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