How We Listen to God

(Edited journal excerpt from July 13, 1990)

During my time with God, I thought about listening to God and the role of the scriptures in my life. Some seem to think that listening to God’s Spirit is strange, mystical and beyond the boundaries of scripture (even though the scriptures are an ongoing record of God’s Spirit speaking to His people!) Instead, I’m actually finding that listening times in solitude and silence are those times when God brings His word alive in me. They aren’t so much times of revelation, but of application and illustration. God’s Spirit also uses wise counsel, classic spiritual literature, corporate worship, scripture preaching and inner conviction to speak to us, and they are richest when they are well-rooted in God’s written word.

And when it comes to the scriptures, I need to be very careful when I find myself explaining why the Bible doesn’t actually mean what it plainly appears to say. I don’t want to let this be a way of resisting what God is wanting to say to me.

And I must never let my tradition, whether conservative or liberal, to have greater authority than do the scriptures themselves. Do I want to find myself, practically speaking, adding to or taking away from scripture for the sake of my theological tradition?

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Looking Back: Turning and Resting in God

It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent. A common theme is remembering Jesus as the Prince of peace. The posted I’ve linked below on coming to rest in God seemed fitting. May God’s great generosity meet you in all the ways you need Him in this season.

CLICK for “Turning and Resting in God

Looking Back: Listening in Prayer


In November 2007, I posted something from Thomas Green’s book A Vacation with the Lord on listening to God. The book is a popularization of Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. A hunger to learn to listen well to the Lord is one of the needs that surfaces often in my spiritual direction and retreat leading ministry.

READ MORE AT: “Listening in Prayer

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A Good Word: Listening to God in our Serving

img_1885“We stand on dangerous ground if we ever let service to God crowd out our time of listening to God. Gordon Smith, in his fine book On the Way, writes quite bluntly, ‘It is inconceivable to think that God would give us so much to do that we can no longer spend extended time with Him. Listening doesn’t detract from our service; it empowers it.” (Thomas, Gary L. Sacred Parenting. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004, p. 64.)

We are privileged to join Jesus in His kingdom building work around us. We are even more privileged to do so as beloved sons and daughters of God through faith. Sometimes those of us in ministry (paid or volunteer) forget the privilege of relationship through being consumed by our work for Him.

What good thing is keeping you from spending extended time with God these days? How might you engage in the good work He’s prepared just for you from a place of communion with Him, rather than doing so in a way that tends to distract you from Him?

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Hearing God if We Listen

IMG_6339 (1)One common Google search that brings a new visitor to this blog will include some version of “listening to God” or “hearing God.” People are hungry for interaction with God and not just knowledge about Him. The most common Google search to find this blog, if you’re curious, is one including the word “burn-out.” Perhaps there is a connection between the often unmet hunger to hear God’s voice and the great spiritual weariness than many feel.

Much of my ministry these days is to leading church and ministry group retreats which provides mentoring and space to listen to God. I run into many new friends who have read a book on spiritual formation recently, but have struggled to actually try on what they’ve learned. I’m grateful for the honor of often being the one to introduce others to the practice of listening to God. If you live in Southern California, for example, I’ll be leading a series of Saturday retreats in the coming we’re calling An Unhurried Day With Jesus. If you’re looking for a day set aside to deepen your conversational relationship with God through Jesus, this would be a helpful day. Or if you’d like to plan such a day for your church or ministry out of the Southern California area, I’d enjoy talking with you about this.

On the theme of listening to God, I recently read this thought-provoking word by Frank Buchman, quoted in Gary Thomas’s great little book, Sacred Parenting. I’ve made Buchman’s language more gender inclusive. I’m quite sure Buchman was not just speaking to men.

“We accept as commonplace a [person’s] voice carried by radio to the uttermost parts of the Earth. Why not the voice of the living God as an active, creative force in every home, every business, every [legislature]?…

The Holy Spirit is the most intelligent source of information in the world today. He has the answer to every problem. Everywhere when [people] will let him, he is teaching them how to live… Divine guidance must become the normal experience of ordinary men and women. Any [one] can pick up divine messages if [they] will put [their] receiving set in order. Definite, accurate, adequate information can come from the Mind of God to the minds of [people]. This is normal prayer.” (Buchman, Frank. The Revolutionary Path. London: Grosvenor, 1975, p. 2-3. Quoted in Thomas, Gary L. Sacred Parenting. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004, p. 63.)

That the Holy Spirit is the most intelligent source of information in the world today is an idea that Dallas Willard affirms in his latest book Knowing Christ Today. The Spirit gives God’s people real, workable, useful knowledge—if they will listen. He desires to teach us how to live—really live—and to live well. God is speaking to us by His people to give us counsel and insight we need to live our lives and do our work.

How might you be making space to listen for God’s voice in your own life these days?

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