Monday, April 09, 2007

Hearing and Heeding ~ Part I

View of Alma

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

~ James 1:22-25 (NKJV)

Several weeks ago I shared some lessons in listening from the course I took on mediation at Johnson County Community College. During that time, I wrote the following column about a similar theme involving listening to God. Finding myself short on time and inspiration this week, I thought I would share it.

One definition of the word “hear” is to learn by being told. The definition of the word “heed” is to pay attention, listen to and consider. As the above Bible verse indicates, God doesn’t want us to have a mere intellectual knowledge of His Word; He wants us to listen and learn; hear and heed. On the other hand, God doesn’t just give us a laundry list of do’s and don’ts, either. He wants to provide us with valuable guidance and direction in our everyday lives.

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” ~ Mother Teresa

Many people question whether anyone can actually “hear” from God. Well, I don’t have any formal training, but I’d like to share my personal experiences and thoughts on the issue.

First and foremost, I believe that every human being is comprised of three parts: 1) the mental/mind, soul; 2) the spiritual/spirit; and 3) the physical/body. And since we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, our carnal nature will always be at war with our spiritual nature.

“But I say, walk and live habitually in the Holy Spirit – responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh – of human nature without God.For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the Holy Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are opposed to the flesh (Godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other – continually withstanding and in conflict with each other – so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.”

~ Galatians 5:16, 17

The good news is that Jesus paid the price for all of our sins by dying on the cross and being resurrected three days later (thank God for Easter!). Regardless of how many times we sin or how large our sins are, the 8th chapter of Romans tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. However, that doesn’t give us a license to live any way we’d like. Romans 8 goes on to say that we are to be governed by the dictates of the Holy Spirit, not by the dictates of our flesh, because the mind of the flesh (which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit) is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace both now and forever.

The secret is learning to discern between your mind and emotions, and your heart, or your spirit. As Christians, we are Hid sheep, and He is the Good Shepherd. Because we trust Him not to lead us astray, we recognize His voice and follow wherever He leads.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
~ Romans 8:14 (KJV)

This past weekend I purchased a book titled Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality. A sample quote on the back of the book caught my attention: “If you are following God, He never shows you the end. It’s always a walk of faith.”

But just exactly how are we led by the Spirit of God? Well, I believe God speaks to us in a still, small voice. Some people refer to it as a hunch, sixth sense or gut reaction; while others may call it their conscience, instinct, or women’s intuition. It’s that “certain something” you can’t really put your finger on which causes you to feel reluctant or uneasy. And if you try to find logical reasons for why you feel the way you do, you will generally come up short. That’s where faith comes in.

“The spirit of man [that factor in human personality which proceeds immediately from God] is the lamp of the Lord. . . .”

~ Proverbs 20:27

In our personal experience, Keen and I have found that when we have a “red light” or a “don’t-go-there” sense about something and we do it anyway, we almost always regret it (deeply). On the other hand, if we have a “green light” or an “all-systems-go” feeling about something and we go through with it, things work out the way they were meant to and we never have any regrets.

I would have to say that this next Bible verse, which is one of my all-time favorites, best describes the concept of listening to and following your heart/spirit:

“And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from the Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts – deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds [in that peaceful state] to which [as members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful – appreciative, giving praise to God always.”

~ Colossians 3:15 (AMP)

Here’s a good example. Two months after Keen and I were married in 1978, I became pregnant. Seven months later we decided we wanted to move away from the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities in Minnesota and relocate to the country life in Alma, Kansas. Now to most of our friends and family, that decision didn’t make any sense at all. We were moving across country with a baby on the way and no job waiting for us. But Keen and I both felt peace in our hearts about it, and that was all we needed to make that giant leap of faith and trust that God would provide for all of our needs. And He did. After making $2500 profit on the sale of our first little cracker box house, we had just enough to rent a Ryder truck and give us some money to live on until Keen found work. Then Keen’s folks had a house which they rented to us for a very reasonable price, so that gave us a place to live. Now here we are, twenty-nine years later, still happily enjoying the serenity of our country life in Alma, Kansas.

To be continued next week . . . .

Country Road in front of our home in Alma