Tag Archives: Listening to God

Doing the Father’s Will

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21)

How do we know if we are doing the Father’s will?  There are several cross referenced scriptures to these words of Jesus that may provide clarification.

The Apostle John says, “Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)  Declarations of love are fine, but unless they are supported by actions, they ring hollow and fade.

James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”   It doesn’t do us any good to read or listen to the Word of God and then not do what it says.  James says it is like looking at yourself in the mirror and then immediately forgetting what you look like.  (James 1:22-25)

When we think about fulfilling God’s will, we often think of the big decisions in life such as where will I go to college.  What should be my major?  Should I consider a religious vocation?  Should I marry?  What kind of job should I seek?  Where should I live?  How many children does God want us to have?

However, the small, everyday decisions are often just as important in fulfilling God’s will because they tend to set the pattern or habit that determines whether we fulfill God’s will with the larger decisions.

This past week, I encountered one of those small decisions.

As a Eucharistic minister for my church, I take communion to residents at a local nursing home once or more a month.  Our usual practice is to have a group service for those who are ambulatory, and then go to individual rooms for those who are not and to the third floor where the Alzheimer residents reside.

I was informed by the social director that one of the Alzheimer residents was indisposed and that left only one other person, whom I will call Shirley, who is usually sleeping and most of the time doesn’t receive communion.

My first reaction was to skip the third floor and return home, but then I thought maybe I should check to see if Shirley was awake.  It turns out that she was in the third floor dining room just finishing her breakfast.  I went to her table and asked if she wanted to receive communion.  She did not respond.  I knelt down on one knee by her chair, put my hand on her hand and asked if she wanted to say the Lord’s Prayer.  She nodded yes, and we slowly recited the Lord’s Prayer together.

I again asked her if she wanted to receive communion, and she said, “I want to be a good girl.”  I said, “Shirley, you are indeed a good girl and God loves you very much.”  She then received communion.  The next thing I knew she was grabbing my hand and kissing it.  I was a bit embarrassed as I withdrew my hand, but realized that in her uninhibited way, she was responding to God’s love.  I was just standing in as his agent.

It was a small decision to go to the third floor, but both Shirley and I were the beneficiaries.   

Listening to Jesus

Do you listen to Jesus?

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all report on an event which has become known as the transfiguration of Jesus.  In it, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up to a high mountain where Jesus’ face begins to shine like the sun and his clothes become as white as light.  Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking with Jesus.  Then a cloud envelopes them and a voice from the cloud says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!” (Mt. 17:1-9)

What a remarkable occurrence!  God is speaking audibly and directly to the three disciples, confirming that Jesus is his son and that they should listen to him. 

We are blessed to have four different gospel writers handing down a treasure trove of Jesus’ words, teachings, and actions.  As a result, one way for us to listen to Jesus is to read what he has to say, digest the meaning of his parables and observe his actions for the example they give us in how we should conduct our lives.

But Jesus and his Holy Spirit can also speak to us as a quiet whisper to our hearts.  A few years ago, a close friend experienced a massive brain hemorrhage in the night and was taken to one of our local hospitals.  A brain scan indicated that he would likely not survive.  I went to the hospital in the morning and then again in the afternoon to support him, his wife and family.

While the prognosis was fairly certain, the timing was not.  After spending most of the day at the hospital, I decided to go home for dinner.  After dinner, I was tired and my first inclination was not to return to the hospital, but then the question started coming into my mind, “What if he dies tonight?”  The question started to nag at me.  It wouldn’t go away.  Then it dawned on me to ask, “Is that you Lord?  Do you want me to go back to the hospital?”  I grabbed my Bible and headed out the door.

When I arrived in his room, there were now more friends beside the family.  We gathered around my friend’s bed and began to pray, read psalms and other passages from the Bible.  We sang hymns that were familiar to him and his family.  Our mood went from being somber to a realization that we were assisting our good friend in his passage from this life to the next.  We began praising God for his life, and what he meant to his family and the rest of us. 

The monitor started to show an irregular heartbeat, and the intervals between breaths were growing longer.  After a few minutes the line on the monitor went flat.  My friend had passed on to the arms of Jesus.

I believe that nagging question I heard after dinner, “What if he dies tonight?” was from Jesus and his Holy Spirit, leading me back to the hospital.  What a privilege and blessing it was for me to be physically present as his soul and spirit left his body to be with God!  

I believe that Jesus wanted me to be with my friend and his family when he died.  If I had not listened to Jesus, I would have missed both the opportunity and the privilege.   

“This is my son.  Listen to him!”    

“Listen to Him!”

How do you listen to God?

After describing the transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah speaking to him in the presence of Peter, James and John, Luke’s Gospel reports that a cloud covered them and a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is my Son whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:35)

It appears that God was directing his remarks to the three apostles.  Peter was focusing on his delight of being present to witness the miraculous appearance of Moses and Elijah.  He makes kind of a silly offer to make shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah as if they were going to continue to hang around physically after having completed their mission to speak to Jesus.

In almost the form of a rebuke, God lets Peter and the others know that their friend, Jesus of Nazareth, is God’s very own son whom he has chosen.  He emphatically commands them to listen to his Son.

This is a command that is applicable not only to the apostles who spent three years with Jesus, but also their successors and followers, including us.  Do we listen to Jesus?  How do we listen?

There are multiple ways in which Jesus can speak to us.  He can do so directly by putting thoughts in our minds through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  He can speak to us through our reading of scripture and other spiritual writings.  He can speak to us through others.

Let me share a recent experience.  In the middle of the night about a week ago, I awoke and could not go back to sleep.  As I tossed and turned, a good friend of mine kept coming to mind.  At first I just dismissed it as a random thought in my quest to go back to sleep.  But thoughts and a picture of him in my mind kept persisting.  I wasn’t going to sleep and the thoughts of him were not going away.  I started to wonder if something was wrong for him.  Was he experiencing some health issues?  Was he in physical danger?

I was prompted to start praying for him – if it was a health issue or if he had an accident, I prayed that God would protect him from serious illness or injury and get him the medical care he needed.

The next day I was shocked to receive an e-mail that my friend, who was on a mission trip repairing houses, fell from a ladder that very morning, incurring a concussion and seven cracked ribs.  The timing was beyond coincidence.  Fortunately, a co-worker was present who arranged for immediate emergency transportation to the hospital.  He is now on the road to recovery. 

I can only conclude that the Holy Spirit was bringing my friend to mind and prompting me to intercede on his behalf before the accident even occurred.  I thank God for his grace and mercy, and for the Holy Spirit that led me to listen.