Artistic Wonder

Artistic Wonder

By Pat Knight

Flourishing, cursive handwriting, such as the art of calligraphy, fascinates those of us with barely decipherable penmanship. Consider how God created the world, its inhabitants, and its surroundings with the flourish of His spoken words. Creation was not merely an isolated week of exuberant creativity; perpetual artistic evidence of God’s miracles have continued for centuries; rampant affirmation that our sovereign Lord is a miracle-worker. Expect the unexpected from an extravagant, extraordinary God! Open your eyes to experience awe-inspiring wonder, initiating commitment to promote God’s glory; to place hope and trust in His unfailing, flourishing love and grace.

Daily sunsets splash the expanse of the western sky with flaming hues of orange, purple, red, yellow, and pink, swirling and swishing across the blue backdrop in a variety of configurations, blending into a blazing neon curtain pulled down at the close of the day. “I am the Lord and there is no other; apart from me there is no God … from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me” (Isaiah 45:5-6).

The headlong crash of a waterfall from magnificent heights originating on mountain ledge smashes into limpid pools of water below, illuminating sparkling rainbow prisms as the sun reflects off water droplets to expose glittering diamonds suspended in mid-air.

Because deciduous trees are seasonally stripped of leaves, the branches that were starkly exposed during winter usher in springtime with barely discernable green growth. Each leaf will mature to the perfect size and shape for specific species, affording sheltered nurseries for the avian population, with millions of minuscule flapping fans to cool the environment, providing shade for all life.

A perfect, crescent rainbow with equal bands of the color spectrum arches across the sky in a convex semi-circle, astonishing observers as we bow to the supreme architect and painter of world wonders.  “I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. “All the stars are at my command” (Isaiah 45:12, NLT).

Millions of twinkling stars illuminate an endless ebony sky, confirming our perceived individual insignificance in a magnificently vast universe filled with awesome creations engineered by a loving God.  Unsurpassed dazzling beauty highlights His greatness, announcing God’s glory in the cosmos. “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power” (Psalm 147:4-5).

The unrivaled marvel of a newborn infant expands its lungs for the first time, cooing and slurping nourishment, flailing its limbs and punching air with clenched fists. The baby is perfect in form, its skin as soft and as squeezable as marshmallows. The miniature person is God’s unique handiwork, a gift from the Creator of all life. King David admitted: “‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it’” (Psalm 139:13-14, NLT).

God created humans with free wills, allowing Adam and Eve the freedom to make the consequential decision to disobey Him. From that moment God prioritized forgiveness, dispensing mercy and grace to His human masterpiece. God probes deeply, searching a person’s heart for thoughts, intents, and desires. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God explores inner character traits that reveal our desire to communicate and fellowship with Him.

Our heavenly Father is intentionally and intimately involved in the lives of believers. As children of the King, we are royalty, enlisted as citizens of the kingdom of God, empowered with His strength, and enabled to possess the attributes of Jesus. There is no limit to the gifts with which our Lord infuses our hearts and minds, entitling us to live in spiritual victory regardless of physical circumstances.

God’s Son, incarnated on earth, experienced the entire realm of human relationships, challenges, temptations, and suffering. The sinless, holy life of the Son of God was crucified on a cross reserved for the most depraved Roman criminals. During that heinous event, God’s perfect prophecies for His Son and the world were fulfilled. The Messiah’s death and resurrection accomplished redemption of sin for all believers. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6, NLT). Acknowledging God’s perfect plan for His Son’s sacrifice and His ultimate triumph, why would we doubt God’s astonishing design for each of our lives?

The Lord of the universe desires to maintain an intimate relationship with His creatures. Personally undeserved, God’s grace requires a commitment of faith. Frustration ensues when human efforts fail to earn His grace by good works, for it is a free gift, revealing God’s overwhelming love and mercy. “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). His pouring action depicts an unrestrained, copious flow, a deluge of love, compassion, and spiritual victory surrounding us at all times. Obedience is our worshipful expression of gratitude to God for His incredible gift of life itself.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
—1 John 3:1

Whatever God creates, promises, or performs is marvelous, deserving of glorious praise offered for His characteristics of power, faithfulness, forgiveness, and majesty. “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3-4).

God’s creations are a testament to His monumental creativity and beauty. As His disciples, may we glorify His sovereignty, righteousness, and His infinite love and grace by worshipping the splendor of His majesty. Let us glorify our Creator with excessive joy and praise. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:3).

Astounding wonder and heartfelt obedience
are manifestations of love for Almighty God!

The Power of Prayer

Prayer is very powerful. God loves to hear us pray, and in fact, we are instructed to pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 

For the next few weeks, I will be talking and sharing articles about the importance of prayer. The quote in the image above is from Pat Knight, who shared it with me in an email a few years ago when we were talking about prayer. 

Simply put, prayer is an ongoing conversation with God.

There are many things we can pray about. We can praise God in our prayers. We can thank Him for who He is, for His provision, and for His love, mercy, grace, and other attributes. We can just simply talk to Him about our day and tell Him how much we love Him, and we can ask Him for help with anything in our lives because nothing is to small for Him to handle.

Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us that Jesus, our great high priest, completely understands what we go through because He experienced the same things when He lived on earth as a human being:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,
Jesus the Son of God,
let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
 
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way,
just as we are—yet he did not sin.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,

so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please help us understand the importance of prayer because it is what You tell us to do. We long to be closer to You in every way, and we know that will happen as we learn the mighty power of prayer. Guide us through Your Spirit as we study this important part of being Your children. We trust in You in all things, and so we thank You in advance for what You will reveal to us in the coming weeks. We pray these things in the beautiful name of Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Savior. Amen.

Mature In Christ

I have exciting news to share with you about Pat Knight. She has been working on a new book of devotionals which should be published sometime this year. She is still pondering and praying about what the title will be, so I’ll be sure to keep you updated as I learn more. Pat is also the author of Rejoice! and Pure Joy, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, eBay and XulonPress.

Mature In Christ

By Pat Knight

One summer at the lake we experienced the sheer joy of observing two newly-hatched common loon babies under the tutelage of the adult pair. The interaction between parents and chicks provided no end of amusement and delight. The family of four swam by our shoreline with each baby hitching a ride on a parent’s back. We could sense the adults’ pride as they swam leisurely but cautiously near our Independence Day picnic area, seemingly to introduce their new family.

Initially the two newborn loon chicks were tiny brown puffballs, totally dependent on their parents for food, warmth, and protection. Daily as we noticed the parents nurturing and instructing their young, we were reminded of our relationship with our heavenly Father. A priest assured King David of God’s constant care. “‘I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you’” (Psalm 32:8). All of our thoughts and actions are known to our Lord.

It was both amazing and heart-warming to hear the adult loons tenderly cooing to their young. We were accustomed to their boisterous, eerie cries that pierced the night silence. With their chicks the adults displayed only gentleness and tenderness. When Jesus ministered on earth, He neither yelled nor screamed His message. His gentleness and patience were known by all. Likewise, we are reminded, “In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

The ritual of feeding in the loon family continued throughout the day. The adult dived to catch a minnow, carried it alive in its beak, then dropped the fish directly in front of its offspring. The chick attempted to retrieve its lunch before the small fish struggled to its freedom below the water’s surface. This process reoccurred until the chicks proved unsuccessful catching their lunch. The adult loon then recaptured the fish and placed it directly in the chick’s mouth. It was a thrill to discover the older chicks soon capable of diving and catching their own food independently.

The apostle Paul likened the initial time when we place our trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior to the nourishment requirements of an infant, who at first drinks only milk. He compared our spiritual growth and the need for progressively more sustenance with our physical growth. With greater understanding and maturity in our walk with Jesus, He eventually introduces solid spiritual food.

During the Israelites’ forty-year wilderness walk toward the Promised Land, God assumed the responsibility for feeding millions of His people. He miraculously provided daily food adequate to sustain each person. Dissatisfied, the Israelites wailed and complained about the monotony of the manna and the absence of meat. God heard their grumbling and mercifully sent quail for their evening meal. “‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God’” (Exodus 16:11-12).

God never gives up on His children, urging us to depend on Him for our daily needs. The apostle Paul reassured, “‘God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus’” (Philippians 4:19). God commands us to trust and obey Him, promising that our lives will overflow with His blessings.

When the loon chicks were newly hatched, we equated their diving attempts to submerging a ping pong ball. At first, it was an impossible feat; they were merely small balls of buoyant fluff. However, they persisted, and by their fourth day of life, they had mastered rudimentary diving skills.

Just as the loon chicks practiced and persisted until their tiny bodies were heavy enough to stay submerged, so too, God expects us to practice our Christian lifestyle until God’s ways are natural to us. “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:5-6). Our lives are testimonies to our beliefs.

The adult loons were fiercely protective of their young. Predators such as eagles, hawks, or humans pose great threats to an isolated loon chick. To divert attention away from the little ones in the face of danger, the adult loon performs a “penguin dance.” With their wings alternately folded vertically against its body or flailing, the parent walks on water while contorting and shrieking at the predator. If boaters or curiosity seekers are not wise enough to exit, the loon may dance until exhausted and perish attempting to protect its young.

Although God equips common loons with instinctive methods of protecting their young, He promises personal, unfailing protection to His own children. “The Lord watches over you. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:5a, 7-8). God not only protects us routinely, He also offers shelter during the sudden, unexpected storms of our lives. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

God provides practical analogies and lessons as we observe His creation, promising love, leadership, and protection in believers’ lives. This, then, is our response: “‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Loons provide natural object lessons, illustrating God’s constant parenting and grace for those who seek to follow and obey Jesus. Let us seek spiritual maturity, grasping the gifts God offers to cultivate Christlikeness in each of us.

When I’m dealing with disappointment…

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve shared one of my devotionals that was published in Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleThis particular devotional is included in the section titled “Prayers of Supplication.”

When I’m dealing with disappointment . . .

Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, 
but a sudden good break can turn life around. 
—Proverbs 13:12 MSG

 

Without counsel purposes are disappointed:
but in the multitude of counsellors they are established. 

—Proverbs 15:22 KJV

 

You heard their cries for help and saved them; 
they were never disappointed when they sought your aid. 
—Psalm 22:5 TLB

 

We know that all things work together for good for those who 
love God, who are called according to his purpose. 
—Romans 8:28 NRSV

 

Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad?
Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again 

praise him for his help. 
—Psalm 42:5 TLB

 

. . . I will pray.

My Loving Father,

If only I hadn’t gotten my hopes up, but I did—and now I feel so disappointed and discouraged. Sometimes I wonder if anything will ever work out for me. Everybody keeps telling me it’s just a little bump in the road, but it doesn’t feel like a bump to me. It feels as I’ve gone off the road completely.

I know I’m probably overreacting, and I also know that I probably wouldn’t be feeling this way right now if I had taken time to talk to You about this situation in the beginning. Would You have steered me in another direction? Or allowed me to move ahead for some higher purpose in my life? I’ll probably never have an answer to that. The point is that I didn’t give You a chance to help me see things from Your perspective.

Lord, take this disappointment I’m feeling and transform it into something positive—a reminder to seek Your guidance; a renewed sense of Your presence with me when things work out and when they don’t; and compassion for others when they feel hopeless and disappointed.

Thank You for being the God of second chances.

Amen.

There is no disappointment to those whose wills are 
buried in the will of God. 
—Frederick Faber


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC

10 Bible Reading Habits I’ve Learned from My Pastor

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

10 Bible Reading Habits
I’ve Learned from My Pastor

By Rachel Lehner

…hold fast to the word I preached to you… (1 Corinthians 15:2b)

A good sermon exhorts us to grapple with God’s Word preached, hold fast to its truth, and do what it commands. A preacher who places himself under Holy Scripture will present his teaching in a way the congregation can follow, to understand the text they hold on their laps.

10 Bible Reading Habits I’ve Learned from My Pastor’s Sermons

I have found my senior pastor to be exceptionally faithful in this regard. In recently reflecting on 15 years of sitting under his teaching, I’ve seen how his Word-based preaching has significantly impacted my personal Bible reading.

Here are 10 habits I have picked up from my pastor’s weekly sermons:

1. Slow down!

I’ve read the Beatitudes many times and thought I had mined all their treasures—until our church did a 17-week series on only 10 verses. My pastor’s high view of Scripture has challenged me to expect more from each verse and to slow down when I read my Bible.

2. Use Scripture to explain Scripture.

When seeking to understand the meaning of a word or verse, I’ve seen how important it is to interpret Scripture in light of itself. For example, I understood the word “blasphemy” to mean insulting or showing contempt for God. But my pastor used Mark 2:7 to explain Matthew 26:65, which defines “blasphemy” as claiming to be God. This makes the charge against Jesus before the priests all the more meaningful since Jesus was put to death for claiming to be God, the one crime for which Jesus could be rightfully convicted.

3. Expect glimpses of Christ outside the Gospels.

I likely would never have seen all the ways Joseph pointed further to Jesus Christ if it hadn’t been shown to me, but as I repeatedly saw this on Sunday mornings I started finding Christ throughout Scripture on my own. I found Jesus in the promised son who would deliver God’s people (Judges 13:3) and in the psalmist longing for a pledge of good (Psalm 119:122), among many other examples. As Pastor Colin has said, “The whole Bible is one story. It begins in a garden, ends in a city, and all the way through points us to Jesus Christ.”

4. Details are often more significant than we realize.

I’ve learned to ask questions of details that may seem insignificant in a passage. For example, why are we told that Jesus heals an official’s son in John 4? My pastor brought to our attention the many parallels to Pharaoh’s son who died in Exodus 12. He explained how this small, but significant, detail pointed to why grace is better than law, and why Jesus is better than Moses. Any time a verse gives specific details like the number of baskets in Mark 6 or repeats a phrase like “here I am” in Genesis 22, I want to look closely because I know the Spirit has preserved the text this way for a reason.

5. We have more in common with the original recipients than we think.

Read the rest here.

Kids and Kindness

Kids and Kindness 

By Pat Knight

The six-year old was staying overnight at his grandparent’s house. During the night the young man left his bedroom en route to the bathroom. He walked past his grandmother sound asleep on the couch. As he retraced his steps to his bedroom, he halted beside the couch. In hushed tones he spoke, “Nanny, Nanny, I didn’t flush ‘cause I didn’t want to wake you up.” Then, he trudged back to his bedroom, satisfied he had been thoughtful enough to prevent his Nanny from awakening! Meanwhile, Nanny was shaking her head in bewilderment. She wanted to laugh out loud, but in the silence of the night, there was no one awake to listen. She chuckled to herself and fell back to sleep, thanking God for her dear little grandson.

Under the rule of the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Israelites were an oppressed people in a foreign land. They were living as slaves in abject poverty, forced to build cities out of the bricks they made. Their captors were brutal and demanding. Though they were in bondage to Egypt, their numbers continued to grow. Their masters were fearful and threatened by their rising population. Several methods were tried in an attempt to squelch the rapid growth, but when all else failed, the Pharaoh issued a vicious executive order that every Hebrew newborn boy be thrown into the Nile River. (Exodus 1)

Jochebed was a godly Hebrew woman who gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but her great love for her son prevented her from announcing his birth to the authorities. So, she successfully hid him for three months. What a chance she was taking! The Egyptian soldiers regularly patrolled the Israelites’ living area for the sole purpose of confiscating baby boys.

When Jochebed realized she could no longer muffle the loud cries of her infant, she was not going to stand idly by while hateful murderers drowned her child. Jochebed worked tirelessly, fashioning a tightly woven ark out of bulrushes. Meticulously she daubed the exposed seams of papyrus with tar and pitch to prevent water seepage. Because Jochebed loved and trusted her God, He was merciful to her and gradually revealed His plan for saving her son.

Jochebed must have repeatedly rehearsed with her daughter, Miriam, her participation in the plan to save her infant brother. With tremendous faith, the infant’s mother placed him in a little sea-worthy, waterproof ark. It was Miriam’s responsibility to surreptitiously carry the precious bundle to the river. There she found a shallow area in the reeds where she stealthily eased the precious cargo into the water.

There were many dangers inherent in Jochebed’s plans: alligators roamed the waters of the Nile River, an Egyptian soldier could have intercepted Miriam, or the tiny ark could have floated away without discovery. However, faith prevailed. God’s plan was perfect, much larger and involving many more thousands of people than Jochebed could have imagined. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Jochebed was confident that her God would answer her prayers. With innocent faith, she became an important participant in world history.

Miriam closed the lid on her brother’s custom-made houseboat, secretly slipped it into the river, and waited. Soon, the royal participants in the drama arrived. Pharaoh’s daughter and her attendants went to the same secluded shallows of the river to bathe where Miriam had maneuvered the ark into the water. Abruptly, the princess spied the mysterious basket floating among the reeds and instructed her servant to fetch it. When the lid was opened, a beautiful baby was revealed. Although the princess immediately recognized the infant as Hebrew, “he was crying and she felt sorry for him” (Exodus 2:6).

Right on cue, Miriam emerged from hiding, asking Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” (Exodus 2:7). The princess agreed, ultimately offering the baby’s mother the opportunity to nurse the child and receive payment for her services. What an exceptional reward God granted Jochebed for her faithfulness! She was allowed to serve as surrogate mother to her own son during their bonding years. When her son grew older, Jochebed delivered him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him as her own

“She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water’” (Exodus 2:10).

God had promised His people delivery from slavery; this scene was but a small portion of the plan God chose to liberate nearly a million people. He had selected Moses prior to his birth as the leader of his people. It took many years for God to reveal His plan to Moses, but he eventually became God’s spokesman before Pharaoh, to plead for his countrymen’s release from slavery. 

From the time Moses was born to Hebrew slave parents, there was potential for his life’s plans to fail. Infant mortality was excessively high with soldiers drowning boys in the river. But, when God has a plan, He uses the most unlikely people in the most absurd situations to facilitate His purposes. We have proof that God intervened in the lives of His oppressed people in a miraculous way.

Pharaoh had every intention of eradicating the Israelite nation by attrition; drowning all newborn boys. He did not account for the sensitivity and weakness of his own daughter displayed when she opened Moses’ papyrus basket. She was unwittingly manipulated by God for His purposes. Moses was nurtured by the princess, nourished at the table of kings, educated in progressive Egyptian schools, and protected by their vast army. That baby grew up to save the nation of Israel—a foretaste of the baby of Bethlehem.

How history would have been altered forever if Jochebed had not obeyed her Lord and allowed Him to use her practical trust for His good purposes! God uses each of His believers throughout their lifetime to accomplish His will. God wants us, like Jochebed, to use our common sense, resourcefulness, and intelligence to serve Him. Then, believing that God will use His love and empower us to develop His plan, we march forward in faith, doing what we know God is directing us to do. 

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God. —Bob Pierce, Founder, World Vision

It is our privilege to respond to the issues that tug on the heart of God. His goals transform to our goals, His priorities become ours, and we develop passion for all of God’s projects. Then we will be prepared for use in accomplishing His goals. 

It was the squealing life of a forbidden Hebrew baby boy who wrenched the love from the heart of the princess. Even the grandchild who was so considerate of his Nanny spoke volumes of love and kindness with his simple act. With his extraordinary sensitivities, he, too, may someday fulfill God’s plan as he learns to trust in Him and give his life for God’s purposes. 

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8:2). God may speak to us through our children of lofty purposes we may not recognize in any other way. Let us seek to learn the same innocent and straightforward love children have for Jesus. It will greatly improve our faith and our lives.

Attentive Listening

Attentive Listening

By Pat Knight

Mary of Bethany, a sibling of Martha and Lazarus, possessed enviable listening skills. When Jesus visited their home, she sat at His feet with her rapt attention hanging on each of her Master’s words. Mary unabashedly worshipped Jesus, captivated by her Friend to the exclusion of all others present.

 On the same occasion when Mary and Martha prepared a dinner for Jesus and His disciples, Martha demanded. “‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” (Luke 10:40). To Martha’s surprise, the Lord commended Mary’s actions, tenderly replying, “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has shown what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42).

Both Mary and Martha loved their Lord, but Martha allowed distractions to divide her devotion. No doubt she wanted a delicious, perfectly presented dinner for her guests, straight from Martha Stewart’s handbook. But, it was Mary who displayed compassion, kneeling before Jesus, intently absorbing every word, noticing each gesture, studying His facial expressions, and discerning silent or spoken aspects of His conversation. Mary listened audibly and visually.

On that evening of dinner fellowship six days prior to Christ’s crucifixion, Mary poured a pint of expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet in anticipation of His upcoming sacrifice. She didn’t ask her Lord’s permission; she intuitively knew that Jesus would approve of her gracious act. Surrounded by men, Mary wasn’t intimidated. Loosening her long hair to wipe Jesus’ feet of excess oil displayed Mary’s humility; a respectable woman didn’t unbind her hair in public. Her submissive spirit was apparent; caring for feet was servant’s work. Mary’s actions spoke volumes. By anointing Jesus’ feet, she demonstrated that she understood Jesus’ teaching about His future death and burial far better than His disciples did.

Listening is an active art. It takes commitment to heed God’s words. To hear well, we must concentrate fully, not permitting distractions to eclipse our attention. Adequate listening skills allow us to know the will of our heavenly Father for our individual lives. We hear God speak to us through His Word as He communicates His love, commands, and our relationship to Him and to others.

God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me.
—Psalm 66:19-20

Prayer time without listening is simply a one-sided conversation, a monologue rather than a dialogue. “Love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life” (Deuteronomy 30:20). Prayer and praise, listening and love, complement one another as we interact with Jesus Christ in a personal relationship.

God no longer speaks audibly or in dreams to believers as was His custom in times past. Now the Holy Spirit interprets God’s messages and illuminates God’s written Word, making His personal guidance and wisdom available to us.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, the large crowd was listening to him with delight” (Mark 12:35a; 37b). When was the last time you listened to your Lord during prayer, from His Word, or while reading Christian literature, reacting with extreme satisfaction and great pleasure, the kind of attention Almighty God deserves?

Let us not miss the sovereign plans about which God desires to advise us through His Spirit. Live in anticipation of His words, confident that our two-way communication is functioning to full capacity. More than any other discernable sound in our world, yearn to recognize God’s soothing words. He provides power to persist toward the ultimate goal of spiritual victory as we listen, follow, and trust Him explicitly.

A father used a game of ball toss as an object lesson to instruct his son regarding a well-balanced conversation. For a while the two threw the ball back and forth, settling into a predictable rate. Then, the father dropped the ball and refused to continue the volley. When the bewildered son asked his parent to explain his behavior, his father compared his actions to those of an unbalanced verbal discussion: just as dropping or hogging the ball disrupts a game, such is the way with conversation involving an unequal exchange of listening and speaking. Concentration is required to keep the ball in motion just as shared dialogue keeps conversation moving. Prayer, like a game of ball, is participatory activity. The alternative is talking to oneself, and we all know how non-stimulating that can be!

Our Lord is never too busy, distracted, or preoccupied to harken to the emotions attached to each word. God listens with love. Though He is aware of the intent of our hearts before we speak, God is pleased to hear from us. “‘Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear’” (Isaiah 65:24).

If we maintain candid, vivacious communication with God, as Mary of Bethany demonstrated, our listening skills will soon produce pleasing acts of worship to Him and service to others. Jesus promised, “‘You are my friends if you do what I command’” (John 15:14). What a privilege, to claim the sovereign Savior as a personal friend, who listens to us and expects attentiveness to His voice. Could there be anything more satisfying?

Before you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of entangled thoughts and distractions, to focus entirely upon the glory of God. Then your heart will be receptive to His guidance. In the quietness of your prayer time, ask God to reveal Himself. He will gladly open your mind and heart to reveal paths to follow Him. “Listen to my instructions and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me” (Proverbs 8:33-34a).

Learn to be attentive to your Savior with the bold singlemindedness Mary exhibited. Incredible interactions occur at the feet of Jesus as we submit, weep, confess, and listen for our Master’s divine words designed solely for our needs.