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The One Year God's Great Blessings devotionala daily guide
By PATRICIA RAYBON
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Patricia Raybon
All right reserved.
Blessed is the man who listens to me. Proverbs 8:34, NIV
Bless me with the power to listen, O mighty God. Then convince me that it's okay sometimes to stay quiet.
JANUARY 1 / Read Proverbs 1:1-9
Listening: To Him
Listen, my child.... Proverbs 1:8-9
It's dark, cold, and early. But I'm excited. On this morning, the most important thing I have to do is hear from God. And not just a little bit. I want to hear without limits. Isn't that what we're all saying today? That we want to be blessed by God this year? So we can bless God without limits?
So I sit, like you, Bible in hand—the first chapter of Proverbs staring up at this new year—looking for some life-changing secret on how to make such blessings happen.
Instead, Proverbs offers a gracious and quiet word: Listen.
It's not a suggestion. It's a plea. Spoken tenderly. Even kindly. "Listen, my child...." The writer, King Solomon, seems to know most of us don't listen well. we wake up talking, our voices rattling around in our heads, hollering first and hearing second.
But Solomon says stop.
Step off the loud, rusty, ragged treadmills of our lives. This fresh year, he says, turn from our noise—all the emotional chatter raging in our minds or spewing from other people. And turn it off.
Listening is serious business, to be sure. Listening to God's word, implanted by God's Spirit in our hearts, "has the power to save your souls," says James 1:19-21. why? "My sheep listen to my voice," Jesus answers. "I know them, and they follow me." when we listen, "I give them eternal life," Jesus promises, "and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me" (John 10:27-28). when we listen to God, He knows us. As we silence ourselves, our prayers don't perish. God may hear us better, plus, He grants us eternal life. I'm ready to try that this year. Quiet my heart. And my mouth. Then look what I'll discover: God is speaking.
A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something. WILLIAM MIZNER
January 2 / Read Proverbs 8:32-34
Listening: To His Call
Joyful are those who listen to me. Proverbs 8:34
That's the best way to listen to God.
Listening, as it turns out, is an action word. Draw near to Him. That's what the Hebrew word for listen—shama—fully means. Draw near and look. Then, attuned, we hear God's call: "Come closer, and listen to this ... I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow" (Isaiah 48:16-17).
Moses did that. After a plush life in Pharaoh's palace, he got up to defend the helpless—starting a personal journey that led him back to God. But first, he rescued a Hebrew slave. Then he saved seven women from cruel shepherds, watering their thirsty sheep. Then he said yes to marrying one of the women, honoring her grateful father.
Finally, on a humble hillside, tending his father-in-law's flock and far from worldly and inner distractions, he got up to draw near, looking at God's handiwork—a burning bush. At that moment, then, he heard God speak. "Moses! Moses!"
Was it a loud voice? will you and I hear God—actually calling us by name?
I hear questions like this at a women's prayer retreat.
"I'm a concrete person," one woman says. "what does it mean to listen to God? How can I hear Him?" For answers, we look at Moses. Then we see: Listening to God is getting up with intent. It's going humbly to new places. It's doing plain, hard work—leaving behind the world to go back to church, Bible study, prayer meeting, to all the places His voice is shared. Then we stop trying so hard to hear His call. Instead, we work and walk by His Spirit, in His joy. Then He speaks.
Part of doing something is listening. MADELEINE L'ENGLE
January 3 / Read Nehemiah 8:1-6
Listening: For His Spirit
All the people listened closely. Nehemiah 8:3
Curious business, this godly listening. As I try it, I hear all manner of mysteries. Great advice. Honest truth. Deep desires. So I'm hearing less gossip. Less complaining. Less doubt, fear, worry, and false teaching. I see, in fact, why our enemy overwhelms our ears with noise.
If we listen to ungodly things, we miss one of God's greatest blessings: hearing God's Spirit. So I quiet myself to better hear my Bible, feeling that listening seems too pretty a virtue to unlock God's mighty, delivering, trustworthy, Spirit-filled power. Then I see:
Those who refuse to listen to God prefer to go their own way—to trust in themselves. To be their own god. So God asks something simple—just listen to Me—knowing that those who listen truly want to know what His Spirit says.
Yet how do we hear Him?
By listening closely. That's what Jesus taught. Draw near, Christ says. why? He doesn't shout. To hear Him, we sit close, see Him better, and then we learn. "The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more" (Mark 4:24).
Theologian Richard Foster, in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, describes this close approach to listening to God. "I wait quietly," he says. Tuning his heart to God's voice, he waits as "people and situations spontaneously rise" to his awareness. Letting the Spirit guide his prayer, he then remains quiet for a while, "inviting the Spirit to pray through [him] 'with sighs too deep for words.'" Throughout the day, he jots down brief prayer notes in a small journal.
Dare we do the same? Listen closely enough to hear the Spirit-filled thunder of God's clear voice? Even take notes? I dare you to try it today. Then, in your quiet, God speaks.
If the key is prayer, the door is Jesus Christ. RICHARD FOSTER
January 4 / Read Proverbs 1:1-9
Listening: To Each Other Listen, my child, to what your father teaches you. Proverbs 1:8
In Dale Carnegie's classic self-improvement book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, the author describes the concentrated listening style of famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Quoting a man who had met Freud, Carnegie writes: "There was none of that piercing 'soul penetrating gaze' business. His eyes were mild and genial. His voice was low and kind. His gestures were few. But the attention he gave me, his appreciation of what I said, even when I said it badly, was extraordinary."
Or as he concluded: "You've no idea what it meant to be listened to like that."
King Solomon, traditionally credited as the author of Proverbs, seems to say precisely what it means: Good listeners are gracious. Mild and genial. Confident but kind. None of that soul-piercing gaze business. So they listen with love. with patience. with interest. with appreciation. without judgment. The result? God crowns their listening with His grace (v. 9).
So gracious listeners learn things. we also hear what we desperately need to know.
"Listen to whatever Sarah tells you," God urges Abraham, "because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned" (Genesis 21:12, NIV). Or when Jacob blesses his sons, first he urges them, "Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel" (Genesis 49:2, NIV). And Moses "listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said" (Exodus 18:24, NIV).
Of course, the model for listening is God Himself. He "listened to Leah, and she became pregnant" (Genesis 30:17, NIV). He listened to Rachel "and opened her womb" (Genesis 30:22, NIV).
I study these stories and the truth becomes clear. If we learn how to listen like God, we hear what matters.
You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you. DALE CARNEGIE
January 5 / Read Proverbs 1:1-9
Listening: with Honor
Listen, my child, to what your father teaches you. Don't neglect your mother's teaching. What you learn from them will ... clothe you with honor. Proverbs 1:8-9
As a young bride, I worked hard to learn the first secret of staying married—how to listen. To pay attention. To hear feelings, not just words. Then not to judge—or rush to talk. To let the Holy Spirit empower me to hear. A faith walk, yes. Listening is like that.
Then in today's Scripture, God raises the stakes—pleading with us to listen, not just to anybody, but to parents. But the teenager in us reels. Listen to parents? Nothing will be harder. Even if parents are wise. Or loving. Or perfect. Or even downright bad. Or even downright dangerous.
Yet God says we should listen—not because all parents teach us how to live—but in the case of ungodly parents, because they teach us how not to live. It's the position of respect that God seems to care most about in this exchange. That is, we listen to parents—not because they're perfect parents, but because they are our parents, period. Then as we listen, we release God's ability to clothe us with His honor.
Thinking on this, I turn to the Ten Commandments, pondering that provocative promise: "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12, niv).
But surely this isn't just about living a long life. It's about living long in whatever territory God has set aside for you to serve Him.
If you're not living well in the land God has set aside for you, this Scripture provides the antidote. Listen to your parents. Still can't? Cry to the Holy Spirit to empower you. The blessing? You learn to listen to others. To spouses and to children. To coworkers and to neighbors. To friends. Even to enemies.
In our listening, we learn. But also we gain—a blessed garb of empowered honor.
The first duty of love is to listen. PAUL TILLICH
January 6 / Read Deuteronomy 30:19-20
Listening: To Life Listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life. Deuteronomy 30:20, NIV
Helen Keller couldn't hear. She couldn't see. But early on, the renowned civic servant found a priceless way around those problems. She found a friend who listened. According to Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, her first little friend—after Keller became deaf and blind following illness at age nineteen months—was the young daughter of the Keller family's cook.
We spent a great deal of time in the kitchen, kneading dough balls, helping make ice-cream, grinding coffee, quarreling over the cake-bowl, and feeding the hens and turkeys that swarmed about the kitchen steps.... I could not tell Martha Washington when I wanted to go egg-hunting, but I would double my hands and put them on the ground, which meant something round in the grass, and Martha always understood.
At least one psychiatrist has said this early friendship—through which Helen Keller perfected some sixty communication signs—was crucial for Keller's later improvements, most notably with her beloved teacher, Anne Sullivan. But what does this story teach us?
We learn, first, that listening takes two—that, indeed, the arithmetic of the gospel is two by two. "Two are better than one" (Ecclesiastes 4:9, NIV). Or as Jesus put it: "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). As important, however, we learn that when we work hard to listen well, we don't just gain friends. we gain life.
Helen Keller, in describing her "long night"—that "silent, aimless, day-less life" of her early years—said learning to listen and communicate was like being "restored to my human heritage." Yes, listening to God births life. "Give ear ... hear me, that your soul may live" (Isaiah 55:3, NIV). That's theological truth. Here's practical truth: listening heals, mends, repairs. So listen to a hurting soul today. God will bless you both with His life.
Unless we form the habit of going to the Bible in bright moments as well as in trouble, we cannot fully respond to its consolations. HELEN KELLER
January 7 / Listening
Going Deeper Blessed ... are those who hear the word of God and obey it. Luke 11:28, NIV
Are you a good listener? If not, why not?
If you could make one change this year to listen better to God, what would it be? Explain.
What about listening to other people? what special insight has God taught you this week about listening when others are talking?
If you'd like, write a prayer that reflects your needs regarding the virtue of listening.
Perhaps the best gift we can offer a hurting world is deep, holy listening. JOHNNY R. SEARS
Excerpted from The One Year God's Great Blessings devotional by PATRICIA RAYBON Copyright © 2011 by Patricia Raybon. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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