.

Several years ago as I was reading through Thessalonians, I wrote this thought in the margin of my Bible. It is God’s will for me to pray without ceasing. How am I supposed to that? (Thess. 5:16-18). I remember asking several of you what “praying without ceasing” looked like in your life, and wondered how that was possible with all of the disruptions we have in our everyday world. I read books on prayer, read great theologians who studied prayer, and finally took several classes at Moody. I came to the conclusion that praying without ceasing had a lot to do with listening.

Turning back to the Scriptures we hear Paul tell the Romans that “merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. (Rom. 2:13). James tells us that followers of Christ should “prove themselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers” (James 1:22). One day on the Mount near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus tells His disciples how they should live, how they should treat others; how they should pray; and how to journey through this life—and at the end of this Sermon (Mathew 5-7) He tells them that if they failed to hear His Words and to do them, they would be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matt. 7:26). Obviously, we see from these examples that hearing is not enough.

The NET Bible translates the idiom “listen to the voice” to mean “obey.” In fact, the English word we translate as obedience literally means “listening from below”. Obedience is a deep listening, a listening of the whole person, a hearing with our ears and with our heart that leads to action. Howard Hendricks, a great theologian explained that listening and obedience are so intimately linked that “Biblically speaking, to hear and not to do is not to hear at all.”

From the Blog

The Listening Life, Part One
May 03, 2016

This morning I wanted to share a few thoughts about listening…which is a bit ironic because I’ve discovered I’m not very good at.  Until recently, if you had asked me to rate my listening skills, I would have given myself a high mark. I generally remember conversations and facts that I hear. And when I’m listening to someone, I know to look them in the eye, and lean towards them and nod so they know I’m hearing…But to be honest, all the while I often have a few of my own random thoughts bouncing around in my head...and that’s not truly listening. Sometimes with the chaos in my life…I don’t hear God very well either.

Psychology professor David Brenner says that a major obstacle to growth in our listening abilities is that most of us already think we’re good listeners….so I’m going out on a limb here, because maybe a few of you are like me.

Listening is the first of our senses to develop….and perhaps the last to go when we die. While still in our mother’s womb, we began to hear sounds at 18 weeks….and although I could not find any scientific research to substantiate this, hospice workers and healthcare professionals, and from my own personal experience, I believe that people have the ability to hear almost until their heart stops beating.

Listening comes first in Scriptures. In the beginning was the Word…and somehow the unformed and chaotic universe we read about in Genesis had the ability to hear, because its first action is to listen to the Voice that pierces the darkness. God commands light and the cosmos hears and obeys, and through its acts of listening, order and harmony replace the watery abyss. Six days into the making of this listening world, God creates the first humans, and their original act is to hear the blessing to be fruitful and multiple. Humans were created to be image-bearers and God-listeners.

Throughout the pages of Scripture we see that humans are directed to be listeners. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Dt. 6:4). Jesus called---and the fisherman heard and dropped their nets to follow. We become disciples by hearing, too---for when we heard His call, didn’t our hearts burn within us. Paul reminds us in Romans that hearing must come before faith (Romans 10:17). James tells us to “be quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19).  And the wisdom of Proverbs teaches us to listen before we say a word (Prov. 18:13).

Yet somewhere along the way we have violated God’s order of things. We speak volumes, and listen in snippets. We speak our minds; we interrupt others because we know we are right, or because we know what they’re going to say before the words leave their mouth. We tell God what to give rather than asking what He wants to give….and we fill our life with chaos and projects and lean on our own understanding until our hearts are hard and our ears can’t hear God’s whisper which floats through the Universe. We were born to listen…but have lost the listening life.

Come back tomorrow for part two!

From the Blog

Bible Reviews: NIV Sequin and Beautiful Word editions
Mar 24, 2016

NIV Sequin Bible

This fun and attractive Sequin Bible includes the complete text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV) with a cover design that is full of sparkle and shine. Girls can express their style wherever they go!

Beautiful Word NIV Bible:

Be drawn into God s Word through a fresh, creative expression of the beautiful words of God. Crafted on high-quality paper and balanced with inspiring full-color art and blank space, the NIV Beautiful Word Bible will encourage a deeper and more authentic quiet time.

With 500 verses illustrated to help you see the rich diversity of stories, characters, prophecies, rewards, and hope contained within Scripture, you will discover wisdom to sustain you in every season, drawing you deeper into God s life-changing and inspired Word. Also featured are wide margins and high-quality paper for personal notes, journal entries or artwork.


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