The Art of Listening

One of the most important life-skills that one can develop is how to communicate effectively. Lack of communication and/or faulty communication has been the chief cause of marriage breakups, families being destroyed, and in extreme cases jail cells being occupied.

Scripture provides some communication skills that will help us navigate the often tricky landscape of relationships. One principle that we can begin applying today is to listen when someone is talking to you.

 “Everyone should be quick to listen…” (James 1:19, NIV).

1)      Listen to God

  • Through His Word
    • Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
    • Psalm 119:133 David writes, “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”  
  • Through The Holy Spirit
    • Acts 13:1-3 gives an incredible example of the Holy Spirit speaking to a group of believers, providing important direction for the advancement of the gospel…

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Obviously, it is crucial that we learn to listen to God for direction, problem-solving, wisdom, and insight.  It would also prove to be beneficial for us to learn to…

2)      Listen to Others
Dale Carnegie says that you can make more friends in two weeks by becoming a good listener than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you. 

Basic listening skills that we should all learn to develop:

  • Look at people when they’re talking to you.
  • Be a mirror—reflect back to the person what they are saying, simply to ensure that effective communication is taking place.
  • Ask questions for clarification but don’t interrupt. Never assume that you know where the other person is “coming from.” Wrong assumptions can prove to be lethal to even the strongest of relationships! 

Simply applying these basic steps to your relationships with both God and others will greatly improve your social life! This is not some psycho-babble diatribe, rather it is the essence for which we were all created, as defined by Christ when He commanded us to,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Or as I like to paraphrase this, “Love God completely… and love others deeply!” 

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Worship… Is Being Teachable

Anyone who truly desires to worship God must become teachable.  We must not become too comfortable with our own ideas of worship.  In fact, many times we must come to the place where we totally surrender our likes and dislikes, in order to truly place the focus of worship on the One to whom it belongs!

In becoming more teachable to God…

WE WILL LEARN TO APPRECIATE PAINFUL WORSHIP

Genesis 22:1-14 (Abraham offering Isaac as an act of worship)

No passage in Scripture provides a more fundamental teaching on the true meaning of worship.  It is not an event; rather it is found in simple obedience to the will of God!

Worship at its deepest level will cost you something!

“We can become so accustomed to tradition, to the same trappings of worship, the same forms, that the spirit of worship dies of familiarity” – Jack Hayford

Let’s not fear discovering a new place of worship, where in finding new and fresh capacities for worship, we find new dimensions of God’s goodness and Person.

WE WILL LEARN TO SURRENDER TO GOD’S LORDSHIP

It is so easy for us to forget that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1)  Abraham thought Isaac was his; momentarily forgetting that Isaac was God’s entrustment to him.  In the same way, we need to be ready to return our “Isaacs” back to the Lord!

God is wanting to teach us to fully surrender everything to His Lordship, holding nothing back… no personal preferences, no desires, no ‘traditions of man’, etc…

Once we do this…

WE WILL DISCOVER THE REWARDS OF TRUE WORSHIP

Far too many people today are not really worshipping God to the extent that it is costing them something of real significance! 

Psalm 103:1-5 says:

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”

 You see, Abraham did not receive any material blessings immediately… He received something of far more value—God Himself!

The Lord is looking for those who will find a new place of worship in Him.  He wants to teach us something new about worship… something that will dramatically change the way you and I look at the act of worship.

Are you becoming more teachable in your expressions of worship?

Would Somebody Please Pass the Baton?

I ran across an interesting blog by Earl Creps, former professor at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO., who is currently planting a church in California.  He addresses an issue that is relevant to the vast majority of churches today — “Multi-Generational” ministry.  Let’s face it, the Body of Christ is extremely diverse.  And I believe that this is one of our greatest strengths!

Romans 12:4-5 “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (NIV).

Where would the church be today if it were not for the faithful believers who endured various difficulties and challenges in order to preserve what we have today?  Most likely, the Church as we know it would be vastly different from what we see today.  Space does not permit me to go into all of the benefits that we enjoy in the church… However, suffice it to say that the blessings that we do enjoy today directly correlate with the faithfulness, commitment and visionary leadership of the generations before us.

Having said that, I also see incredible potential for future ministry in the younger generation that is arriving on the scene.  This generation is creative. It’s passionate.  It’s energetic.  It’s visionary and missional.  And it is not satisfied with resting on its laurels. 

In order for the Church to survive the coming years, we need a cooperative effort to not only sustain what is in place, but to enthusiastically pursue new dreams and visions of what the Holy Spirit desires to do in and through us as a Body of believers.  But… that is the crux of the matter.  Just how do we do this?  As Creps explains in his blog, there are a couple of hurdles to cross.  The older generation is leery of “leaving the church to these people (that is, the younger generation).”  While the younger generation is asking, “Why would we want the baton you are passing to us?” 

I, for one, believe that there is tremendous potential when generations work together for the purpose of advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ! Check out Earl Creps blog on this topic at http://www.earlcreps.com/article/why-would-i-want-the-baton-you-are-passing.  See what you think? 

Would somebody please pass the baton?  

In Pursuit of Church Health

I am convinced more than ever before that there is no greater force on the face of the earth that can create radical, lasting life-change than a biblically functioning community of believers.  I also believe that the Church, when it is truly functioning as Jesus intended it to, is the hope of our city, of our state, of our country, and of our world. There is no other network or organization in existence that has the potential to change the world, as does a healthy church!

That is exactly what I believe God has called me to do–to lead a healthy, growing, biblically functioning community of believers. The church that I pastor is striving to be a community of passionate Christ-followers who are intentionally living out the principles of Scripture in everyday life.

Every church, and all Christ-followers should ask and try to answer the following question, “What exactly makes up a healthy church?” I’ve got a few ideas listed below:

1) Healthy Pastors – Doug Clay (General Treasurer for the A/G) once wrote in an Ohio AG periodical, “Healthy pastors possess a vision for the church and its community. They are not afraid to try new ideas. They reject status quo and understand the value of interdependence and the commitment to seeing others around them succeed.”  In order for a church to be healthy, it must first of all be led by a healthy pastor!

2) Healthy People – Since the church is people, it only makes sense that a truly healthy church is made up of healthy Christ-followers.  A healthy believer will spend adequate time with Jesus in prayer and in the study of His Word.

3) Healthy Priorities – A healthy church will prioritize the things that God prioritizes such as reaching the lost; demonstrating love toward one another; encouraging a lifestyle of worship before God; creating opportunities for corporate prayer; meeting the felt needs within the community; and providing opportunities for spiritual growth.

And finally…

4) Healthy Problems – That’s right, I said healthy probmlems!  You know, I’ve come to understand and even appreciate challenges in the church.  In fact, I believe that it’s OK for a church to run into problems every once in a while-so long as they don’t become divisive nor damaging to the cause of Christ.  My personal philosophy is this; healthy problems create win-win situations and result in greater unity within the church. Unhealthy problems create win-lose situations, where one group of people gets their way while another group of people suffer loss.  This kind of problem will only cause division in the church.

Remember, the church wasn’t man’s idea… it was Jesus’ idea! It was He who said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18, NLT).  

Let me leave you with one last thought… Whatever the Lord builds will be healthy and produce good fruit!  Whatever man builds, for the most part, will be irrelevant.  So, let’s get on with the Lord’s business and build a “Healthy Church” for His glory!