Thursday, February 21, 2019

Listening to the Broken Places

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Henri Nouwen writes, “A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds.” As we look at the word ‘comfort’ in this Scripture, we find the Greek word parakaleo which means “to call to one’s side” or “to summon help” or “to encourage”. Clearly, believers in Christ who receive comfort are called to come alongside others with comfort. Often, simply listening can be the comforter’s greatest resource. 

God’s comfort includes His presence which comes through Grace. The God of all Comfort comforts us, and we comfort others. This comfort also speaks to eternal comfort for our future lives. God’s comfort is abundant and full of hope. God listens to us.

Blackaby writes, “Just as God has come alongside our lives to comfort so we do likewise to other believers.” While struggling with disappointments and difficulties, God comforts us, encourages us, and gives us hope. When we struggle, Scripture tells us we enter into the sufferings of Christ. Having found comfort in our suffering, we are then to come alongside side others, to offer comfort. Listening to the broken places becomes part of being a ‘wounded healer’. Nouwen explains, “We have to trust that our own bandaged wounds will allow us to listen to others with our whole beings. That is healing.” -dho

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Your Servant is Listening!

 “Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel, Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10

In the Scripture today, ‘listening’ comes from the Hebrew word shama which means not only ‘to hear’ but ‘to hear with the intention of obedience’. Warren Wiersbe says that Samuel “became a great man of prayer.” Here we see Samuel, in the infancy of his faith, responding to God. We know that he is obedient in telling Eli what God says. This is shama, listening with intention to obey.

Henri Nouwen writes, “Prayer is the first of all listening to God. It’s openness. God is always speaking; He’s always doing something. Prayer is to enter into that activity.” To enter in to prayer requires a mutual communication, that we speak AND listen. Listening to God’s voice is more than just taking notes of what we understand God to be saying; instead, true listening must include an obedient response. It is actively participating.

Eugene Peterson says, “Listening is an act of personal attentiveness that develops into answering.” We see that Samuel answers God, which would imply a prayerful reply. Peterson suggests this provides us with “a model on how to listen to God’s word and respond to him in prayer.” Let us practice shama, the art of spiritual listening, to hear and to answer in obedience to God. -dho

Thursday, February 07, 2019


“But oh! God is in his holy Temple!
    Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!” Habakkuh 2:20

It is good to simply be quiet, sit in the quiet and listen for God. Too often we busy ourselves with living life, too busy to listen, too busy doing, even too busy talking to God. Noise and activity drown us, suffocate us. Listening must be intentional. 

Silence takes many forms. Find a place of silence that fits your life. Then recognize God, be His holy Temple, res in the holy silence. Listen! Recently I saw this thought, “The word ‘listen’ has the same letters as the word ‘silent’.” Our souls crave silence, are starving for quiet. Spend some time today - in silence - and listen! -dho

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Listening in Prison - Part 2

Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God. Acts 16:26-34

As Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns to God, the other prisoners - and probably the guard - are listening. Suddenly there is a “massive earthquake”; the prison doors open and the chains fall off all the prisoners. The Philippian guard panics as he is in charge of Paul and Silas. Facing certain death if they escape, he draws his sword to kill himself. Just then Paul calls to him, reassuring the guard they are still in the prison. The guard falls to the ground asking, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Now, the fact that Paul did not escape is in the guard’s favor, as he is accountable, but more has softened his heart. Listening to the Gospel message in the prayers and hymns of Paul and Silas has been preparing the guard. Possibly he had been wondering why would they be so joyful in these desperate and dire circumstances. Paul shares the word of the Lord with him and his household. Everyone is immediately baptized. “They all believed in God.”
Halley’s Bible Handbook says, “The Word is called the instrument of the soul’s birth.” The guard and his entire family experiences spiritual birth because the Word is shared with them. Listening to spiritual truth opens our heart and mind to God. What “prison” is holding you hostage? Are you praying and singing hymns of praise to God while in that prison? Who is listening to how we deal with difficulty? Someone, somewhere IS listening. -dho

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Listening in Prison - Part 1

...Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening... Acts 16:22-28

During his second missionary journey, Paul and Silas are in Philippi, a Roman colony, and are arrested for teaching “customs that are illegal” for Romans to practice. They are stripped and beaten then put in the “inner dungeon” in shackles for teaching about Christ. The prison guards are warned to make certain they do not escape.
Spiritual listening invites the Spirit of God within us. - Henri Nouwen
We read in verse 25 that “Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners are listening”. I suspect the guards are also listening. Perhaps they all wonder how these men, beaten and chained inside a prison, could be singing? Or, perhaps they wonder who is this ‘God’ they worship? Certainly the grim surroundings is not stopping Paul and Silas.

Blackaby sums up this perfectly: External circumstances do not determine our joy; joy comes from within, from a relationship with Christ. A Spirit-filled life is characterized by unwavering joy. Joy comes in knowing we have been forgiven of sin, born into the family of God, and we have a personal relationship with the Heavenly Father. Irrespective of circumstances, salvation alone is cause for great rejoicing.

For Paul and Silas, their spiritual listening to God most certainly invites the Holy Spirit into their experiences creating a sense of joy even within grave circumstances. However, their testimony becomes a opportunity for God to work in the lives of those who are listening to them. A couple of questions come to mind: Am I spiritually listening to God and finding the Holy Spirit? Who might be listening to my daily testimony and does it reflect Christ? - dho

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Listening Obedience

“...You must all be quick to listen...  But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says...” James 1: 19-26 NLT

Listening is harder for people, usually because we often have something we want to convey or tell. Taking self out of the conversation opens the door for better listening. Henri Nouwen writes, “Listening is giving our full attention - which requires welcoming [others] into our very beings.” Laying down self is essential to being a good listener.

However, we are not only called to listen but to respond. God’s word gives us direction and discernment in all the matters of life. Sometimes, we need to sharpen our listening skills with others, but more importantly with God. Wiersbe says, “It is not reading the Bible that makes a person happy; it is obeying what it says.” In listening with intention, we develop a listening obedience. Let our heart’s desire for genuine obedience be seen in outward actions. dho

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Listening Requires Discipline

 A spiritual life requires discipline because we need to learn to listen to God, who constantly speaks but whom we seldom hear. When, however, we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives.  Henri Nouwen 

We struggle with listening. Either we do not hear what God is saying to us, or we choose not to respond to what He asks. If we do not listen for God, we have little hope of developing our obedience. Matthew 6:6 ~ Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace. 

I believe faith is the foundation for our listening hearts. Without faith, can there be obedience to God? The word obedient comes from the Latin word audire, which means "listening"It would seem that Henri Nouwen would go one step further and say that without listening, obedience is absent. He concludes, "The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God." ~dho

Thursday, January 03, 2019

New Year is Here!

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.
Isaiah 46:9-10 NIV

This new year of 2019 is underway, and we are settling into daily routines again, the holiday decorations put away. With each new year, new opportunities come. What will you choose new this year? A new devotional time or style, a new reading list? A new hobby or the revitalization of a dormant hobby? A new form of exercise? A new vacation destination? A new way to celebrate? A new way of living? 

Whatever your new is for 2019, remember God. His presence will go with you ~ encourage you, enable you, energize you! Spend some time seeking His purpose for you this new year! The Good News is that no matter what your path has been, God still desires to be with you. He is always faithful and will not leave you. God's mercies are new everyday! He was and is and shall be! Remember the lessons of Advent, He is coming! ~ dho

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas 2018

May the Prince of Peace be your King of kings! 
Merry Christmas!

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, 
and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, ... 
He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, 
and His name is called The Word of God... 
And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 
Revelation 19:11-16 NASB

Clothed with splendor and majesty, Christ will come again. Surrounded by angels, His glory will illumine space; there will be no more darkness. LORD OF LORDS, the title declaring Him Lord over all, reigns forever. Jesus Christ - the Light of the World, the Messiah, KING OF KINGS - now waits in Heaven until the holy appointed time. Jesus waits for us to call on His name, waits for us to cry out in need, waits for us to share His Love, waits for us to speak His name. 

Listen! Every day the Word of God quills the story of everlasting love and unfailing grace. Believe! Every day find Immanuel, God with us. Wait! Anticipate Advent every moment of your everyday. THIS is the Christmas Story! -dho

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Peace on Earth - 4th Sunday of Advent

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility... In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:14,22

Advent offers us time to refocus on the promise, birth, redemption, and return of Christ. The Christmas season brings lights and gifts, love and joy; it retells the stories of prophets and angels, shepherds and magi, Mary and Jesus. All the wonders of Christmas open our imaginations to promises and possibilities. From before time until time to come, God embraces us with hope.

“...When peace shall over all the earth
It’s ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world sends back the song
Which now the angels sing.”**

“Peace on earth” is God’s promise of Everlasting Peace which is still to come. Anticipation of the second Advent of Christ becomes our eternal hope. For now, each of us are called to embrace the peace offered by the Author of peace, the Prince of Peace. May Christ’s peace be the ornament that decorates our hearts at Christmas and throughout the coming year. Let us sing the angels’ message, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” -dho

** lyrics from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by Edmund Sears, 1849 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Peace of God - 3rd Sunday of Advent

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Peace is often challenged by a world full of anxieties and chaos, doubts and uncertainties, but there is an inner peace the soul can know. When faith in Christ leads us to “peace with God” the “peace of God” becomes the soul’s resting place. Peace of God is a blessing, a gift.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low...
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing! **

Peace belongs in relationships, between God and humanity and to our relationships with each other. Christians are called to ‘let the peace of Christ rule” in our hearts and “be thankful”. Our inward peace usually defines our outward behaviors, the way we respond to difficult circumstances and to others, whether we agree or disagree with them. Inner peace finds its rest in trusting God’s Sovereignty.

Peace is both a greeting and farewell in the Bible. Salutations and valedictions of peace fill Paul’s letters. Jesus greets the disciples, “Peace to you” as they hid after the crucifixion, a time of anxiety and uncertainty. Jesus offers this same peace to His followers today. Greg Laurie writes, “The only way we can experience the peace of God that passes all human understanding is through the blood of the cross... You cannot have the peace of God until you have peace with God.” This holy season I hope your soul knows the peace of God. Shalom! - dho

**lyrics from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by Edmund Sears, 1849