Listening to God!
Are you listening? Do you remember hearing that as a young child? Perhaps your mother? Or your father? Or teacher? And even as we have become adults, do you say that to your spouse? Or your children? Are you listening? I think it is one of those things that we need to be mindful of, no matter what age we are. Hmm, it happened to me today while I was getting my hair cut. Two of the hair dressers there were talking to each other across the room. I just kind of got in my own little world and pretty soon I heard one of them say “Are you listening”? Nope, I had to admit, I was somewhere else.
The important question is, are you listening to God? Let us think about this as we begin the season of Lent, which starts February 10, 2016. On that evening, we will be holding our Ash Wednesday service at St. Paul at 7:00 p.m.
Ash Wednesday service is where we recognize our sinfulness; repent for them, and also where we recognize our own mortality. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”, are the words that a Pastor uses when they mark the sign of the cross on a person’s forehead with ashes. Therefore, Lent is a great time to “repent” and turn our number one priority back to God. Are you listening to God your creator?
Let us turn to Hebrews 4:12 and read the following:
12 because God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions.
I think sometimes it is hard for us to believe that God is still interested in our lives and that his word applies to us today. The Wesley Study Life Application Topic reminds us how important means of Grace or spiritual practices are:
Wesley and the early Methodists believed the word of God was “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). Hardened hearts, distractions, pride, possessions, temptations, and spiritual obstacles impede our hearing. Early Methodists adopted practices and personal disciplines of worship. Scripture study, the sacraments, fasting, prayer, giving, and service to place themselves in the most advantageous posture for perceiving and responding to God’s word. These patterns created openings and pauses in their daily lives where God’s grace, mercy, and hope could break in and thereby shape their behaviors to help them starve the old nature and feed the new.
I like what this says about practicing these good behaviors, starving the old patterns in our lives and feeding the new patterns in our lives. So, it is a very good question as we begin Lent. What old practices do you need to starve and what new practices to you need to feed?
But first, let us remember some things about Lent. Lent is a season of the Christian Year where by fasting, prayer, repentance, and service, we grow closer to God.
Lent is always forty days before Easter, excluding Sundays, because remember, each Sunday is a little Easter.
Here are a few suggestions of what that might look like.
Fast: This is the Lenten practice that you hear about the most, as we hear the question, “What did you give up for Lent?” Usually it is wine, or some sort of alcohol – oh yes – and I often hear about chocolate. If you have particular habit of over-indulging in any type of food or drink, then this one may work for you. However, I would encourage you to trade the indulgence for more prayer time, helping someone in need, or a perhaps giving a monetary donation to the church or a charity of your choice for the dollars that you saved.
Pray: If you are not in the habit of daily prayer, perhaps you might want to start this habit during Lent. There are also many daily devotionals that help in this area. Here are two of my favorites: daily.upperroom.org and www.biblegateway.com/devotionals.
Repent: Recognize your sins, and ask God for forgiveness. Ask God for the strength and the wisdom to no longer commit that sin. If you have a sin that you are dealing with, you might try giving an extra dollar to charity every time you commit this sin.
Service: Instead of giving up something for Lent, you might try taking on something for Lent in the way of service. Help out at our local church thrift stores and give out homeless bags. It is a great time of year to clean out those closets and pantry for items that are slightly used and give them to Crossroads or to others in need.
So, back to listening to God. What will you do this Lenten Season to being more open to listening to God? God is active and alive in your life, even though you might not feel him. How often do you just sit quietly for a moment? What Spiritual practices can you start doing to make your behavior more open to hearing God? Are you listening? Or are you too busy talking? Or too busy being somewhere else besides in the moment with God.
I pray that your Lenten session will be a time of reflection, of fasting, of prayer, and of service. I pray that you will take the time to listen to God. I pray that God will hear your prayers and give you strength to overcome your bad habits, and the strength to change them into something that will glorify God, and improve your relationship with him. Amen.