Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

quiet

Listen to God, b.l.e.s.s., 13 January 2013

Bless Everyone
Series: b.l.e.s.s.

Big Idea:
Listen to God.

Introduction

Last week we began our new year with our new series and annual theme, b.l.e.s.s. We said that we have been blessed to be a blessing. This is a theme throughout history, most prominently in God’s covenant with Abram.

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

We have defined success for Scio Community Church:

We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 

- serving our communities

- sharing our story
- sending disciples to bless the nations

so that God is glorified.


Last week’s challenge was...bless one person. Who and how did you bless last week? Don’t stop! It is my hope and prayer that Scio is known as a community of people that bless others. Today I’m going to introduce a second thing that I hope we are known for, but first let’s pray.

Pray

We just prayed. What is prayer? I used to think it was talking to God, but it is talking with God.

Do you like to talk? It has been said that we were given one mouth and two ears, suggesting that we ought to spend more time...listening.

“L”

Today’s word is “listen.”

Have you noticed how hard it is to get someone to listen...really listen? You can’t even call customer service and get someone to listen...you have to wait for twelve pre-recorded prompts before you can even talk to a human being!

I find it challenging to be a good listener. Do you?

It has been said that the opposite of listening is not speaking, but rather waiting to speak. It’s easy to think about what you want to say rather than truly hearing the other person.

Don’t believe me? Check out these gems from RottenECards.com:

“I don’t like to think before I speak. I like to be just as surprised as everyone else by what comes out of my mouth.”

“I wasn’t ignoring you, I just simply forgot to listen.”

“If I’m not trying to interrupt you, I’m probably not listening.”

“Thanks for listening to my problems and somehow making it all about you.”

“Sure, I’m a good listener. As long as we are talking about how great I am.”

Being fully present in the moment and truly listening to another is rare. Listening may be as powerful as anything you ever say.

How many of you have heard God speak in an audible voice?

If we’re honest, we might not want God to speak to us. We might be afraid that He’ll send us to Africa or take away all of our fun. The truth is, our Father loves us and wants the best for us...always. Always. It’s a matter of trust. If prayer is more than talking to God, it obviously involves listening to God.

How Do I Listen?

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Being still and listening to God can feel very awkward.

There are actually many ways in which we can hear from God. The first one—seen in the video clip—is the Bible. This is why it’s essential for us to be in God’s Word every day—not simply to tell everyone at the end of the year that we’ve finished reading the New Testament, but to listen to God.

He also speaks through circumstances, people, and often a still, small voice in our hearts, a voice that is not audible, but often just as real.

What has God been saying to you lately?

God’s Timing

As much as I love to think about prayer as a conversation with God and not merely talking to God, I must admit that many of the most significant things that God has spoken to me were not instantaneous responses to my prayers/questions. In fact, when I have set aside a minute or an hour or a day...or even a few days at the annual Pastors Prayer Summit, He rarely speaks on demand. I always leave those listening times at peace, though, knowing that I quieted my heart in order to hear God if He did have something to say to me at that moment.

I found this brief interview with Mother Teresa. I can’t very its authenticity, but it seems legitimate.

Interviewer: So you talk to God?
Mother Teresa: Yes.
Interviewer: What do you say?
Mother Teresa: Nothing.
Interviewer: Does he talk back?
Mother Teresa: Yes.
Interviewer: What does he say?
Mother Teresa: Nothing.

Actions speak louder than words. Sometimes words get in the way. Presence is all you need.

God wants to speak to us. He wants nothing more than a relationship with us. Some Christians talk about a relationship, but what they mean is Jesus died, they prayed a prayer, and now they’re going to heaven and can live life like everyone else.

Friends, God speaks...today.

I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. (Proverbs 8:17)

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. (Habakkuk 2:1-2)

Often, when I least expect it, God speaks to me...surprise! I don’t know if He would speak as clearly, though, if I had consistently ignored Him. Spend time with God and you will hear His voice...eventually.

Challenge

The challenge this week is simple:
spend one hour listening to God. You have 168. Can you spare one?

“What do I do for an hour?” you may ask.

Be still. Be quiet. Some of you are ready right now and others are freaking out!

In case you are envisioning sitting in your room, silent, for an hour, staring at the wall, let me suggest some tools to assist you.

1. Prepare. This might include fasting or even asking others to pray for your time. It involves setting aside time. Don’t rush. You cannot expect to share a great dinner with a friend in 60 seconds, nor can you expect a great conversation with God on the fly. Also, find a good—usually quiet—place.

2. Ask Questions. One of the best ways to listen to God is to simply ask Him a question. Following last week’s message and our annual theme bless, ask God, “Who and how can I bless today?”

3. Listen
.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,... (James 1:19)

4. Take notes. Write down whatever thoughts/impressions you might have.

I often do what I call red-letter journaling. I will type out my prayers on my laptop and then change the text color to red, ask God to speak, and I type everything that comes to mind.

5.Obey.

A man once asked God, “Why don’t you feed the starving people around the world?” to which God replied, “Why don’t you feed the starving people around the world?”

Note: God may speak through others. Keep your ears open!

How Do You Know It Is God?

Many cults have been formed after a person thought they heard God...and didn’t. How do we know it is God? First, it takes time. Imagine that I called you on the phone for the first time...a phone without Caller ID! You’d probably be pleasant for a while and eventually ask, “Who is this?”

Disclaimer: for those under 25, a phone call is what we used to do with phones before texting!

If I called you a few more times, eventually you’d recognize my voice and say, “Hi Kirk!” You know my voice.

There are few ways you can test whether the message you
think is from God is not bad lunch...or wishful thinking...or the enemy.

Jesus said, “
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

1. First and foremost, what does the Bible say? God will not contradict Himself. Period. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

  1. 2. Seek wise counsel. Godly men and women can often discern the source of messages. (Proverbs 11:14)

  1. 3. Pray for confirmation. If the message is persistent, it may be valid. (Matthew 18:16)

4. Is it possible? If it is, it might not be from God. He loves to work through our weakness. If it seems crazy, it
might be from God! (2 Corinthians 12:10)

  1. 5. Do you have peace about it? (Colossians 3:15)

  1. 6. Obey God. This goes back to the first test. You have to know the Truth...Jesus and His Word. Don’t expect it to be politically correct, either!

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Jesus Listened

Have you ever noticed how many times Jesus got away to pray? I used to think He did all of the talking, but He listened to the Father. He spent forty days fasting and praying before selecting the twelve disciples. He asked if there was a Plan B in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested and crucified. He made time for the Father. See Luke 22:39-44 as an example.

I doubt Jesus spent time asking the Father for more safety, comfort, or pleasure. He was seeking the will of the Father, and we can seek it, too...but be prepared to act.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

Acts 12:25 – 13:3
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

How did the early church listen to God?
They heard from God as they worshipped and fasted…as they were laying down their own agendas for God’s. As the early church leaders were worshipping and fasting, they heard from God. God inspired them to send out Barnabas and Saul for the sake of blessing other people.

My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers

They said to Moses, ’You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die’ `—Exodus 20:19

We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God— we simply don’t listen to Him. God has given His commands to us, but we pay no attention to them— not because of willful disobedience, but because we do not truly love and respect Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (
John 14:15). Once we realize we have constantly been showing disrespect to God, we will be filled with shame and humiliation for ignoring Him.

“You speak with us, . . . but let not God speak with us . . . .” We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God’s servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, “Well, that’s only your own idea, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God’s truth.”

Am I constantly humiliating God by ignoring Him, while He lovingly continues to treat me as His child? Once I finally do hear Him, the humiliation I have heaped on Him returns to me. My response then becomes, “Lord, why was I so insensitive and obstinate?” This is always the result once we hear God. But our real delight in finally hearing Him is tempered with the shame we feel for having taken so long to do so.

For Further Study

www.cwgministries.org/Four-Keys-to-Hearing-Gods-Voice

Credits: some materials borrowed from Charles Kiser (Storylinecommunity.com)

You can listen to the podcast here.

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