Leaders Listen

“The moment you wake up each morning your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other Voice, letting that other, stronger, larger, quieter Life come flowing in.” —C.S. Lewis 

“God said, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Yes?’ answered Abraham. ‘I’m listening.’” —Genesis 22:1 

Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak. I’m Your servant, ready to listen.’” —1 Samuel 3:10 

“How much of God are we missing because we don’t stop to listen to the many voices God uses to speak to us?” —George Washington Carver 

“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” —Proverbs 18:13 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” —Winston Churchill

A mark of a godly leader is one who listens to the counsel of other godly leaders. 

“Wise, godly leaders know they must listen to the counsel of wise, godly leaders.” —Craig T. Owens 

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” —James 1:19 

“There are none so blind as those who will not see, none so deaf as those who will not hear, none so ignorant as those who will not listen… and none so foolish as those who think they can change those who will not see, hear, or listen.” —Warren Bennis

“Correct the wise, and they will love you.” —Proverbs 9:8 

“What is a great man who has made his mark upon history? … He is a man who has looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issue involved; he is a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; he has listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a trumpet call to like-minded men, so that they gather about him, and together, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, they make a new period in history.” —Jane Addams, in a speech about George Washington 

“People don’t lose intimacy when they stop talking, but when they stop listening. Leaders seldom realize how much their listening empowers the other person. Because they are leaders, the sheer act of listening speaks volumes that even a great speech can’t communicate. …   

“A leader’s communication must be consistent, clear, and courteous. But leaders must also be good listeners. When leaders don’t listen: They stop gaining wisdom. … Leaders listen; leaders learn; and then leaders lead.” —John Maxwell 

This is part 43 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Acceptable And Pleasing

…acceptable to the Lord … an aroma pleasing to the Lord… (Leviticus 1:3, 9). 

Whether it’s a sacrifice or a lifestyle, these two phrases sum up the goal of obeying all of God’s directives: acceptable and pleasing. 

“But,” you might say, “there is a lot of law to obey—a lot! 

And I would agree with you. Beginning with the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and going all the way through Numbers 9, there are 56(!) chapters of regulations.

“And I’m supposed to follow all of those?!” 

Yes! Every single one of them. And not just those, but also the innumerable man-made rules that were added on top of all of those laws. 

In the opening words of Leviticus, two key words emerge:

  • Acceptable to the Lord 
  • An aroma pleasing to the Lord

“How can I ever get there?” 

YOU can’t! 

For EVERYONE has sinned; we ALL fall short of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23 NLT). 

For NO PERSON will be justified—made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable—in God’s sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law… (Romans 3:20 AMP). 

But here is our hope—Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing the heavenly places in Christ…to the praise and of the glory of His grace, by which HE MADE US ACCEPTABLE in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3, 6 NKJV). 

And when we are in Christ, we also become an aroma pleasing to God—Our lives are a Christ-like FRAGRANCE rising up to God (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NLT). 

On our own, we cannot accomplish any of this. But in Christ we are both ACCEPTABLE to the Lord … and an aroma PLEASING to the Lord…. 

Enjoying The Meal

I am so active every day that I need to eat about 2700 calories just to maintain my weight. Eating that often, if I’m not careful, I can just simply put food in my mouth and really not taste it. 

I think most people realize that there is a difference between eating and enjoying their food. Not only is gulping not very pleasurable, but doctors have even found some negative impacts on habitual food-gulpers. Things like: 

  1. Indigestion 
  2. Weight gain 
  3. Disconnection from hunger/full signals 
  4. Increasingly likelihood of unhealthy food choices 

In the same way, there’s a difference between praying and enjoying our time with God (see Mark 6:30-31 and Revelation 3:20).

Just as there are many physical benefits to enjoying healthy food, there are also many spiritual benefits to enjoying our time in God’s Word and God’s presence. This spiritual eating and digestion process is called meditation. 

Allow me to put a couple of thoughts together to show you the value of this spiritual discipline: 

  • The apostle Paul told us, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). 
  • God told Joshua, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

So the way we pray continually is to have something healthy to digest. We can feast on God’s Word and then allow the Holy Spirit to extract all of the healthy spiritual nutrients that will allow us to grow and mature. 

David said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Don’t gulp down your meal of the Scripture—taste it. Don’t rush through your prayer time—enjoy it. Keep mulling over what you have read. Keep chewing on it to help the digestion of the good stuff you need to be healthy.

We meditate on the Word of God to learn how to continually commune with the God of the Word. 

Meditating on God’s Word with the Holy Spirit’s help means you will never lack material for praying continually.

Poetry Saturday—God Is The Name My Soul Adores

God is the Name my soul adores,
The almighty Three, the eternal One;
Nature and grace, with all their powers,
Confess the Infinite unknown.

Thy voice produced the sea and spheres,
Bade the waves roar, the planets shine;
But nothing like Thyself appears
Through all these spacious works of Thine.

Still restless nature dies and grows;
From change to change the creatures run:
Thy being no succession knows,
And all Thy vast designs are one.

A glance of Thine runs through the globe,
Rules the bright worlds, and moves their frame;
Of light Thou formist Thy dazzling robe;
Thy ministers are living flame.

How shall polluted mortals dare
To sing Thy glory or Thy grace?
Beneath Thy feet we lie afar,
And see but shadows of Thy face.

Who can behold the blazing light?
Who can approach the consuming flame?
None but Thy wisdom knows Thy might
None but Thy Word can speak Thy Name. —Isaac Watts

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Why Bethlehem?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Why Bethlehem?

     There [in Bethlehem] cleaved to [Naomi] Ruth the Moabitess, whose Gentile blood should unite with the pure untainted stream of the Jew and should thus bring forth the Lord our Savior, the great King both of Jews and Gentiles. … And in the streets of Bethlehem did Boaz and Ruth receive a blessing that made them fruitful, so that Boaz became the father of Obed and Obed the father of Jesse—and Jesse the father of David. … 

     There is something in the name of the place. Bethlehem Ephrathah. The word Bethlehem has a double meeting. It signifies ‘the house of bread’ and ‘the house of war.’ …

     Bethlehem, you house of bread, rightly were you called, for there the Bread of life was first handed down for man to eat.

     And it is called ‘the house of war,’ because Christ is to a man either ‘the house of bread’ or else ‘the house of war.’ While He is food to the righteous, He causes war to the wicked, according to His own words: ‘Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword…’ (Matthew 10:34–36).

     Sinner, if you do not know Bethlehem as ‘the house of bread,’ it will be to you a ‘house of war.’ If from the lips of Jesus you never drink sweet honey—if you were not like the bee, which sips sweet luscious liquor from the Rose of Sharon, then out of the selfsame mouth there will go forth against you a two-edged sword! And that mouth from which the righteous draw their bread will be to you the mouth of destruction and the cause of your ill. … 

     Ephrathah … the meaning of it is ‘fruitfulness’ or ‘abundance.’ … 

     If we are like trees planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth our fruit in our season, it is not because we were naturally fruitful, but because of the rivers of water by which we were planted. It is Jesus who makes us fruitful. ‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you’ (John 15:7). Glorious Bethlehem Ephrathah! Rightly named! Fruitful house of bread—the house of abundant provision for the people of God! 

From The Incarnation And Birth Of Christ

Bethlehem wasn’t just a random place for Jesus Christ to be born. God doesn’t do anything randomly. Everything He does has a plan and a purpose. We may have difficulty seeing what the purpose is. As Martin Tupper noted in one of his poems—

We look through a glass darkly, we catch but glimpses of truth;
But, doubtless, the sailing of a cloud hath Providence to its pilot…
Man doeth one thing at once, nor can he think two thoughts together;
But God compasseth all things, mantling the globe like air…

Not only was the birthplace of Jesus purposely chosen by God, so was your birthplace. And your birth parents. And, indeed, everything about you. You are not an accident or some chance encounter. You have been created by God on purpose and for a purpose. 

Let the birthplace of Jesus—all the rich meaning of Bethlehem Ephrathah—be an encouragement to you that God knows and loves you dearly. Your life has meaning and purpose, which you can discover through a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. 

 

George Mueller On Meditation

“I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words for the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated on, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. … So that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer.” —George Mueller, in his Autobiography (emphasis mine)

Whose Fight Is It?

In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups… (Genesis 32:7). 

Jacob’s brother Esau is approaching with 400 men! 

Esau is the man who sold his birthright to Jacob, and then had his father’s blessing swindled away from him by Jacob. And now he is rapidly approaching Jacob and his entourage. 

Jacob’s natural response is, well, natural: great fear and distress grip his heart (v. 7). In his agitated state of mind “he thought” of a strategy to try to appease his brother and save as many of his family members and possessions as he could. 

And then another strategy popped into Jacob’s agitated mind: Then he prayed (v. 9). He concocted his own plans first and then he prayed. Prayer should have been his first response, but at least he finally did get around to praying!

In his prayer, Jacob twice reminds God, “You said” (vv. 9, 12), and in-between those reminders he confesses to Him, “I am afraid” (v. 11). 

As he speaks to God, reminds God of His promises, and confesses his own heart-quaking, knee-knocking fear, God says:  [crickets chirping in the warm evening]. 

God is silent. 

So Jacob returns to his own strategizing—once again we read “for he thought” (v.20)—until he is utterly out of options. All he can do now is wrestle with God (vv. 22-30). All out of his own options, Jacob now tenaciously clings to God and will not let Him go! 

In the Hebrew language, the name Jacob means a man who struggles, thinks, and strategizes using his own abilities*. 

After finally submitting to God, Jacob’s name is changed to Israel**. Now Israel lets God do the strategizing and the fighting. Jacob tried to figure things out on his own; Israel lets God’s plan prevail. When Israel bought his first plot of ground after his name had been changed, he built an altar there and named it El Elohe Israel—The Almighty God is my God (33:20). 

Israel now says, “I’m done striving with men on my own. I’m done fighting people and trying to figure out how to make things happen for me. From now on I will only wrestle with God, and I’ll let Him fight the battles for me!” 

How often do I strategize on my own first, and only after I have run out of options do I run to God in prayer? This is a Jacob spirit in me! I don’t want to live this way. I want to be like Israel—clinging to God as my first and only Source of help. 

How about you?

* In the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible, there is an interesting note on Jacob’s name. For instance, when Esau says, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob?” (Genesis 27:36), the FSB editors offer this commentary: “Esau uses the Hebrew word ‘aqab here, which is a wordplay on Jacob’s name in Hebrew, ya-aqov. … Esau suggests that Jacob’s name actually has to do with him being a person who supplants or cheats other people.” 

** Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel (Genesis 32:28). The FSB commentary points out, “Jacob’s name must be changed due to its association with his misdeeds. Here, the reasoning for the name Israel (yisra’el in Hebrew) is the verbal phrase ‘you have striven with (or struggled with) God.’ This suggests the name derives from the Hebrew verb sarah, meaning ‘to struggle,’ ‘to strive’ or ‘to fight.’ The name yisra’el itself could mean ‘God will struggle,’ ‘May God struggle’ or ‘God fights’….” 

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