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Listening Is More Than Hearing

November 7th, 2018

Attentive listening prompts obedience  

“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself.” James 1:22 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,

“Listening is more than hearing.”

My Dad expected obedience. With him, obedience was the norm. If I did not respond accordingly, he would kindly ask if I heard him. He rightly assumed that if I heard him, obedience would be my response. My Dad never threatened me with, “Obey me or else.” My success was his highest hopes for my life. His love was generous and steadfast. His expectations were reasonable and clear.

I regret the times my dad needed to ask, “Allen, did you hear me?” Sometimes, it seems I can still hear his voice when I need reminding that obedience is the best way forward. When there was an issue, the problem was never about my ability to hear; it was always about my willingness to obey. My Dad’s expectation was that if I were truly listening to him, I would hear him clearly and correctly, and I would respond obediently. And I would obey him promptly and completely. He was right to expect that, as is God.

Attentive listening and prompt obedience are two things essential and invaluable for your success in life. Here are two practical realities. You must do more than just listen. You have to obey. If you do not do more than listen, you will not understand what God is saying? And if you don’t understand, how can you obey completely? The Bible says, “These blessings shall come on you . . if you will hearken to the voice of the Lord.” Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14 NKJ. Obedience releases unexpected blessings. The New Testament seems to echo, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself.” James 1:22 NKJ.

Why do we entertain so many voices, as well as our own inner voice of ideas and opinions? Why would you and I allow meaningless noise to drown out the gentle and essential voice of the Holy Spirit? Why would we listen to voices which deceive, mislead, or distract?

When God spoke to the young Samuel, his response was simple and honest, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10. Samuel placed himself in the posture of a servant prepared to obey whatever God said. Should we do anything other than that? Samuel’s attention and recognition of God’s voice implies that he was listening in order to obey whatever God said. And God had a lot to tell him because the young Samuel was willing to listen when others did not.

You would like to know your future, but you cannot apart from God. Life is lived one day at a time. Ever wonder what God is longing to tell you about what lies ahead? Would you breathe easier today, and worry less about tomorrow, if you knew that God has everything under His control?

When you listen with a predisposition to obey, you will hear the truth-telling whisper of the Spirit in your heart assuring you that, “The Lord goes before you and will be with you . . do not be afraid.” Read Joshua 1:7-9 NIV. Live with a heart to know and obey God; doing so allows you to live with blessed assurance and complete confidence.

My prayer for you today is that you will live confidently and obediently.

Christian Communications 2018

Website and archives: allenrandolph.com

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The Will of God

March 23rd, 2016

“That you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Colossians 4:12 NKJV.

Lack of obedience impairs your ability to hear from God.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “the will of God.”

God’s will is not secondary to anything, but primary to everything. “[God] works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” Ephesians 1:11 NIV. Through obedience, God includes you in the accomplishment of His will in His world, as well as His will in your life. In his letter, Paul clarified the supreme priority of God’s will, “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Read Colossians 1:9-13 NIV.

The will of God holds incomparable, personal benefits. Paul continues, describing unsurpassed results when the will of God inhabits your heart and mind: (1) living worthily, (2) pleasing to God, (3) abounding fruitfully, (4) a growing knowledge of God, (5) strengthening in His power, (6) being patient and enduring, (7) rejoicing and grateful, and (8) sharing a Godly inheritance. The Bible describes God’s will in these words – “His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 NIV.

I have found this to be true, “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear a word you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson 1802-88. Jesus told a story of a father and two sons. Their father asked each of them to work in his vineyard. One son refused his father, then reconsidered and did as his father asked. The other son readily agreed to do what his father asked of him, but neither started nor completed the task. Read Matthew 21:28-31 NKJV. Jesus asked his listeners, as I ask you, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” The answer should be obvious. Obedience is not what you say you will do; obedience is altogether what you do. You and I are to be defined as, “bond servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” Read Ephesians 6:5-8 NKJV.

More than once, I remember my Dad asking, “Allen, did you hear me?” He was not doubting my physical ability to hear. He was accurately questioning my willingness and intention to obey. Hearing presupposes obedience. When King Saul disobeyed the specific instructions of God, the prophet Samuel asked him, “Which does the Lord prefer: obedience or offerings and sacrifices? It is better to obey Him than to sacrifice the best . . to Him.” 1 Samuel 15:22 TEV. For obedience, God offers no option, accepts no substitute.

“God listens to the Godly man who does His will . . The man who does the will of God lives forever” John 9:31/1 John 2:17 NIV. Maybe you struggle to know God’s will at times. Maybe you have not recognized God’s voice or have not listened carefully enough. Or maybe you have procrastinated doing what God has spoken previously. Lack of obedience impairs your ability to hear anything further from God. God will not move forward in your life when you have unfinished business with His will.

Today, I pray for you to do “the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” from your heart.

Christian Communications 2016 www.facebook.com/everydaylife.allenrandolph

EDL hear the Word

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Disciplined Listening

October 3rd, 2014

Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God.” John 8:47 NLT.

Hearing is an ability; listening is an art.

My thoughts and comments today are about “disciplined listening.”

Of all the skills essential to be learned, listening is of singular importance among those. Most of us are not hearing impaired, but more easily listening impaired. There is a vast difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is an ability; listening is an art. Disciplined listening is both a social art and spiritual skill of valuing others and their words.

When in his eighties, Holman, a dear friend who served on our church leadership said to me, “Pastor, I do not hear as well as I once did, so I am learning to listen a lot more closely.” Realizing his natural and spiritual limitations and unwilling to risk missing what God or others would say to him, he applied himself to the practice of disciplined listening. People also suffer from selective hearing. You hear what and when you want to hear. Children acquire such a skill very early, and as adults, many perfect it even further. Parents recognize it in children, teens, and others but seldom in themselves. Friends notice it of other friends, but seem oblivious to their own tendencies. God knows the tendency resides in us all.

Jesus said, “Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God.” John 8:47 NLT. A listening heart and an obedient life is a trait of our Heavenly Father’s family. On multiple occasions, Jesus admonished His disciples, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.” Not listening to others may be unwise; unwilling to listen to God can ruin your life. In honest transparency, ask yourself, “Do I have a willingness to listen and obey what God wants to say to me? For those who love God enough to listen with their hearts, He expresses His will for their prompt obedience, not thoughtful approval.

I recognize this as a personal hazard, especially to people in places of authority and leadership, or for those of us who have pastoral/teaching/church leadership responsibilities. We learn to talk to others – a lot – teaching, instructing, directing, encouraging, counseling, problem solving, motivating, challenging, and sometimes correcting. It is easy to assume the habit of always doing the talking, and too seldom submitting to the discipline of listening.

When I was a boy – at one of those many moments when I required my Dad’s parental correction and instruction – he opined, “Allen, maybe there’s a reason God gave you two ears and just one mouth. It’s best that you learn to listen twice as much as you talk.” I am not sure about my Dad’s theology on the Creator’s intention of design; however, I am sure I have not yet mastered the principle successfully but I argue with neither his practical wisdom nor my need for his truth. My Dad knew more about disciplined listening than I realized. And I still need to learn more about that spiritual skill even now.

With God-given wisdom, Solomon observed, “He who restrains his words has knowledge . . even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise. When he closes his lips he is considered prudent.” Proverbs 17:27-28 NAS.  With both wisdom and wit, someone observed, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. I guess the best option is: listen better and speak less.

Today, my prayer for you is that you practice listening well to others, and always to God.

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Inattentive

November 4th, 2013

“Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” James 1:22 NKJV.

Inattention to God and His Word is simply detrimental to spiritual life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “inattentive.”

By design, God created you with five, primary senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. In one way or another, all of those contribute significantly to your ability to navigate the physical world. They are complementary and each have valuable potential to serve you. See Proverbs 20:12 NIV. The capacity for sight and hearing are not synonymous with the willingness to see and hear, although they should be. As my friend, Holman, aged, his hearing grew more difficult. In a leadership meeting, he said, “Pastor, I don’t hear as well as I once did, so I am learning to listen more closely.” Be wise enough to watch and listen to God, as though life depends on it; it does.

Jesus described a group of people who had the full capacities of those physical senses but made a choice not to implement them profitably. “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah . .” Matthew 13:13 NIV. Does that ever describe you? Physically, their senses were unimpaired; by choice, they became spiritually impaired. That’s just sad. They were neither blind nor deaf; they were simply deliberate in their refusal to see or hear. They could see, but preferred not to see what they did not want to see; they could hear, but chose not to listen to what they did not want to hear.

Long before, Isaiah predicted the result of such inattention, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” Vs. 14. Is this why many Christians are Biblically illiterate and spiritually inattentive? Isaiah also diagnosed the cause of this spiritual ailment. “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.” Vs. 15. Inattention to God and His Word is simply detrimental to spiritual life.

Here is what I have discovered about God: He can restore sight to blind eyes, but He will not open closed eyes that refuse to see; He can restore hearing to deaf ears, but will not open closed ears which do not wish to listen. Your ability to listen and perceive diminishes with your unwillingness to hear distinctly or see clearly.

God promises the blessings of understanding and healing to anyone whose heart is open and responsive to His Word at all times. “. . they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. Blessed are your eyes because they see, and you ears because they hear.” Vs. 15-17. But God expects still more. Obedience is God’s expectation.

Throughout my lifetime, I desire to be watching diligently for what God is doing and listening carefully to all God is saying. “Receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves . . he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:21-25 NKJV. You have a spiritual accountability to know and obey God’s Word. Treat His Word as priceless, imperishable, and indispensable. Read Job 23:11-12 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you love God’s Word and follow it diligently.

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Listening

September 24th, 2013

“Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9 NIV.

The noise of surroundings and busyness of schedules impair listening.

My thoughts and comments today are about “listening.”

You live in an increasingly noisy, busy world filled with a myriad of voices that will not be ignored. You can’t help but hear them. They make themselves heard, no matter how much you wish to avoid them.  Eventually, the noise of surroundings and busyness of schedules impair your carefulness to listen closely and hear accurately. That is unfortunate, especially to your spiritual life.

Hearing and listening are similar, not identical. Hearing is a natural, physical capacity, whereas listening is a skill acquired and practiced intentionally. Learning to recognize and respond to God’s voice is vital to spiritual life and growth. Jesus said, “The words that I speak are spirit and life . . man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” John 6:63/Matthew 4:4. Peter seemed to understand this when he answered Jesus, “To whom shall we go, for You alone have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

Give importance to hearing from God. God’s voice is seldom heard when you are too busy to listen or preoccupied with lesser things.

Be purposeful about listening to God. God may speak to you through Scripture, or words of a friend, or a circumstance of life, or through a song or sermon, but always as a gentle voice in your heart.

Take time to listen for God. You give time and attention to what you consider personally beneficial. Nothing else that engages your time is as beneficial as listening for God. Read Psalm 1:2-3 NIV.

Quiet your heart to listen to God. Living in a noisy, busy world is spiritually challenging. Every other voice and human activity can diminish the clarity of His voice in your heart. Lower the volume of turmoil around you; slow the hectic pace of unrelenting busyness. God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Read Psalm 46:1-3/9-11 NKJV. With a quiet heart before God, listen closely; you will hear God’s voice whatever the surrounding circumstance or chaos.

Listen with intention to obey. In the New Testament, Paul related the words, “obedience and disobedience,” to the words, “to hear under/hupokoe,“ or “to hear alongside/parakoe.” See Romans 8:19 NKJV. Submitting what you think or feel under what God says empowers obedience. Equating what you think or feel alongside what God says enables disobedience. How you hear has everything to do with your response to God. Listen to God carefully, as though everything depends on that; it does!

The young child, Samuel, illustrates the posture and practice of listening to God. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening . . and the Lord said to Samuel . . as Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and everything Samuel said was wise and helpful.” Read 1 Samuel 3:1-11 NIV/19 NLT. When God’s words matter to you, God values and inspires your words on His behalf. Samuel identified himself to God as, “Your servant,” implying his attention with intention to obey. Obedience is the prerequisite for hearing God accurately. God does not volunteer to disclose His will, if obedience is not your intention.

My prayer for you today is that you have a heart to listen and ability to hear.

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