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.

#Waiting {Reblog}

This is simply a random thought I had the other day when someone mentioned how difficult it often is to wait on God’s timing.

Waiting

There are times when we wait and pray about something
for what seems like forever,
but since God is perfect,
that means His plans are perfect ─
which means the waiting time is part of
His perfect plan for us.
This is part of His refining and pruning process
to bring us closer to Him and His will for us.

Is it true that everything happens for a reason?

Another great one from the GotQuestions? site.

Question: “Is it true that everything happens for a reason?”

Answer: Does everything happen for a reason? The short answer is “yes”; because God is sovereign, there are no random, out-of-control happenings. God’s purposes may be hidden from us, but we can be assured that every event has a reason behind it.

There was a reason for the blindness of the man in John 9, although the disciples misidentified the reason (John 9:1–3). There was a reason for Joseph’s mistreatment, although his brothers’ purpose in what they did to him was very different from God’s purpose in allowing it (Genesis 50:20). There was a reason for Jesus’ death—the authorities in Jerusalem had their reasons, based on evil intent, and God had His, based on righteousness. God’s sovereignty extends even to the lowliest of creatures: “Not one [sparrow] falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matthew 10:29, NET).

Several factors help us know that everything happens for a reason: the law of cause and effect, the doctrine of original sin, and the providence of God. All these demonstrate that everything does happen for a reason, not just by happenstance or by random chance.

Read the rest here.

Ten Things You Should Know About the Sovereignty of God

This excellent article is from Sam Storms’ Enjoying God blog.

Ten Things You Should Know About the Sovereignty of God

By Sam Storms

Few things are more controversial among Christians than the sovereignty of God. Is God truly sovereign over everything, including calamity, natural disasters, death, and demons, or is his sovereign control restricted to those things we typically regard as good, such as material blessing, family welfare, personal salvation, and good health? Today we turn our attention to ten things we should all know about God’s sovereignty.

Before we begin, it’s important to distinguish between natural evil, which would include such things as tornadoes, earthquakes, famine (although famine can often be the result of moral evil perpetrated by those who devastate a country through greed or theft), floods, and disease. Is God sovereign over natural evil? Does he exert absolute control over these events in nature, such that he could, if he willed to do so, prevent them from happening or redirect their course and minimize the extent of damage they incur? Yes.

Moral evil has reference to the decisions made by human beings. Does God have sovereignty over the will of man? Can he stir the heart of an unbeliever to do his will? Can he frustrate the will of a person whose determination is to do evil and thereby prevent sin from happening? When a Christian does what is right, to whom should the credit and praise be given? And how is it possible for God to exert sovereignty over all of life without undermining the moral responsibility of men and women? These are the questions that find their answer in Scripture.

Read the rest here.

#Waiting

This is simply a random thought I had the other day when someone mentioned how difficult it often is to wait on God’s timing.

Waiting

There are times when we wait and pray about something
for what seems like forever,
but since God is perfect,
that means His plans are perfect ─
which means the waiting time is part of
His perfect plan for us.
This is part of His refining and pruning process
to bring us closer to Him and His will for us.

Sovereign Encounter

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Sovereign Encounter

By Patricia Knight

It was a clear, cool, moonlit evening as I walked the pine needle strewn path toward the cabin in the woods. With each step I could detect the crunchy snap of exploding dry pine cones beneath my feet, the only distraction that pierced the quiet serenity of the evening. A full moon provided the illumination necessary to reveal the tranquil fresh water lake, a picturesque scene poking through the black silhouetted pine branches at twilight.

A thick plume of smoke emanated from the massive fieldstone chimney. Without a breeze on this calm evening, the smoke lingered in a vertical spiral, suspended high above the cabin roof, producing a pungent wood smoke permeating the surroundings.

I climbed the few steps to enter the screened-in porch, speckled with casual rocking chairs. In the silence I could nearly hear the relaxed conversations that had occurred in that intimate space over the span of many decades. A simple welcome sign replaced a lock on the front door. My tentative knocks resounded raucous in the silence of the night.

Upon entering the log cabin, I was greeted by rustic ambiance. A lively crackling fire filled the imposing fieldstone fireplace on the opposite wall. Fingers of heat reached out to entwine my cool body with penetrating warmth. Comfortable furniture encircled the fireplace, pieces obviously constructed of native materials, perhaps obtained from a nearby cedar swamp. Other furniture pieces were upholstered leather, a bulky style that engulfed a person who sat therein. Abundant blanket throws and casual decorative pillows scattered around the living space produced an emphasis of pleasant repose; the interior effused cheer and relaxation.

Once my eyes adjusted to the soft glowing lights, I viewed the form of someone snuggled into a high backed chair. As I spoke softly to avoid shattering the precious silence, perforated only by the sizzling of the fireplace logs, He arose to greet me. Though I had never met Him in the flesh, once we established eye contact, I readily identified the mysterious host as Jesus Christ, my sovereign Savior. Our glances locked in mutual acknowledgement. When I responded to His gesture to collapse in a chair close to Him, we conversed effortlessly, the manner in which best friends banter. Jesus had never been far away, for His main residence is my heart. This rare, personal encounter in a remote location afforded us an occasion of undisturbed fellowship.

There were no uncomfortable introductions or interludes communicated in our dialogue, only the magnetic affection of my Lord’s true character. I was in the presence of the Creator and sustainer of the universe, the Prince of Peace, and the Savior of my soul. Generously, Jesus was also my friend.

“You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). Jesus takes His friends into His confidence, just as He unconditionally welcomed my presence this evening. Interacting with Jesus in the tranquil atmosphere reinforced His authority and adoration; purity and perfection; glory and grace.

The minute Jesus uttered my name, my inner soul responded with excitement. Joy coursed through my thoughts and words. As He grasped my hands in His, I could easily detect the still-prominent scars on His palms, created from His heinous crucifixion two millenniums ago, a poignant reminder of His love and sacrifice willingly offered me, opening the way to boldly and confidently communicate with Him at any time.

Jesus was splendid and majestic, the King of kings who fully understood my human weaknesses. He verbally lavished me with love and grace, instructing me to continually grow in faith. Jesus reassured me of His intense interest in my development as His ardent follower, urging me to keep all of His commandments, and explaining that the more I love Him, the more my love will overflow for others.

He reminded me to share my interests and goals with Him, obediently depending upon His perfect plans and precise timing for answers to my prayers. He assured me that with every morsel of trust I place in Him, my Savior, I shall grow closer to Him.

James4-8-WoodBench-AutumnLeaves--AMP

“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8, KJV).

As I evolve closer to Jesus in fellowship, He challenges me to remember, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-17). I didn’t want our visit to end in the idyllic environment engulfed by peace and shared affection. Exuberance and hope produced from being in Christ’s immediate presence renewed my body and soul.

I chose the remote cabin in the woods as the perfect retreat from the stresses of daily life. Psychologists agree about the simple act of projecting one’s thoughts into a familiar, peaceful scene in order to lessen mental burdens.

At first consideration, it would seem my vivid imagination had clicked into overdrive. The truth is, God mentally transported me to the cabin in response to my earnest request: for weeks I’d attempted Scripture memorization, but the meaning of one particular verse eluded my full understanding. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Repeatedly I had asked God to reveal the meaning of what seemed to be an odd expression in that verse.

As a result of my recent sovereign encounter, I now have a much greater understanding of the teachings in the verse I was struggling to comprehend. Once I physically dwelled in the presence of Jesus’ shelter, rest resulted from the overwhelmingly serene shadow that He cast across my life, reinforcing my trust in Him as the rock foundation of my life.

God desires that we seek knowledge of every teaching in His Word. Granted, His method of revealing truths to me for memorization purposes were unusual, but I must not limit my heavenly Father’s communication to my earthly expectations. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

It is impossible to literally worship Jesus at His side until we live with Him in heaven permanently one day. On earth He graciously permits us the mechanism of prayer. As we talk comfortably with our Lord, we are mentally and spiritually transferred to any number of beautiful, tranquil vicinities that appeal to us individually. The cabin scene is one of unsurpassed luxury for me. Where will you go for shelter and rest to meet with your Lord? It could be as familiar as your back yard or as reminiscent as a childhood memory. The most important factors in abiding with Jesus remain our willingness and obedience to pray, connecting us to our Lord anytime, anywhere.

“Jesus told his disciples … that they should pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). As we constantly share details of our lives with Jesus, we need withhold nothing from our trustworthy Lord and Friend. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

Prayer-PTZ-Quote--AMP

Declare His glory, as you attribute to Him the splendor and majesty He deserves. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (2 Chronicles 16:11).

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