Listen! Listen

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I grew up in a delightful family. My home was filled with lots of love. I remember spirited games of chess and canasta and paddleball (think racquetball on an outdoor court). We enjoyed good food, frequent guests, and plenty of laughter. Some of the laughter was over the same jokes enjoyed time after time.

When a new and uninitiated guest joined us, my dad would ask, “What’s that coming out of your nose?” After a moment of embarrassed confusion on the part of our visitor, he would continue, “Air! There’s air coming out of your nose!”

Then sometimes he’d say, “Listen! Listen!” After an awkward pause, he would add, “Somebody’s saying ‘Listen!’” We always laughed.

The other day, as I was thinking about my dad’s funny lines, the one about listening struck me in a new way. Taken more seriously, it comes out this way:

Listen! Listen! Because there’s always someone out there practically begging that you listen!

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately. Some of my hurting friends need me most as a prayer partner and a listening ear. In fact, I often have to remind myself that they need my ear but not my mouth, my empathy but not my advice.

Pride can lead us away from the smaller tasks the Holy Spirit hands us. Becoming a compassionate listener isn’t very glamorous. In fact, it’s a ministry of the nearly invisible. It falls into the “He must increase; I must decrease” part of the Christian walk. But it is powerful. It is a silent language of love. Today I want to encourage you to allow a part of your busy life to be eaten up by the gift of an attentive ear, because if you listen, listen, you will almost certainly hear someone crying out, “Listen!”

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God Uses Our Goofs

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 “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”(Philippians 2:13).

Do you ever worry about whether or not you’ve “missed God” and, despite your best efforts, made a choice opposite of his will? While we always hope to “get it right,” we ought to remember that God is big enough to use our goofs. Jonah is a great example. In Jonah chapter one, he chickened out on his divine instructions and hopped a boat in the opposite direction. What happened? Among other things, the sailors on that ship “greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him” (Jonah 1:16). Jonah lost his courage, but souls were still saved.

A little further on in the book, Jonah finally delivered the message he had tried to ignore. The people of Nineveh turned from their wicked ways, and the predicted destruction never came to pass. Was Jonah delighted that a city was saved? Nah. He was mad at God for sparing lives. Barely obedient and toting a rotten attitude, Jonah was still used by God. So maybe we shouldn’t be too worried that, in our human attempts to discern God’s will, we might mess up his plan. If God really wants to stop us and send us in a different direction, he is well able to do so. (Remember that whale?)

When we’re feeling clueless as to God’s direction, waiting isn’t a bad idea. Sometimes, though, we have to make decisions right away, and after prayer can only do our best to follow his leading, trusting that he’ll use our efforts. When waiting is an option, we have instructions like these to focus on in the meantime:

  • “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3b-4).
  • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
  • “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right” (James 2:8).

The Lord guides our steps and blesses our obedience. So step on out there, do what you think he has called you to do, and be encouraged. He’ll bless your obedience and cover your goofs!