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Archive for January, 2020

Learning to Listen

January 30th, 2020

Hearing and listening are dissimilar.

 “Do not merely listen to the Word . . Do what it says.” James 1:22 NIV.

My thoughts today are about, “learning to listen.”

When I was a talkative young teen, my Dad lovingly said, “Allen, do you think there may be a reason that God gave you two ears and only one mouth?” What a wise and practical dad. I was left with no rebuttal, and wise enough not to offer one.

Hearing is a natural and valuable ability. Listening is a chosen response and fitting prelude to obedience. What parent has not questioned a distracted child with the  words, “Did you hear me?” Your assumption is this. If the child hears their parent, they should respond with acknowledgement and prompt obedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience in disguise. That is harmful in human relationships, but especially damaging in your relationship with God.

Children learn to talk in the early months of their life. For many of us, it was quite a few more years before we learned the essential practice of listening. My parents would have testified to that fact. Hearing is a natural capability. Listening becomes a practiced skill. And that is a skill worth perfecting. Listening is the entry to learning.

The Old Testament introduces a young boy, Samuel, who would become one of Israel’s greater prophets and counselor to King David. Samuel was a young boy serving in the Temple. He is introduced at a time in Israel’s history described as, “Word from the Lord was rare in those days, and visions infrequent.” 1 Samuel 3:1 NAS.

While asleep in the Temple, the young Samuel heard his name called, and assumed it must be the elderly Eli, national leader and revered prophet, calling for him. Again, and again, the Lord called to Samuel and each time he ran to Eli. Finally, Eli advised young Samuel that if he heard the voice again, he was to simply respond, “speak Lord, your servant hears.”

Listening is an art to be practiced and a skill worth perfecting. Hearing assumes obedience will follow. What a model for your spiritual life. Hearing and listening are dissimilar. There may be little wrong with your hearing, but a lot can be lacking with your listening. Improve that skill. Success awaits your learning to discriminate in what you hear and learn to listen well when you do so. Solomon advised, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” Proverbs 19:20 NIV. That is Godly counsel still today. When my Dad would ask, “Allen, did you hear me,” I knew he was checking my obedience not my hearing. Listening is an art to be practiced and a skill worth perfecting. Read James 1:22 NIV.

A Godly and elderly man in the leadership of our church once explained to me, “Pastor, I do not hear as well as I once did, so I am learning to listen better.” Those are the words of a wise man. Though spoken years ago, his words continue to challenge me. I want that to be truer in my relationship with God, and in practical ways with my daily interactions with family and friends.

My prayer for you today is to listen well to what is worth hearing.

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Devotionals

Grace is Enough

January 17th, 2020

Life is not fair, but God is.

“My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

My thoughts and comments today are that, “grace is enough.”

Sooner or later, every parent hears the anguish over something their child views to be unfair. Maybe we parents have felt that as well because someone, or the world in general, seems to have been less than fair.

Across more than fifty years of ministry, I have heard a lot of good people question  moments that seemed unfair. Jesus knows and understands. In pain on the cross, even Jesus cried out to His Father, “Why have You forsaken Me?” Nothing was fair about Calvary. On the cross, a sinless Savior suffered and died for your sin and mine.

”Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 NIV. Consider this. Did anyone promise you an easy life? People experience trouble they neither caused nor deserved. Difficulties observe no respect of persons.

Talk about unfair. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18 NIV. God makes struggles redemptive. As a young teen, My Dad taught me a simple truth about the character of God. When I complained that something or someone was not fair, my dad simply assured me that, “Life is not always fair, but God is always just!” My Dad was right; God’s Word and righteous character are sure and true.

Perplexing circumstances neither invalidate the righteous character of God nor the truth of His promises. Jesus spoke plainly, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 6:33 NIV. Here is the simple truth. Life will not always be easy nor always seem fair. Of course, you and I would prefer ease and comfort. But growth and strength occur amid challenges. Steadfastness of faith produces growth in Godliness.

Truth creates enlargement. What you learn from God’s Word and His righteous character builds assurance. Life can be more difficult because of choices you or someone else have made that turn matters in directions God would not have chosen for you. Because of the fallen nature of the world around you, bad stuff can happen even to good and Godly people.

The painful question at such times is, “Where is God?” Read the Psalms. David wrote  honestly about the distresses common to all. Every time David experienced distress he discovered a new measure of God’s loving sufficiency. God’s love, grace, and power are never diminished by current happenstance. Things of the moment are not always as God designed or desires them to be.

But believe this, “We know that to those who love God, who are called according to His plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.” Matthew 8:28 JBPhillips. Look for that pattern for good. In such moments look to God and His Word and embrace His good will. “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 NIV. His will is good, and good for you.

Even in uncertainty, God will give you peace. His grace can give you needed relief with room to breathe and believe again. His power will push back the realities that press too tightly upon you. Our Mighty God will provide time and place where you will regroup and recover.

Life is not fair, but God is righteous and just. Life is not easy, but God’s grace is ample.  Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV. Paul prayed for every follower of Jesus, ”That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him . .  strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power.” Read Colossians 1:9-11 NKJ. His grace is more than ample.

My prayer for you today is that you will be strengthened in God’s Word.

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Devotionals