How to Listen

Proverbs 18:13

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Have you ever reacted quickly and emotionally to what another person had just said, without asking them what they really meant by what they said and getting clarification, but only found out later that you had misunderstood them, that they didn’t mean what you thought they meant?

I have done that many times. By God’s grace, He used a friend in my life to gently advice me not to assume what another person meant, but to ask more questions to understand them better. This is great wisdom for my personal life, but also a wonderful skill for counseling.

Listening well is so critical in our interactions with others. The Lord teaches us how to listen, “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (v. 15) We are to listen with an open heart, open mind that is centered on Christ, and we are to take the active role, to seek knowledge – what is truly being said, and not what we think/assume is being said. May God give us wisdom and grace to listen well and love with kindness.


Our Whole Being for His Glory

Psalm 19:14

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

We move and have our being in the Lord Jesus Christ. His Word searches the deepest place of our soul, even presumptuous sins we committed without knowing (vv. 12-13), just like the scorching heat of the sun reaches the end of the earth – nothing is hidden from Him (vv. 1-6). By His perfect grace, in this searching, testing, and refining, He revives our soul, makes us simple, rejoices our heart, enlightens our eyes, and guides our steps to follow Him faithfully, to the everlasting reward (vv. 7-11).

“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?” (Ps. 18:31) May He keep us and grow us through His Holy Word and Spirit, that everything we say, think and do will be suitable act of worship before Him, our Rock and Redeemer, our everlasting Joy!

The Lord Supports Us

Psalm 18:34

“He trains my hands for war,

so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”

The Lord had given David all the skills and knowledge to win the war, defeating his enemies who were like swirling waters that were about to drown him (v. 16b, “he drew me out of many waters”). He is doing the same for us today. He equips us, giving us all wisdom and skills needed to fight this war against our sin, against the devil and the world that’s under Satan’s influence. And his faithfulness and mercy will see us through to win this battle. He is the source of our strength, so that we are not fighting this fight on our own strength or wisdom (which won’t get us very far). We can rest in Christ, knowing that He is with us, He goes before us and with us, and He is faithful to his promise that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)


Marriage Vows

Ruth 1:17b

“May the LORD deal with me, be it ever severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

Although this was what Ruth said to her mother-in-law Naomi (after Ruth’s husband died and Naomi urged her to leave her and go back to her own people), it makes me wonder, “What would a marriage be like if we have this determination to stay together and work things out with the utmost loyalty?” (Note that we are not talking about domestic abuse or unrepentant adultery here.)

Relationships are hard, marriages are hard, but life is not easy in general. God wills a husband and wife to remain in a marriage for His redemptive purposes, to reveal the sins in our hearts, and use this challenging and sometimes difficult environment to change us to be more like Christ. That’s why He says in Mark 10:9, “‘Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.'”

In Christ, we have hope, even when things look impossible. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) Cling to Jesus and allow Him to work in and through you. Do not give up.

Being Honest without Shame

Genesis 2:25
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
If you were to have a conversation with your spouse/partner, to let them know what you need most from them, what might you say?
“I need to feel, to sense that:
– I am special to you and that you really value our relationship. I need that reassurance that I am number one with you and that nothing is more important to you than us.
– I am wanted by you, as a partner and a lover, that making me happy is important to you.
– I am loved and accepted, with my failings and imperfections. I can’t be perfect for you.
– I am needed. You want me close.
– I am safe because you care about my feelings, hurts, and needs.
– I can count on you to be there for me, to not leave me alone when I need you the most.
– I will be heard and respected. Please don’t dismiss me or leap into thinking the worst of me. Give me a chance to learn how to be with you.
– I can count on you to hear me and to put everything else aside.
– I can ask you to hold me and to understand that just asking is very hard for me.” (From Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight)
What would happen if a couple could sit down to have such conversations, to truly listen, understand and share their hearts, their desires and fears?
Lord, help us to be open and honest about our thoughts and feels, and share in love and gentleness for mutual understanding which enhances mutual growth in you; help us to know and remember that we are completely accepted by you, so that we will have no fear no matter what we are facing. Even with overwhelming emotions, calm the storm and help us to move towards others in love and in faith. Amen.

Every Good Gift Comes from Above

Judges 16:20

“But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”

Samson fell in love with Delilah, who betrayed him by selling his secret of power to the enemy, and they captured him. He thought he could shake himself free again but didn’t know that his strength had left him (v.19). His hair had no magic power, but was a provision that he must fulfilled to be set apart for the Lord. His power was from the Lord (Judges 14:6, 15:14).

James 1:17 says, “Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him. These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky. But God never changes like the shadows from those lights. He is always the same.” (ERV) Everything we have is from the Lord, to be used by him through us to bring him honor and glory, but how often do we act like those are our own making? How often do we act like we are so capable of things, that we can rely on ourselves and achieve great things, without giving thanks to or even thinking of the Lord and his calling and purpose in our lives?

Let us stand firm in our faith, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18), including every strength or power that we have, and seek to honor the King by following his will to do his work on earth, proclaiming His great name. May the Lord lead us to follow him with a sincere, pure heart, and motivations that centered on Christ, with thankfulness for what He has done for us!

Emotions are Powerful

Judges 15:3

“Samson said to them, ‘This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.'”

When Samson’s wife betrayed him (at their wedding banquet), by manipulating him into telling her the answer of his riddle given to her people (the Philistines), and telling her people the answer so Samson lost the game/bet. He got so angry that he left his newly-wed wife and went back to his father’s home. His father-in-law thought that he hated his wife so he gave her to his best man (Judges 14: 20, 15:2) When Samson later came back to find his wife, he found out about this, and that’s when he said those words in verse 3, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” He went on to destroyed their fields, shocks, standing grain, vineyards, and olive groves. His anger was really burning, and he wanted revenge to do real harm.

What happened then? The Philistines burned his wife and her father to death! (v.6) So Samson said, “Since you’ve acted like this, I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” (v.7) And he killed many of them. So they pursued him and was about to attack Judah to get him (v.9) What a vicious cycle!! We can understand why Samson would feel angry in his situations, but we also see the tragic consequences of his behaviors in anger. Probably none of those later tragedies would have happened if he didn’t leave his wife at their wedding banquet and went away in anger, without explaining anything to her or her father.

How often do we feel and do similar things? “You make me so angry, so I will fight and attack back to get you. I will make you hurt too, and even worse because you deserve it!” “You make me so angry and hurt, so I have the right to be silent and not talk to you, for as long as I want! I am going to punish you with this silence and distance between us!” Thoughts likes these are not uncommon to us, and we feel so innocent and justified. The EXB translation of Judges 15:3 says, “But Samson said to them, ‘This time ·no one will blame me [I am justified/blameless/innocent] for hurting you Philistines!'” What a vivid picture of our hearts in anger sometimes. No wonder God warns us that, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” (Proverbs 29:11) If we pick up a mirror and look into it in those moments, we see a fool giving full vent to their rage.

Psalm 37:8-9 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” It encourages us to remain obedient to the Lord’s commands in our anger, and look to Him and His grace, instead of looking to what we are not getting and letting our emotions control us so that we become a slave to them. God is faithful. The truly wicked will be destroyed by Him. Our job on earth is to shine for Him and bring many to Him. Let us not let strong emotions control us or let our hearts deceive us. May God help us to trust Him even when we are wronged and hurt, and help us to learn from Jesus and to love people even when we are not loved back, like how we were loved so much by God that He sent His only Son to die for us in order to save us, when we didn’t acknowledge him and despised his holy name (Romans 5:8).

Wisdom and Humility Facing an Enemy

Judges 11:12b

“‘What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?'”

When the enemy (Ammonite king) came to attack the Israelites, Jephthah the leader of Gilead didn’t respond in anger and attack back. Instead, he moved towards the enemy, seeking out communication by asking the Ammonite king this question, to understand him first. This takes great humility and is true wisdom when we face an attack from someone.

The Lord teaches us through Proverbs 16:32, that “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” Being patient with self-control is not weak or stupid, nor is it being a doormat. It’s a beautiful fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us, to put faith and trust in God, and to show kindness and love when we are challenged.

May God grant us wisdom and humility with patience and self-control when we face difficult and challenging situations that tempt us to sin. May He help us to put faith and trust in Him, knowing that He is sovereign in all our circumstances, and He loves us and protects us.