Listening to the Holy Spirit: Finding Your Faith’s Ear

Seven ways to start or re-start your discernment skills. God speaks. How will we learn to listen?

Your equipping skill: Listening Prayers of the heart and growing in discernment

Listening to the Holy Spirit is Central to a living Faith.

What “listening to the Holy Spirit” means

  • The Holy spirit testifies to Christ, guides, inspires and motivates us.  Listening to the Holy Spirit means prioritizing God’s word above other sources.
  • Too often we worship our preferences.  This leads us to blind and deaf spots where we cannot hear what God has to say. 

What this does NOT mean

  • This is not divining the future
  • This is not “Fire Insurance”, insuring a financial or other success.
  • This does not put you or I in charge. Servant Leaders are First Followers
  • This is not manipulating God to do our will.
  • This is not prayer per se, but prayer is the vehicle by which we listen. It is God doing all of the work while we work at listening.

Equipping with Authority

  • This article is focused on the Concrete more than the theorhetical. God is the speaker and will use your preferences to find your listening ear.
  • Central to listening for God is Having an intentional plan. This post should not imply that teaching a mechanical skill-is all that it takes. These 7 actions are ways to intentionally equip yourself to listen
  • Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience are all tests for The Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never contradict scripture, tradition changes to meet the day but gives us context and community, truth makes sense by faith-Fod gave us a mind to use. Finally, all experiences teach something. Pay attention and listen carefully to all four of these as you do these activities. Keep it simple-listen.

1. Disciplined Time with God through Bible study and prayer.

  • God has already spoken through His Word. The more time you spend with God through reading His Word and through prayer, the more familiar you’ll become with His voice.
  • This is important because God will never tell you to do anything that contradicts His written Word. The more time you spend time with God, the more familiar you will become with His voice.

2. Memorize Scripture in context

  • The Bible is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). It will change you, transform you, make you more receptive to hear God’s voice.
  • It’s not enough to simply read the Word. Search the Scripture and “Hide it in your Heart”. (Psalm 119:11)
  • Many times the Holy Spirit will use the Word to guide you. This becomes so much easier if you actually have the Word in your heart.

3. Create a balanced life of prayer: ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (Requests).

  • No one like to be around someone who does all of the talking.
  • Don’t just run into prayer with your checklist in hand and pray, “Dear God, please help me here, bless this, bless that, protect them, help me have a good day. Amen.” Spend time listening.
  • You may not hear anything, but it’s important to remember that prayer is a conversation with God, not a list of needs and desires. .

4. Seek Silence Every Day

  • Look at the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 and you’ll see that God chose to speak to Elijah through a gentle whisper. God often chooses to speak through a still, small voice, and not a shout! Faith beckons us to listen in order to hear.
  • God wants us to remove all the distractions from our lives and focus on Him. Find a consistent time and a dedicated place to be silent before God everyday and hear God’s gentle whisper.

5. Have a Spiritual Director and wise counselors

  • God doesn’t speak exclusively to you. He also speaks to those around you. The book of Proverbs talks a lot about the necessity of seeking wise counsel.
  • When the Holy Spirit speaks to you, seek someone wise to be your prayer partner. Carefully and prayerfully seek the wise counsel of those around you. Pray for God to bring these human resources.

6. Intentionally Listen for God in Daily Decisions

  • Don’t just do something, Sit there
  • Practice makes perfect. We have been given a spirit of discernment by our Father. The Holy Spirit is God. God wants us to know the difference between God’s voice and the many enemies competing for our own thoughts.
  • It takes discernment, and the only way to figure it out is to start practicing. This does NOT legitimize procrastination.

7. Be obedient

  • Don’t just sit there, Do something. 
  • Listening to the Holy Spirit requires obedience. Search through the book of Acts. It is a diary of the Holy Spirit speaking to the early church. The “Spirit” is used in Acts 67 different times. The reason the Spirit is still leading and motivating the church today is because the church obeyed the Spirit when Jesus’ Church heard His voice.
  • Do the last thing God told you to do.  If God hasn’t spoken to you, perhaps it’s because you didn’t obey the last thing God told you to do. God may be silent until you finish what He started. When the Spirit speaks, it’s not meant as a suggestion. If you want the Holy Spirit to continue to speak to you, obey God when God speaks

NOW WHAT?  What transforming change will you make today? These “Doing” activities can and will point you to “Being” in Christ. The point of this excercise is to strengthen faith and create a more intimate relationship with God. Listen well and hear God’s loving and still small voice.

Some resources for further study:

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton

Anatomy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer (Praying together)

When God is Silent by Barbara Brown Taylor ( The Section on Silence)

The Once and Future Wesleyan Movement by Scott J. Jones ( The Holy Spirit p. 57)

(c) Alan Van Hooser, “The Thoughtful Pastor”, 2022 all rights reserved.

Ask 4 an Intentional Faith: A simple habit for life’s complex answers

The equipping skill: creating and strengthening good and intentional faith habits.

A recent health scare forced a month of isolation and reflection upon me. This created time to take stock. I realized, reluctantly, that I was living much of my life on auto-pilot with Body mind and soul. After much reflection I’m making this response, I am beginning a “Year of Intentional Living”.

Join me and see where we might go together. Add a reply at the bottom and share your journey.

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” James Clear, from his book Atomic Habits

For better or worse, we are the sum of our habits. I want to be and become a person of intentional faith in Jesus. People of any faith have faith goal goal. I take this journey as a follower of Jesus Christ. I want to be intentional about faith. My daily habits should include actions that lead me to an INTENTIONAL, thriving faith.

One daily habit is to test yourself. Ask four simple questions at the end of each dlay to test the intentionality of your faith-building. I am journaling my answers nightly. A reminder card is taped to my bedside lamp to cue me to stop and think. Weekly I share my journey with fellow church members and a trusted small group, for accountability. The reward is to go to sleep at night knowing that I truly lover each moment of the day. Here is how it might work for you

Printed cards provide the “Cue” to act. this one stays folded up in my pocket. More than anything, the card is a constant and intentional reminder. Write down your answers daily. If you don’t have an answer, intentionally do better tomorrow. Here are the four questions.

(You can have a card by request-contact me or enter a reply. I don’t share your contact info. )

When did I Pray today? Read Mark 11:15-26. When did you Thank, listen, speak and then move in prayer. Can’t remember? Make an appointment with God for tomorrow.

What did I learn today? Read Matthew 7:9-13 and find a familiar starting point. Poke around the scripture for a few minutes. Can’t remember? Make an appointment with God’s word tomorrow.

What did I teach today? Read Romans 12:1-8 and seize an opportunity to be a living sacrifice. Don’t TELL, SHOW your faith. Can’t remember? Think of a way to live what you learn from scripture and show someone.

What did I leave behind today that mattered? Read Romans 12:9-21. Where did you Love, Encourage, forgive, comfort, or do other meaningful things? Can’t remember? Watch closely for a God size opportunity tomorrow.

For added punch, share your victories, or opportunities for improvement, with a trusted friend. The journey of faith is always better with a co-traveller.

Where could Faith make your life richer? what do you intend to do about it? Take this cue and “Ask 4”! Make a bold and intentional step for yourself.

For additional study, read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, Avery Press, 2018. A sensible look at creating positive improvements in life-including your Faith Journey.

(c) Alan Van Hooser, “The Thoughtful Pastor”, 2022 all rights reserved.

Christian Life Hacks-INTERACTIVE

Equipping Skill: strengthening your creative spirituality. Share you creative spiritual life “hacks” in a comment below.

The Internet Universe is over stuffed with “Hacks”, clever, small actions that improve your life. There are hundreds of thousands of “Hacks” out there showing you what you have been doing wrong. With them, you can improve everything in life from peeling pomegranates to ironing shirts. This is a list of spiritual life “hacks”. You aren’t necessarily doing them wrong but you might get a little jump start and experience a bigger spiritual impact.

Some of this list was collected from other places while others are my own. This is a living document. Please add your own in the comment section!

1. Bullet Point Journaling:“BUJO” is all the rage and has streamlined my rather hit-or-miss journaling. Another post on this blog shares my heavily adapted system. This system of journalling systematically and efficiently uses your journal as icon, focusing your spiritual goals in everyday living. The first page is an index followed by few pages of lists and goals. Know where you have been, where you are and where you are going in Christ through them. The rest creates space for daily lists of your encounters from each day. Rather than prose, you make bullet point lists-simple, clear and focused lists. One small blank book replaced my scattered notebooks.

2. Use color in your journal: I am not all that artistic but adding a cheap assortment of colored pens to my $5 blank book keeps me in the word longer and opens me up to the scripture from a different part of my brain. Simply adding the act of doodling helps me pray more creatively and connect with the word.

3. Create a “Monday Morning Briefing”: I have three e-mail devotional sources of different perspectives that I read each Monday and glance at through the week. This is an addition to and not a replacement of Scripture and prayer. You should choose three-A single source is thin while more than three clutters your in-box. Here are my three: Cary Nieuwhof-leadership, Patheos-a variety of posts that either edify or tick me off, and “Talent Smart”/Travis Bradberry-Emotional intelligence.

4. Create an email account for devotional posts: This keeps Spiritual matters from becoming lost in the pile and keeps you from checking work stuff at prayer time. My IPhone made this easy to check.

5. Keep it simple: I have chosen a small blank drawing-paper book and a small double-spaced journaling testament for morning devotions. These reside in my bag and go wherever I go. Prefer a tech solution? I carry an Ipad and phone but I find too many distractions in them. Analog or digital, keep it simple and easy.

6. Create a fixed devotional space with a mobile solution: My desk at home and at work are sacred spaces. At my knee is a bag where my prayer and devotional items live. I can work on sermons or pray through an issue wherever I am. My prioritized work list and prayer list share the same space and carry the same spiritual weight. How could this work in your life and

7. Make a photo of a critical prayer matter and use it as phone wallpaper: My kids, grands and church family rotate across the front of my phone as a reminder to pray and not just talk about praying. Even if you are just praying about bad weather, keep it up front.

8. Bookend your day with God: Condition yourself to make prayer your first conscious thought and a disciplined habit of your final thought as you go to sleep. This simple habit will change your life in Christ.

9. Turn those daily repetitive task into prayer time: I hate unloading the dishwasher and folding clothes but look forward to the prayer time. These mindless tasks are exceptionally rich times for prayer. The old monks worked with their hands while they prayed. We can make any space sacred.

10. Make Lists: Lists of Books read, edifying movies watched, Bible verses by topic, birds watched, prayers answered, and such can provide focus and depth for your devotional time.

11. Own a Psalm: Choose one psalm, pray through it until you own it, then choose another. This is God’s own devotional book and will open you up to spiritual riches.

12. Have and be a prayer partner: Devotional time is solitary but you were never meant to travel along. Find your intercessor then be available to someone else. NOTHING opens a disciple of Jesus up to deeper things like blessing another person in prayer.

Ashes and Crosses: Lent as An Annual Season, a Daily Invitation

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Lent is a 40-day season of preparation that reflects Jesus Christ’s 40 days temptation by Satan in the desert. It begins with acts of fasting and self-denial on Ash Wednesday.  The season is actually 46 days before Easter Sunday – the six Sundays in between are not counted, as they are “miniature -Easters” and feast days.  People follow Jesus’ example and give up something important to grow closer to God as Easter approaches.

The dates for Lent and Easter follow the Lunar Date of Passover.  We know from scripture that Jesus was crucified on the Friday of Passover.  Passover begins on the first full moon on or after March 21. (The Spring Equinox) That gives us the date of the Sunday for Easter. You then count back six Sundays for season of Lent and the Wednesday before the first Sunday of Lent is Ash Wednesday.  Before the glorious celebration of resurrection, we look at our sorrow and mortality, represented in the ashes, which makes the cross necessary.

The ashes are an ancient symbol of death and an expression of sorrow.  One of the earliest uses of them in worship is found in the book of Job.  The ashes used in worship are traditionally made from the palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.  Mixed with a little oil, they become a rich and meaningful means of grace.

The observance of Ash Wednesday requires fasting and “giving up” something for Lent that fosters spiritual growth.

The Ashes of Wednesday are placed on the worshiper’s forehead in the sign of the cross withAshes and collin the words, “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” The cross is worn until the next morning as a witness to the Work of Jesus

My prayer for you is that the season of Lent is more than just giving up Diet Coke or chocolate but provides a time to meditate on the deeper things of God.  Find that one thing that pushes your soul along that internal journey of salvation.  Rather than food fast, try a technology fast, give up a grudge or even a bad habit.  Consider giving up a block of time each day to devote yourself to searching the scriptures. It is between you and God what this sacrifice should be.

Where would Lent take you if it became a constant mindset and not a brief season on the calendar? May God speak to you through the skills you Lent daily. Let your living room and car become mini-monasteries . God will meet you there.

Honest Joe! August 2017 Worship together!

honest joe source slide in jpgThis month’s series looks at the life of faith through the lens of Joseph, son of Israel/Jacob. He was the pampered youngest son of a family that put the fun in dis-functional. We will explore four answers to the questions we have about faith in real life and in real time. Joseph’s story is an important cross road in both Jewish and Christian history. Join me in studying through his story! Joseph is more than a colorful coat!

Continue reading

An Honest Joe: Worship and Study Guide

honest joe source slide in jpgThe Bible is a living connection to God and people.  In Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel, found in Genesis 37-50 is a life full of those connecting moments.  Honest Joe’s story is more than just a colorful coat and contains tips for successful living.  Our Cheatham Memorial United Methodist Church family will being studying through these chapter in our August 2017 sermons.

We welcome you to follow along and comment.  Begin with this  “Infographic”, follow the study guide and  make comments from your own experience.  Everyone is welcome to comment.  Check out our Cheatham Memorial website for more details. (  Put your US Mail address in a comment and I will send you a paper copy if you wish)

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Here are the four topics that I picked and a 30-Day reading guide.  This is less than one page per day f reading!  Please leave comments to those things that gave you something that adds value to your life!

August 6, 2017: Weekley Reading Genesis 37-39
Genesis 37:12-28 “Faith is a Journey”.

August 13, 2017: Weekly Reading: Genesis 40-42
Genesis 39:1-23 “Life Can Be a Dream”

August 20, 2017: Weekly Reading: Genesis 43-46
Genesis 45:1-18 Forgiveness: A New Beginning”

August 27, 2017: Weekly Reading Genesis 47-50
Genesis 50:22 “Faith Gives Birth to Faith”

Where do  you find yourself in Joseph’s story?  LEAVE A COMMENT! Thanks for reading along with us!  Looking for a church home?  We have a great church family. Join us!

WELCOME HOME!

Cheatham Memorial United Methodist Church

SUNDAY WORSHIP 10:00 AM

Office Hours: Monday – Thursday 9 am – 3 pm
205 South Houston Street/P.O. Box 800
Edgewood, TX 75117
Tel: 903-896-4935 Fax: 903-896-4935
www.cheathamumc.net
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