Are we really listening?

The sermon on the mount is recorded in a number of Gospels. In Luke Jesus turns to his disciples and say’s

To you who are listening I say!

  • Love your enemies.
  • Do good to those who hate you.
  • Bless those who curse you.
  • Pray for those who mistreat you.
  • If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other one.
  • If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt.
  • Give to all you ask.
  • If anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
  • Do to others what you would have them do to you.

Matthew records Jesus saying to his disciples right before his ascension. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. Teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.

Are we really listening to what Jesus said?


God has given us the spirit of love!

2Ti 1:7  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and sound mind.

The love of God is a wonderful gift. For love grants us power, love and sound mind. Fear is the opposite of love. Fear produces hatred, it produces timidity and personal weakness, and it produces confusion.

God loves us so much that he promises to grant wisdom to any who ask him. Of course his wisdom is not like our wisdom at times…so we can at times think / say “What are you doing?”  God’s wisdom is peaceable; its kind and not easily angered…and of course his wisdom is his love…so through God’s love we can have peace in the midst of pain and confusion. We can draw on his power, which helps us through trying times and we can draw on his love to help us to forgive – when the alternative is to hate.


The power of imitating heavenly realities…

Real listening is an imitation of the heavenly reality of the God who listens. Therefore every time we slow down to hear what is going on around us; we find ourselves standing on holy ground.

Scripture say’s to be slow to speak and quick to listen. A common saying is that we have been given two ears and only one mouth…so we should listen twice as much as we speak Winking smile As a frequent blogger, I’m not quite sure what to make of that saying….

In the natural I find it hard to listen. Often the answers to the questions I have asked are already forming in my mind; and I’m ready to respond to what I think will be said… however in doing so, I am in reality only listening to myself and not to the other person.

Pastors / Churches believe they know the answer to problems. And indeed the Christian church does have the answer to the problem of Sin and his name is Jesus.  However do we as the Church, take the time to sit and listen to what is going on around us; so that we can hear the heart beat of what is going on around us, and therefore know how we can best answer the questions that are being raised and in doing so truly make Jesus known?

God doesn’t just hear. He listens. He listens not only to our every word. He listens to every unspoken word. He hears the cry of our heart. He see’s our every action and knows why we do and don’t do what we do and why we respond in the ways we do.

What power would the church have today if we could but do the same?


The Pastor must be an Observer

I came across two great quotes this morning.

God wants us to be present where we are. He invites us to see and to hear what is around us and, through it all, to discern the foot prints of the Holy. Richard Foster.

To acquire knowledge one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. Marilyn Von Savant.

I believe the pastor needs to be an active listener; active listening involves more then just hearing. It means to understand. For a pastor to understand the community in which they minister; they need to be active in listening to this community. This means to be engaging within it; and not be distant from it.

The pastors listening skills are sharpened by what they see. By what they feel. By how they touch and are touched. And the way they hear is affected by where they go. The very nature of hearing and listening demands a personal response to get involved. While the human nature of the pastor may incline the pastor to recoil and retreat from the horror within the community; the Holiness of God must compel the pastor to go forth in love and engage within and through this community, bringing with them the Love of Christ.

Brian LePort has written an article to honour such a pastor. May our gracious Lord continue to raise up many like him.


A pastoral NO NO!

Over the last couple of weeks I have heard a couple of stories where the faith of the person has been questioned. One person is going through the devastating situation of watching her father eaten away by cancer. There is a reasonable chance that this year will be the last time the family will get together for Christmas.  The other person suffers from a long term mental illness.

Both have been questioned about their level of faith recently. The person whose father has cancer was asked if she had given up the fight for her father in prayer and therefore giving up on God healing him. My other friend was questioned about their faith; if they had a demon and was asked all sorts of other questions.

I am glad to say that the people involved in asking these questions were not in a position of pastoral oversight. However these type of questions are a slap in the faith and produce doubt and not faith. Both these people have experienced and seen God’s healing power in the past.

The truth is that there is a time to live and a time to die. There is a time to be well and a time to be sick. In the same way there is a time to cry and a time to rejoice. There comes times in life when we need to grieve with those who are grieving and if by chance we feel we have the faith to pray for someone’s healing in the circumstances described; go ahead and pray quietly in your closet or with someone else. But what ever you do; don’t lay a guilt trip on the person or persons involved for not having enough faith.

It could well be the person is afflicted by a demonic presence. Certainly Jesus did say that some illnesses could be caused by such and that the only way to deal with it was through prayer and fasting. If you know a person who is afflicted and believe the problem is demonic, the onus is on you to go and pray and fast in your prayer closet and not place the onus to do that on the person who is afflicted.

I am not saying never pray with the people involved. For praying with and for others is very encouraging if it is done with sensitivity and love. If its not done in a way that builds the person / group up in real hope. If it doesn’t leave then encouraged and feeling loved…..then don’t bother praying with them.

For my friends whom I am talking about and many many more who are going through troublesome times of sickness, trials and grief I pray for you.

Father, I thank you for your mercy and love. I pray that you will cover those who are in need with a blanket of peace. I pray that you will strengthen them with your joy that comes from knowing you love them. I pray that you will lay your healing hand upon their bodies, their minds, emotions and their spirit. I pray that you will sustain them in these times and that they will know your presence working through, over and within them.

I thank you Father God that we can freely cry in your presence. We can freely tell you our doubts, our fears, our desires, our wants and can tell you about the pain and confusion that we have. And I thank you that in doing this we exercise our faith and trust in you and can be at peace in knowing that you love us; that you like us and that you know all that is going on in our lives.


It’s God’s kingdom….not ours.

I get increasingly frustrated at the level of work and rewards theology that is increasing within the western world. In Australia one such theology is much propagated about how God is blessing our nation because of what the Light Horsemen did in releasing Jerusalem from the Turks in World War 1.

Evan Trowbridge writes an interesting article about this very kind of Exceptional thinking which permeates America.

What do you think of it?


The pain of radical grace

There is a difference between knowing about the God of the Bible and having encountered the God of the Bible. There is a difference between knowing about the Jesus in the Bible and meeting the Jesus of the Bible. And there is a difference between knowing about the Holy Spirit in the Bible and encountering the Holy Spirit of the Bible.

When one encounters the God of the Bible; one is confronted with the pain of radical grace. For radical grace comes with a cost. To accept radical grace there is the pain of giving up self. There is an internal pain that rips apart the very inner fabric of our identity. For when we truly meet Christ we truly meet ourselves. When we truly see Christ we will truly see ourselves for what we are. And when we start to understand Christ; then we can only truly start to understand ourselves.

And its only when this very fabric of the inner veil has been torn apart within; we can then truly start the restoration process under the surgery of radical grace. And within the confines of radical grace, a new life will truly emerge. Grace is not easy. That’s why it is radical, costly and painful.

It’s not easy to give and it’s not easy to receive. For to receive radical grace one needs to first admit they are in need of it and then to embrace the giver of this grace. And until you have truly embraced the giver of grace and received Grace, you can never truly understand what it is to live a life of grace.

 


Do I dare tell my church I don’t have faith and ask them to have faith for me?

One of the deep areas of concern I have for the modern church is its deep emphasis on personal faith. Whilst I admit faith is an important subject, it is also important that we don’t bypass faith within the collective community.

Our current emphasis on personal faith and personal blessing has robbed us of what it means to be a faithful and faith filled community.

A friend shared with me her personal story yesterday of her grief when her father died from cancer. She felt that God was far from her. She couldn’t pray. Though she didn’t say so; perhaps there was an element of anger in her grief as to why God took this person away from her, whom she dearly loved.

I was impressed with what she told me…She told the community she fellowshiped with; I don’t have the faith to pray…I need you to have faith for me.

Wow that was so deep. This is a person who understands the power of community and the power of lament. She in fact was exercising a deep trust in God and in the fact that God was working through, in and over the community of believers.

Through this act of love; the church expressed their collective faith and in doing so allowed hope to raise up from the depth of despair in which personal faith can flourish.

So I ask you…would you dare tell your church you don’t have faith to carry on and ask them to have faith for you? If you can’t do that…perhaps there is something seriously wrong within your community.





True Christianity creates peace and not war between nations.

I was reading through Acts chapter 2 this morning about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and reflecting on the relationship between religion and social justice.

Here we read about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which causes the Disciples who were there to speak in other languages, with much joy. This causes some social disruption as a crowd of tourists gather after hearing them, causing them to ask

What is going on here, for we hear them speaking in our own languages the mysteries of God…

While some mock them saying they were drunk; others listened to their message and become believers of Christ. These first believers were visitors to Jerusalem.

Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Act 2:10  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, Act 2:11  both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Act 2:12

Peter teaches them about Christ who offers the free gift of salvation to all who believe. Young, old, male, female, slave and free…It was these same visitors who later began the practice of selling their goods and possessions and distributing them among all who had need.

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. Act 2:45  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. Act 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

It’s here we see the first time a coming together of people from many nations, sharing meals, sharing their lives, and people even selling their goods and possessions for the betterment of each other.

 

 

 


Without patience, one cannot truly love.

Our modern western society is one that has an emphasis on time. And because it has an emphasis on time, it finds its self rushed for time,  it bemoans the lack of time, and cries out for more time.

Within the dance of life; we find ourselves grasping for time, within a sense of urgency to keep time. For our lives are ordered and structured around time. We structure our  week according to time. .

In addition to the time we spend working and by work I mean school, home, volunteer or paid capacity, there is the time spent in preparation. Meals, clothes, transport, sleep, entertainment etc all revolves around time.

Because of this structure of time, we compete for time. We grapple and struggle with enough time for self, time from others as well as giving others our time. Because of this emphasis on time, we lose the appreciation for and the sense of importance that “Patience” has not only within society, but also for our own lives.

For patience involves a sense of absence of time, within time while transcending time. It involves the totality of the self to not be pressured by the illusion of time, no matter how real that illusion is.

Therefore Patience is an act of love. It’s loving self, as well as loving others. For Patience involves the giving of self in sharing with self and or with others.

A society that revolves around lack of time has no time, and there-fore is frustrated when things take time. Take being caught in traffic, a shopping line, or working towards a certain goal as an example. Our frustration stems from having a sense of time being wasted in which we could be doing other things… and yet this very frustration steals this very moment from us. It robs us of peace. It robs us of Patience.

Therefore Patience is an act of love for it means the giving of oneself, caring of oneself…and without Patience, one cannot truly love either yourself nor one another.

Our God is a God who transcends time. He works through time. And he works within time. Patience is part of his nature. He is not rushed for time. He has all things worked out in his time. And therefore he is patient with us. He understands us. And he is not rushed by us. Nor is he perturbed by us for he truly knows and understands us, and is totally Patient with us. And its this nature of Patience which draws us to himself, and as we continue to be drawn to him, we too will start to live and be transformed through a life of Patience; with God, with self and with others.

 

 


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