Listening Vessels

While attending the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas, I had an interesting and ear opening experience. While the Convention went well, it was not a Convention related experience. Across from the hotel where I was staying there was a park with flowers, shrubs and walking trails. As I walked over to the park, I noticed a strange looking concrete apparatus. It looked somewhat like a large satellite dish, but it was made out of concrete. When I got closer to it, I noticed that at the bottom of whatever it was there was a concrete seat. Then I saw the little sign in front of it that said, “Listening Vessels.” No one was out there and that was all the instructions that I had so I paused long enough to sit down. I saw directly in front of me about 50 to 60 feet away another one of the concave concrete pieces facing toward me. I wondered what kind of game this was or what kind of activity was I supposed to be involved in, and suddenly I began to hear in ways that were different and unusual.

There was a jet flying nearby, and it sounded like it was flying right beside me. I could see it way off in the sky and I realized that this strange looking device was picking up the sounds and magnifying them in my ear. As the plane moved on, I heard some birds chirping and singing. They were some distance away, but it sounded as though they were right there on my shoulder. Then I noticed two men walking by. They were probably 100 yards in front of me. They were talking and I could hear what they were saying. It was a pretty amazing thing. The very design of these two concrete pieces of equipment was to allow someone to sit in one and someone to sit in the other, talk in a low voice and clearly hear each other. They called the two things listening vessels.

In the brief moments that I sat there and heard these new amplified sounds around me, I could not help but think about Jesus who said about a dozen times during His ministry, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” I thought about all of the times when we do not hear. It is a fact that oftentimes people are not tuned in and do not hear though they have ears. So Jesus, the Master Teacher, brings a huge responsibility to each one of us that we have an obligation to not just hear but to listen. In essence, what Jesus was telling the people of His day and conveying to us is that we need to enhance our hearing and comprehension of what God is trying to say to us. But how do you go about doing that?

One way is to focus and pay attention. We need to get logged in to what God is trying to say to us. For people who fly often, you know that you quickly get adjusted to not listening to the folks on the plane whether it is the flight attendant or someone else explaining what to do in the emergencies that might come up. I think that the law requires them to do it, but the law cannot make you pay attention. And so if you look around you find that if you are listening, you are probably the only one who is actually paying attention. I have heard that before you takeoff spiel umpteen times.

The fact is that I had never been in a situation where the oxygen mask fell down, or I had to get the seat of the plane to use as a flotation device, or I had to evacuate the airplane quickly at the exit in front or in back of me until one day I was on an overseas flight. As we were about to land, they came over the intercom and explained to us that it had been reported that we had a bomb on board. The implied message was if we were able to get off of the plane at all, we would have to deplane way down at the end of the runway. The explanation about what we needed to do was given one more time. This time I listened.

In a world where it seems like every day holds the potential for a blowout and a blowup, you would think that we would be focused on tuning in to listen to God. Sadly, too many people are not listening. They treat the Lord as though He is just background noise to the activities of the day. They are not focused on Him and His Word to them. Then when life’s explosions come, they wonder why they did not listen.

To enhance your listening you must focus and you must filter. Filters are good things whether they are the ones that you use as you make your coffee, purify your water or keep wrong things from being on your computer. When it comes to our hearing and especially hearing from God, it is important that we recognize the need for filters that keep out many of the sounds, noises and discord of this world that can blur our understanding of what God may be trying to say to us. It is not that He is not speaking. It is that we are not listening.

Sometimes we do not listen and cannot comprehend because of all of the other noises that are filling our ears and clogging our brainwaves. How do you filter out all of that noise? Well, it is not easy, but I would suggest that you have some deliberate committed time when you push all of those noises aside and listen intently to the voice of God speaking to your heart.

Now that brings me to the final thing that will enhance your hearing and that is to fix. God is always involved in our lives and constantly dealing with us about things in our lives that may need to be dealt with or removed, or other things that may need to be looked at and included. Here is the problem. So often when we hear God speak, we take that as the ultimate of what He wants to do just to speak to us. We take no action to change anything, to move in a new direction or to reach out to someone else. We just think that hearing is enough and the Bible says that the goal is not just to hear. The goal is to let God do something in your life. The goal is to fix whatever He is speaking to us about and let Him come and make a difference in that area of our life, relationship or attitude.

I wanted to load up one of the listening vessels and bring it home with me, but it looked like that it weighed several tons so I did not try to pick it up. But since then I have tried to be more intent on my hearing being in focus, filtered and ready to fix whatever it is that the Lord is speaking to me about.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer