Listening to our Children

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy.            James 3:17 ASV

When driving through a snowstorm or rush hour traffic it helps to turn on some easy listening music. The soothing sound of the melodies can calm our nerves and lower the intensity of our situation down so we can better focus. Now if you asked our sons who was that easy listening person that they wanted to talk to when they were in trouble; that would have picked their mom. It’s not so much that Nancy was easy on them, but she made them feel welcome to tell her their problems. She was easy to be entreated.

James tells us that we need to ask God for wisdom and that includes being easy to be entreated. Maybe some of us don’t make others feel welcome to share their troubles; because we don’t believe that God will listen to ours. But the amazing truth is that God welcomes us when we come with problems or even just small stuff that we struggle with. Always remember that God never asks us to do anything that He hasn’t already done Himself. He is easy to be entreated; willing to listen and ready to teach us to be easy listeners to others when they are in need.

Listening at Work

Listening at Work is the second in the series Joseph Learned to Listen 

 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority Genesis 39:4

Joseph prospered because the Lord was with him and his master, Potiphar noticed, however this blessing wasn’t without its practical working out in the daily circumstances of Joseph’s work. Certainly Joseph wasn’t a lazy or incompetent slave. The Bible makes it quite clear that we are to work heartily as unto the Lord. Secondly, Joseph did not steal or defraud Potiphar and most importantly Joseph learned to listen to Potiphar.

Above all things a slave must be obedient. In order to be obedient a slave must listen to his master. This listening obedience is both a learned skill and an acquired virtue. Since most of us would love to be promoted, recognized for our good work and compensated fairly let’s take a closer look at Joseph’s story.

A) Joseph didn’t complain 

For many of us we struggle to listen at our job because we think that we are meant for something better. Certainly Joseph would have been tempted to believe that he had greater skills than scrubbing floors, waiting on tables and taking out the trash. Yet in spite of all his training and preparation for a higher position we do not hear a single word of complaint from Joseph. Maybe our first step towards being better listeners is to stop complaining. We are unlikely to learn anything new if we are busy talking about what else we would rather be doing. img_4712

B) Joseph paid attention to details

Part of being a good listener is paying attention to detail. In my work as a translator I have learned to empty my mind of my own concerns and focus on the exact words of what I am being asked to translate. I need to hear every detail and then render it into the language of those listening to me. People hear the words from my mouth but in reality they are receiving the message from the one for whom I am translating. When we are at work we are to represent the wishes and goals of our employer. Whether we are cleaning a house, building a car or teaching U.S. history learning to listen to the details is important. If the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock it does not matter if I wish that they had settled in New York. On the assembly line no one will be impressed if I believe the steering wheel belongs in the trunk and I am unlikely to be praised if I decide that cleaning the library is more important than washing the dishes. All of these funny stories are played out a thousand times a day in usually less exaggerated form and reflect whether we have listened carefully to details. Joseph cared about details so much that Potiphar entrusted him with every detail of his household.  img_4520

C) Joseph listened first to God

While we are hearing what we are being asked to do at work, there does come a time when we need to first listen to God. Joseph had done so well in listening to Potiphar that he came to a prominent position in his household. This prominence came to the attention of Potiphar’s wife who desired to have Joseph for herself. It would have been far easier for Joseph to simply accept her advances and go on with his life, but Joseph listened first to God. Often our first tendency as Christians at work is to jump to this third position first. But unless we have stopped complaining and learned to listen to details, our obedience to God will not be much of a witness. Looking to another young man named Daniel we see that his stay in the lion’s den was not just about him praying. Daniel’s obedience to God was framed by his excellent service to his king. How is our life framed today? Have we learned to listen without complaint? Do we give people the attention needed to hear every detail? When we have become good listeners we will be more likely to hear the still small voice of God when He speaks. Listening to God and obeying him in our everyday lives allows us to be translators. We listen to God’s word and translate it into ordinary actions so that those around us can hear the message of the good news of salvation and focus their attention on Jesus Christ. img_4837

Joseph Listened – Part One

Often when we hear the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis it is usually associated with Joseph’s obedience. Joseph was obedient in every poskimg1030ition in which he served, first as youngest son, then slave, prisoner and finally governor of Egypt. But today we begin a short study on not on Joseph’s morality but on his listening . In the letter of James we receive the instruction to be listeners.

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath James 1:19

We begin in ancient days in which the power of the sons flowed from their birth order as well as from the mother to whom they had been born. Though Joseph was the second to youngest at the time the story begins, we do need to remember that he was the firstborn of Jacob’s beloved Rachael. Leah, Rachael’s younger sister, gave Jacob six sons, the first born being Reuben. The other four brothers were born of Rachael and Leah’s handmaidens. Though Jacob preferred Joseph because he was Rachael’s son, he also had earned the right to be trusted. When Joseph had his dreams he eagerly shared them with his father and when the meaning was misunderstood accepted his father’s rebuke without complaint.  Joseph’s life reflects how deeply he reverenced his father’s wishes.

 

Today let’s discover the value of listening even when we don’t like what we are hearing.

A) Listening means sharing our dreams with others

Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. Genesis 37:5

After Joseph had received his first dream it would have been easy for him to be very selective about who he told. If he wanted to be most confident he could have told his mother. But Joseph was both curious about the meaning and respectful of his older brothers’ wisdom in helping him to understand. Joseph’s brothers however were less than delighted by what they felt the dream meant. It seems even likely that some of the brothers even doubted that Joseph had a dream and supposed he simply made up the story for reasons of ambition.

B) Listening means hearing correction without argument

Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” So he told it to his father and his brothers….Genesis 37:9-10a 

If you are anything like most of us you do not rush to people who are critical of your dreams and longings. But Joseph after being harshly criticized by his brothers after his first dream went a step higher and brought the second dream to both the brothers and his father. It probably would have been much easier for Joseph simply to remain silent however Joseph had a great desire to listen to the opinions of others. At this point in the story even Jacob became angry with Joseph (probably much to the other brothers’ delight!) but we hear no push back at all from Joseph. In the face of rejection and accusation Joseph simply trusted that God must have something in store that he could not yet understand. Are you and I willing to still listen without complaint when people treat us unfairly? I believe these situations that are our greatest opportunities to learn how to listen.

C) Listening means accepting fully the responsibility trusted to us

Then he said to him, “Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me Genesis 37:14

At this point in the story we discover that Jacob wanted news and he chose for Joseph to go, listen and bring back to him how the others were doing.  Joseph by his lifestyle, by his responses and by his respect had earned the right to be trusted. When others around us find us to be good listeners we may be astonished at the things we are asked to do. We often judge ourselves on how well we are able to say something, but others and more importantly God value highly our ability to listen. !

Most of us say often that we would like to hear from God. Today’s question is, “Are we ready to listen?” kimg1000