Like many others who live in this technological age, when I walk — and sometimes when I jog — I often carry a portable music device with plugs in my ears listening to music or someone speaking.

On a recent walk, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a fairly good-sized dog laying peacefully in his front yard. (Walkers and joggers usually keep a keen eye out for good-sized dogs.) As I walked by his house, this dog decided to warn me that his front yard was off limits for me. He did this by running as fast as he could toward me, barking in his deepest and most ferocious, "I'm going to eat you alive," bark. Because the plugs were in my ears, and because I was listening to music, I never flinched. In fact, I hardly gave him more than a passing glance. I kept listening and kept walking. Appearing a little disappointed, the dog turned around and walked back to his yard. I heard the dog. But I was listening to music.

It matters "what we listen to."

While on my walk, the sounds of beautiful faith-building music kept me focused on something above and beyond a dog. The same thing happens in our spiritual life.

This past weekend, I attended a men's retreat in which our speaker talked of faith, hope, commitment, and walking with the Lord. The weekend continued as he spoke to parents of love, forgiveness and hope. On Sunday, he spoke to our church of the hopeful life of a disciple and the glory of the Lord. Because of what I have been listening to for the last few days, distractions and dangers that might have otherwise frightened me are going virtually unnoticed. It matters "what we listen to."

As the week goes on, the words that are now fresh and clear in my mind will begin to fade. As they fade, other noises will become more distracting. Negative comments will hurt more. Criticism will sting more. Words of doubt and discouragement will cause me to doubt and be more discouraged. Why? The answer is simple: I will hear those negative things clearer and louder because there is nothing positive to drown them out.

As we ended our time together on our men's retreat, one of the men requested that we pray for him. He wanted us to pray that he would be able to keep what he had at that moment with him all year. He prays that the closeness and strength he feels with and from the other men will not disappear in the weeks and months ahead. In other words, he wants to continue to keep hearing these words from the Lord and his brothers in Christ in his mind and in his heart all the time — he doesn't want to hear those other voices that distract and defeat him.

The Bible has much to say about the value and importance of listening.

1 Samuel 3 is a beautiful story about the importance of listening to the right things and the right One.

Proverbs repeatedly speaks of the importance of listening:

He who answers before listening — that is his folly and his shame. (Proverbs 18:13)

Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19:27)

Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear. (Proverbs 25:12)

What we listen to is important.

Jesus talked about the value of listening to the right voice:

"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." (John 10:1-5)

What we listen to is important. When we tune our ears and our hearts to listen to the Lord's message of hope, noises and voices that might draw us away from him will be muffled and perhaps go unnoticed and fearful sounds will not threaten us.

What we listen to is important. Let's listen to the Lord.