Aug 10 2012

Who are you listening to? Part 2

A few posts ago I wrote about the importance of listening to Jesus in order to receive the words/message that He may desire you to pass along.  Thus, in our marketing-saturated society, we’ve got to be careful who we’re listening to so that we don’t miss out on the best messages.  Well, thanks to a series of life circumstances over the past couple weeks, I’ve got version 2.0 of that message.

In all honesty, it’s been a tiring couple of weeks, physically and spiritually.  Sparing the details, there were travelings, sicknesses, losses, disappointments, unmet expectations, flat bicycle tires, and often a general feeling of being spiritually assailed by the evil one.  Enter into that picture a simple children’s praise CD that has put various Scripture verses to music.  (Caleb requests this one a lot.)

[ band strikes up ]

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Matthew 12:34″

And that’s the song.  Remarkably simple, with a fairly catchy tune (come take a ride in our swagger wagon . . . I’m telling you, Caleb will likely request it.)

Well here’s the rub.  I realized that in the midst of this difficult couple of weeks, my mouth wasn’t “clothing myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12) like I would want.  The lyrics/verse of the song provided the reason why.  I had definitely been short-changing my time in the Word in the midst of the craziness.  My heart was overflowing with more woes that it was with the Word.  So in response, I dove into Psalms to help find my bearings.

The Lord rewarded my obedience with Psalm 25 .  Go ahead, take a few minutes and read it.  Put yourself into the Psalmist’s shoes and pray this from your perspective instead of David’s.  Pay attention to your heart as you meditate on the picture of God described in the chapter.  Pray that God would keep His Truth in your heart . . . and watch how your responses throughout the day change.  ‘Cause ya know . . . “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Jun 8 2012

Who are you listening to?

Carrie and I watched the miles of Ontario countryside parade by the car windows as we plodded back home after a couple days of mini-vacation.  Conversation turned to the latest chapter in the book Carrie is reading on the Sabbath, entitled “The Rest of God.”  In the truth of the chapter, we noticed what seems to be a foundational piece of a proper understanding of evangelism that we all need to understand.

Here’s a nuanced definition of evangelism to help explain the point:

Evangelism is taking advantage of an opportunity to action and/or speak the truth of God when given the chance.

This means that we are taking action to relay something about the truth of God and also that there is someone(s) receiving our action.  Furthermore, this means that the truth itself, the message, is “of God.”  So from this definition, here’s the teaching point that Carrie and I reflected on.

Evangelism opportunities are like divine appointments where a person has some degree of readiness to hear or receive spiritual truth, whether that degree be big or small.  When this opportunity arises, we become the messenger, NOT the message.  Thus, it is vitally important that we have been listening for the message that we are meant to relay.  I wonder if part of the reason so many Christians dread evangelism opportunities is that they just haven’t been listening in order to receive the message they’re meant to give.  It is almost like trying to play the “telephone game” that many children love where you pass along a message down a long line of messengers, except when it’s your turn, you don’t actually listen to the person passing the message to you.  You are left unequipped and uninspired to pass the message along the chain.

A sobering thought is that we are created to be “listeners.”  We seem to absorb almost everything, even when we’re not realizing it.  That’s why there are signs, flyers, billboards, t-shirt messages, etc. filling the world around us.  And that’s not to mention what we input ourselves: books, music, television, movies, etc.  So the question becomes, “Who are you listening to?” If you aren’t making time to listen to Jesus, then you are choosing to NOT receive what you’re meant to pass along.  You’re short changing God’s plan for your life and the work that He’s doing in others’.  Don’t miss out on listening to the Lord and the beautiful, inspiring things He shares.  It will bless you and provide the message that you’ll be able to share with confidence.

Here’s an example of listening to the Lord.  It comes through the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 8:

1 Does not wisdom call?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
2 On the heights beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3 beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:
4 “To you, O men, I call,
and my cry is to the children of man.
5 O simple ones, learn prudence;
O fools, learn sense.
6 Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right,
7 for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8 All the words of my mouth are righteous;
there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
9 They are all straight to him who understands,
and right to those who find knowledge.
10 Take my instruction instead of silver,
and knowledge rather than choice gold,
11 for wisdom is better than jewels,
and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

Apr 20 2012

Tools: Listening

Check this out! As a preacher and as someone who frequently sits under preaching . . . I found these points to be immensely encouraging and challenging.  I hope you read and take steps to apply them, whether at C!C or elsewhere.  This is an extension of a verse from this past week’s sermon:

Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Luke 8:18a

Famous preacher George Whitefield, upon study of Luke 8:1-18, gave these SIX instructions for how to carefully listen to a sermon:

1. Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty. To enter His house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.

2. Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God. If an earthly king were to issue a royal proclamation, and the life or death of his subjects entirely depended on performing or not performing its conditions, how eager would they be to hear what those conditions were! And shall we not pay the same respect to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and lend an attentive ear to His ministers, when they are declaring, in His name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?

3. Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister. That was the reason Jesus Christ Himself could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of His own country; for they were offended at Him. Take heed therefore, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you.

Consider that the clergy are men of like passions with yourselves. And though we should even hear a person teaching others to do what he has not learned himself, yet that is no reason for rejecting his doctrine. For ministers speak not in their own, but in Christ’s name. And we know who commanded the people to do whatever the scribes and Pharisees should say unto them, even though they did not do themselves what they said (see Matt. 23:1-3).

4. Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think. Preferring one teacher over another has often been of ill consequence to the church of God. It was a fault which the great Apostle of the Gentiles condemned in the Corinthians: ‘For whereas one said, I am of Paul; another, I am of Apollos: are you not carnal, says he? For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but instruments in God’s hands by whom you believed?’ (1 Cor. 1:12; 2:3-5).

Are not all ministers sent forth to be ministering ambassadors to those who shall be heirs of salvation? And are they not all therefore greatly to be esteemed for their work’s sake?

5. Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered. When our Savior was discoursing at the last supper with His beloved disciples and foretold that one of them should betray Him, each of them immediately applied it to his own heart and said, ‘Lord, is it I?’ (Matt. 26:22).

Oh, that persons, in like manner, when preachers are dissuading from any sin or persuading to any duty, instead of crying, ‘This was intended for such and such a one!’ instead would turn their thoughts inwardly, and say, ‘Lord, is it I?’ How far more beneficial should we find discourses to be than now they generally are!

6. Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put into practice what he shall show from the Book of God to be your duty.

Whitefield tags on this thought:

If only all who hear me this day would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How ministers would see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven, and people find the Word preached sharper than a two-edged sword and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s strongholds!

There’s some good faith-food to chew on!  One application that I would like to stress is to take notes during sermons.  Not necessarily copiously such that you become distracted . . . but determinedly so that you can make personal applications and revisit them.

Too often I’ve heard people say, “Pastor, that was a good sermon, something really touched me.”  Or other times have heard, “I remember that sermon on ________, something really challenged me in that.”  And yet, in both instances, the something was likely snatched away, withered, or choked out.  Probably the reason was simply for lack of remembering or reinforcement.  So consider taking notes as an investment in your sanctification!