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Learning To Listen: The Basics

At the heart of what I want to do is to help us learn two things: who God is and who we are. This means we will need to learn how to see and hear truth–not only about God, but also about ourselves. All truth is God’s truth, so when we hear truth and recognize it as such, we are hearing God.

The problem is that Christians often tend to narrowly define truth as parroting back Scripture. I agree that Scripture is the foundational authority and revelation of God. However, the tricky thing is that merely quoting it to support what you believe can be done by opposing parties with opposing beliefs and empties it of its power and truth. Heck, even Satan quoted Scripture at Jesus in the desert  (Matt. 4:1-11)!

Jesus said HE himself was the way, truth, and life (Jn. 14:6). In fact, in the first chapter of John, Jesus is called “the Word”. The Bible is God’s Word, not ours, and Jesus was that Word, with flesh and bone put on it.

So if we want to truly understand God’s Word, we have to learn to listen–not just for what we think the words are saying, but for what Jesus is saying. Jesus – the Word – is alive and well today, living in us and the Church at large. His revelation in Scripture is eternal, but only because HE himself is eternal.

Ultimately, Jesus is the One who teaches us what God is saying in Scripture through His Spirit–His very Presence. God’s Holy Spirit is what makes God’s Word “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). Without the Holy Spirit we are merely reciting words–good words, of course, but mere words that are essentially being treated as a magic spell or incantation, dependent on a power or strength other than God’s. I know this because I have done it.

This is the difference between hearing God and listening for God. Hearing a message is registering that something is being said. Listening, as any married person knows from experience, is a completely different thing altogether. 😀

Listening takes the message heard, examines the meaning of the sender (not the hearer) and requires the hearer to participate: to empathize, to be curious, to TAKE ACTION. It is absolutely possible to hear God’s Word in the Scripture, yet not listen to God’s voice at all. This is in no way meant to disparage Scripture or dismiss its authority, but simply to say that one can spout Jesus’ words without ever encountering Jesus himself.

Learning to listen for and to God’s voice is like learning another language. Anyone can do it, and some may have more, or less, aptitude for doing it, but everyone has to learn and everyone has to practice. Nobody just instantly has the capacity to use and understand a second language without learning it, practicing it, and studying it–even multilinguists have to learn the basics–they just might do it more quickly.

So that is what we will aim to do together–learn to hear God, listen to God, and practice our new God-language. Fuller Seminary likes to say that we will do this in three ways: through theological reflection, embodied spiritual practices, and engaging in community. Theological reflection helps us to hear God through the words of Scripture. Embodied spiritual practices invites God’s Spirit to show us what those words mean and what to do with them. Community gives us companions for the journey to not only encourage us, but also to correct us so we can maintain the course.

This is my hope for this blog and YouTube channel: that we would learn together how to do these three things–theological reflection and embodied spiritual practices in the context of community so that we can see and hear the truth about who God is, who we are and our place in this world God created for us.

We will begin with some of the basics, because, like anything in life, you gotta learn your scales before you can really take off improvising some amazing jazz riffs. Hop on over to my YouTube channel HERE and try out some of the basic practices with me!

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