The Discipline of Holy Noticing

One of the best ways to know what’s on someone’s mind is to watch and listen. If a person spends hours playing video games and talks about gaming as much as others will allow, it’s not hard to figure out what is on their mind. When someone volunteers at a food pantry three times a week and leverages their resources to give consistently and generously, even a casual observer knows what this person thinks about.

If we take time to read the four biblical biographies of the life and ministry of Jesus, some aspects come to the surface immediately. By watching and listening to his actions and teachings, we can form a clear picture of Jesus’ passions and priorities. Doing this also gives us as disciples a window into what should be on our minds.


If you want to do a fascinating study of the life of Jesus, read the four Gospels and take note of how often Jesus loved, served and shared truth while he was traveling from one place to another. Jesus did not see people as a distraction to his plans. He did not get angry when mothers wanted him to stop and bless their children, or when a sick person asked him for help. Again and again, he slowed down, cared, loved, healed and engaged with people. The mind of our Lord was tuned in to opportunities to glorify the Father and serve people.

One way we can renew our minds and focus on honoring Jesus is to make noticing a priority. This means slowing down and opening our eyes to see people who are hungry for grace and forgiveness. We can learn to listen for the voices in the back of the crowd who are crying out with bold confidence or reserved caution, and respond to them.

One Sunday morning, I saw an elderly woman in a wheelchair sitting near the front of the worship center. I was preaching that morning, so my mind was full and focused. Thankfully, by the grace of Jesus and the nudging of the Spirit, I noticed her. I went over to give a personal welcome. She was quick to tell me she was just visiting this one time. She was Jewish and not really sure why she decided to come to a Christian church service. I reminded her that Jesus was Jewish and that many have embraced him as their Messiah.

With only five minutes until the service started, I felt prompted to ask if she was open to receiving Jesus as her Savior and the leader of her life. I normally take a lot of time to hear a person’s story before asking a question like this, but I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit. She agreed and prayed to confess her sins, to express faith in Jesus and to commit to follow him with all her heart and life. After the service, she was gone and I never saw her again. God graciously helps us notice and then moves us to gospel action, if we are willing to respond.


Some people have trained their mind and eyes to see the powerful, clean, influential and attractive people of the world. If you track the footsteps of Jesus, you quickly discover that his mind was tuned to notice the outcasts and the marginalized. He did not just look up to see those standing strong, but he looked down to those who were on a mat, paralyzed, unnoticed.

If you have ever bought a car, something strange happens. If it is a VW Bug, you notice this make and model of car in a fresh new way. If you just purchased a Dodge Ram truck, you see them everywhere. Your brain tunes in. Every one of us can train our brain to notice what we believe really matters. As followers of Jesus, we can pray for eyes to see and a mind to notice those who are on the fringes and pushed to the edges. Take a moment to picture the kinds of people in your community who are often forgotten. Ask God to train your eyes, heart and mind to see these people. Then, say hello, slow down, have a conversation, pray and see where God takes you.

I have a dear friend whose mind is tuned in to people on the edges. He makes sandwiches, packs them in his car, then he drives and prays. He has developed a rhythm of driving around town and finding those who are on the margins and often are hungry. He offers a sandwich, conversation and prayer. Over time, he has learned many of these folks’ names and knows where they sleep and live. This very private and off-the-radar ministry reflects the heart of Jesus and a mind focused on the hurting in his community.


Jesus loved people across the vast spectrum of human experience. One of the most fascinating portions of Scripture in terms of seeing this is found in John 3–4. In chapter three, Jesus encounters a powerful Jewish insider who is spiritually seeking. Jesus enters a great conversation, and they talk about what it means to be born again. Our Savior was direct, bold and truthful in his interaction. The man, Nicodemus, ends up becoming a follower of Jesus.

In John 4, the Lord meets a poor, powerless Samaritan woman who is thirsting for spiritual truth. Jesus enters a dynamic and extensive conversation, and he was just as direct, bold and truthful in this interaction. The Samaritan woman not only became a follower of Jesus, but at her invitation, many others came to know God’s love and grace as they encountered Jesus.

We live in radically polarized time when people actually believe that differences must divide us. Satan is having a party as people grow more and more entrenched in their views and see those with a different perspective as ignorant, dangerous or enemies. In this moment in history, Christians can lead the way in loving and walking with people who are dramatically different than they are. We can love people no matter where they stand or what they believe. That is what our Savior did.

Have you let social, political, religious or some other difference drive you from others? It is time to retrain your brain. God loves every person, and Jesus longs for them to know his grace and truth. When Saul encountered Jesus, the Christian community was fearful to welcome and embrace him. Praise God that a man named Ananias dared to think differently (Acts 9:10–19). Saul had been a Christian-killing, church-battering, anger-filled man. God gave him a new name, Paul. This transformed man was led by the Spirit to write more books of the Bible than anyone else. What a joy to know that Ananias was willing to reach out to someone radically different than he was.


A study of the life of Jesus will open our eyes to the importance of prayer. The mind of our Savior was engaged with the Father at all times. He made room in his day to get away to quiet places and commune with his Father. When there were big decisions, prayer was at the forefront.

As we follow Jesus and long to bring his good news to the world, our minds need to be guided by prayer all day long. Pray in line with the God who so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son.

My wife Sherry wakes up every morning and rolls out of her bed onto her knees. Before she stands up, she surrenders her day to Jesus. Sometimes, like a young schoolgirl, she will actually raise her hand and quietly pray, “Choose me Lord. Use me to share your love and message with someone today.” It is amazing how often God answers that prayer.


What was on the mind of Jesus? Just watch how he extended tender care to those in need. His actions reveal a mind driven by love and kindness. He could not help but serve, heal and touch those in need. When Jesus saw crowds of people, his first thought was that they were like wandering sheep with no one to protect and lead them. This led to compassion (Matt. 9:36).

When we find ourselves being judgmental and hard-hearted, we can look to Jesus and remember the compassion he showed us. When we were rebels, selfish and far from him, Jesus reached out. While we were immersed in sin, Jesus died for us (Rom. 5:8). We can renew our minds and ask God to help us think with compassion.

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Kevin Harney
Kevin Harney

Kevin Harney ( is an Outreach magazine contributing editor, lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Monterey, California, and the founder and visionary leader of Organic Outreach International ( He is the author of the Organic Outreach trilogy and, most recently, Organic Disciples: Seven Ways to Grow Spiritually and Naturally Share Jesus, in addition to multiple studies and articles.