Active Listening

Active Listening

Listening to God calls for a cessation of normal activity, but it is not a time to remain idle. Our posture must be submissive, while leaning forward.

In my first semester at Dallas Theological Seminary, the list of classes included “Bible Study Methods,” then taught by “Prof” Howard Hendricks. His had been one of several names that graced the shelves of my father’s library, so I was excited to learn firsthand from this master of teaching.

I routinely arrived for class thirty minutes early to be first at the classroom doors. As the previous class dismissed, I would slip in, make my way to the front along the side wall, and wait for a front-row-center desk to open up. And Lord help anyone who happened to get between me and that desk! I was more aggressive than an Evangelical in a church parking lot!

We’re more likely to hear from God when we place ourselves in an optimal position. Front-row-center, no distractions, pen and paper in hand, well-rested, and leaning forward.

Having ceased normal activity for a time, here is what I have been doing to make this unscheduled Sabbath “solemn,” to give my rest purpose.

First, I repented of my sins and made certain my primary relationships were clean and clear of unresolved conflict (Matthew 5:23–24; 1 Peter 3:7).

Second, I began a daily Scripture-reading program. When I most need to hear the Lord, I gravitate to the Gospels. There’s just something soothing and clarifying about hearing the words of Jesus and observing His actions.

Third, I called upon several faithful friends to pray for me as I sought direction from the Lord.

Fourth, I began reading books that relate to the issues at hand: identity, calling, and vocation.

Fifth, because my particular circumstance involves a reevaluation of my identity and calling, I reviewed some old personality assessments and took some new ones.

Finally, because creativity makes my brain work better, I began indulging some random creative whims:

I resurrected this blog (as a more personally satisfying alternative to journaling) and relaunched the Redemptive Divorce Web site.

I created the “Jesus-Actual” Social Media and Web Site.

I conducted a Christian Leadership Alliance Workshop.

I led a Christian Leadership Alliance Webinar (now accessible to CLA Members only).

These activities, combined with lots of conversation with loved ones and lots of alone time with God, will hopefully put me in front-row-center desk, where I can hear the Master’s instruction.

I don’t hear from God in secret instructions or circumstantial signs. Instead, the Holy Spirit reorders the chaos in my head to create clarity.

His leading usually points to a next step that’s undeniable. It may not be easy or comfortable, and it may run contrary to conventional wisdom, but it becomes unmistakable as a moral imperative.

It’s a next action that resonates as “right” deep down in that serene place of knowing that gives me peace when I move toward it and fills me with disquiet when I back away.

How do you position yourself to hear from God? What works best for you?

Are You Hearing from God?

Are You Hearing from God?

“Hearing from God” is a curious phrase.

In the Old Testament, a rare few people received communication from the Almighty via audible sound (1 Samuel 3:8–10) or a supernatural vision (Daniel 8:1) or a divinely directed dream (Genesis 20:1–3). Sometimes, the message from God would come via an angel (Judges 6:11–12).

Theologians call this “special revelation,” meaning that the divine message came by supernatural (beyond natural) means and was exceedingly rare.

The New Testament era has changed all of that. Now, things are different.

Precisely fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, something extraordinary happened:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, [the followers of Jesus] were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 2:1–4)

The gathered believers began to speak in the native languages of visitors from all around the world. The visitors said, “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God! (Acts 2:11).

This fulfilled the promise given by Jesus: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

The indwelling Holy Spirit is now the inheritance of all who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Ephesians 1:13–14).

Consequently, New Testament believers have something that would have amazed Old Testament believers. We have the indwelling Spirit of God to guide us daily. Hourly. Moment by moment!

“Hearing from God” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. The New Testament way is a new and improved brand of divine communication. We no longer need audible voices or bizarre visions. We have something far better!

When the Messiah inaugurated the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34), it came with an extraordinary promise:

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.”

(Jeremiah 31:33–34)

Rather that write down commandments, send angelic messengers, induce strange dreams, or speak audibly, God has given believers His own Spirit to change their hearts, to help them think as He thinks, desire what He desires, and then act as He wants them to act.

Instead of giving us step-by-step instructions, God is changing our hearts to beat in perfect rhythm with His.

“Hearing from God,” then, isn’t about waiting for messages or seeking supernatural signs. That’s Old Testament. The New Testament way is to observe how God is transforming us and then make decisions in harmony with His new creation.

That’s what it means to be “led by the Holy Spirit.”

This isn’t a “do what feels right” theology. In addition to His indwelling Spirit, He has also given us His written Word and His church.

This isn’t to say that God can’t use audible communication or visions, or that He never will again.

This is simply to acknowledge that if God’s promise of a transformed heart is real, then “hearing from God” might include a discerning inward look.

What has God been doing in your life lately?

As you look back over your spiritual journey, what trends do you see?

What might this say about what He wants you to do with your life?