Being Quick to Listen in a World of Talk
by Mike Pohlman, Crosswalk.com
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.” –James 1:19-20
We live in a world of talk. Talk, talk, talk. Speak, speak, speak. Ours is the age of talk radio (news talk, sports talk, money talk, self-help talk, car talk, I-just-want-to-talk talk), podcasts and cell phones. Everyone, it seems, wants to be heard.
Speaking of cell phones, the other day I was in line at one of my local Starbucks and the gentleman in front of me was ordering a caramel macchiato while talking to a buddy on his iPhone. The barista was more than gracious as the customer stopped and started his order apparently not able to put his other conversation on hold (I like what one coffee house in Bellingham, Washington has done by posting a sign that says, “We’ll serve you once you hang up the phone”).
But it’s not just at Starbucks. After arriving home recently from a business trip, I left Los Angeles International Airport in one of those shuttle vans. I shared it with seven other passengers that were making the 40-mile trip north. While most of us were quiet, preferring to read or look out the window at the sea of cars that had us moving at a crawl, there were two college-age men who had to talk. They made call after call on their cell phones to chat with friends about all the amazing things that must have happened during their several days away. I got to hear about the party later that night, the car that broke down, the lonely girlfriend and the overbearing parents. Let’s just say they were conversations I didn’t need to be a part of.
We have become a culture full of talking heads regardless of where we find ourselves. Ad the chatter is deafening.
Into this noise come the words of James: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak. This exhortation is almost unintelligible to a culture intent on talking. We have it backwards: we are quick to speak, slow to hear.
But God would be the primary voice heard in the universe. He is the One who has much to say. He speaks, in the Bible, of the riches of His mercy in Christ. He broadcasts His forgiveness and love. He heralds the wonder of redemption. He calls us to repent and beckons us to draw near.
Am I listening?
Do you remember the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42? Luke offers us a helpful contrast in speaking and listening. Martha was frantically trying to make dinner preparations for Jesus and the disciples. I envision her running around the house uttering things under her breath like, “I can’t believe Jesus is here on such short notice—not to mention all his disciples—and I have to pull this dinner together.” And, “Why doesn’t Mary get in here and help me?” Unlike Martha, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (10:39).
Not surprisingly, Martha gets a bit frustrated at Mary’s lack of effort with the event. So Martha does what we probably all would do under similar circumstances—she starts talking: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (10:40). We are not left to wonder which course of action Jesus commends. We see it in his gentle rebuke: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Mary was quick to listen and slow to speak. She knew when to be quiet. In a culture full of chatter I want to learn the discipline of silence so I can hear what the Lord wants to teach me. He’s speaking; am I listening?
Through The Bible Devotions
Joshua 4:23-24 (NIV) 23For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”
When Israel was prepared to cross, the Levites carried the ark into the Jordan River at flood stage. As soon as their feet touched the water it rolled back like the time they crossed the Red Sea. The Levites stood there with the ark while the whole nation crossed. Then a man from each tribe picked a stone out of the riverbed to make a memorial. When the ark was carried to the other side the water returned to flood stage.
It’s humorous to hear people try to give physical reasons as to why that happened. I think they are desperate to say it wasn’t an unexplainable miracle. Does it really matter? It would be just as great a miracle if some physical event caused it at the very moment the feet of those carrying the ark touched the water. It is as if we do not want to acknowledge that God can do anything He wants any time He wants. That thought makes God so much greater than we usually think of Him. It humbles us. Mankind doesn’t like to be humbled.
God did it like He did to show He is powerful and that you might always fear the Lord your God. God is on the throne of heaven and can do whatever He wills. Learn to love it now, because it will be that way forever.
Pleasant and Good
Julia Prins Vanderveen, Reframemedia.om
Scripture Reading — Isaiah 55
“Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.” — Isaiah 55:13
Several passages in Isaiah warn God’s people about the destruction that will come upon them because they have rejected the Lord and been unfaithful. And yet, as we find in our passage for today, God also declares that he will reverse the situation and bring about healing and restoration.
When Isaiah writes that the juniper will grow instead of the thornbush, I think of the thorny, invasive plants that grow near our house and are very hard to get rid of. What a gift it would be to have those rooted out for good! Thornbushes and briers make places inhospitable to people and many animals, so to have those harsh plants replaced by junipers and myrtle would be wonderful. This means not only that the situation would be more bearable, but also that the shrubs and trees replacing the unwanted plants would be edible and medicinal. Junipers and myrtles are beautiful as well as functional: junipers have antiseptic properties, and myrtles provide delicious, nutrient-rich berries and have leaves that can be used for medicine.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that our amazing God would replace thorns with shrubs and trees that are both pleasant to the sight and good for food? This demonstrates God’s attentive care for his people.
In what ways do you see God at work in your life, replacing thorns and briers with things that are both pleasant and good?
Lord, please root out the thornbushes of discontent, struggle, and strife in our lives. And fill us with healing and nourishment, that we may join with creation in praising you. Amen.
“You shall assign to each man by name the items he must carry.” – Numbers 4:32 NKJV
In the wilderness, each Israelite was given an assignment. No one was left out. Every task was important. The future of the entire community depended upon each person doing the assigned job.
As they traveled, some had specific responsibilities for tearing down or setting up the tent. Some were assigned to carry specific items. All the while together they watched out for danger. Together, following God’s commandments, they found the food and water they needed.
The body of Christ operates in the same way. Each person is unique in God’s sight. Each of us is assigned individual tasks, called to fulfill specific functions, and given unique gifts and talents to accomplish these tasks.
We should be humbled and grateful! This helps us understand God’s plans and purposes. Each of us is special to Him! It also helps us answer the fundamental questions of life: Why do I exist? What is my purpose? How can I find meaning?
The answer to these questions is remarkably simple: to know God and to bring Him glory. Serve Him. Submit your life to Him. Follow His plan. Seek His will and direction. Trust Him to give your life fulfillment.
Learn what tasks You have been assigned. Discover and apply the unique gifts God has given you. Spend your life focused on fulfilling your personal calling. As you are faithful, celebrate the fact that He loves you and knows you by name.