Are You Even Listening?

Listen

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” – James 1:19

In any setting, any relationship, we must listen to each other. In leadership, it is stated that good leaders are good listeners. Leaders must listen to the donors, volunteers and staff. Organizations must listen carefully to their customers, employees, investors, communities, and other stakeholders. Churches must listen to God, to the congregation members, and to the community. The trouble is that we do not listen. We hear, but we do not listen. Someone once said, “You have 2 ears, and one mouth for a reason – listen twice as you speak.” In relationships, some of the fighting and arguments would cease if we learned to listen to each other. When you listen, you understand the other’s perspective.

Author Steve Covey stated, “Seek to understand before being understood.” We must strive to listen first, before we seek to be listened to.

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Hearing is the natural process of sound waves hitting the out and internal hearing organ – the EAR. Listening is an art. Most people are born with the ability to hear. We are not necessarily born with the skill of listening. Listening is more than hearing. You must develop your listening skills. “The word LISTEN contains the same letters as the word SILENT.” –Alfred Brendel

LISTEN

“When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice

You have not done what I have asked

When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I should not feel that way

You are trampling on my feelings

When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems

You have failed me strange as that may seem

Listen! All I asked was that you listen, not talk or do anything—just hear me

I can do for myself – I am not helpless

I may be discouraged and faltering- but not helpless

If you do things for me that I can, and need to do for myself, you contribute to my

Fear and weakness

But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational

Then I can quit trying to convince you and get about the business of understanding

What is behind the irrational feeling

When that is clear, the answers are obvious and I do not need advice

Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what is behind them

So, please listen and just hear me and, if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn and I’ll listen to you…” (Unknown)

 

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Many people are looking for someone to listen to them. Ask God to remind you, and to help you be a good listener. Learn to practice the ministry of presence. Be there for someone wants your ear, your time, call or visit.

Have you heard from God, lately? Are you too busy, to distracted to listen to Him?

What has God been saying to you lately? How are you responding to His words?

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Scriptures For Tough Times

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Are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you losing hope, struggling to make ends meet? Does God seem far? Sometimes life is just plain difficult. I often go to these Scriptures for comfort and encouragement. These Scriptures can cheer you up, reinvigorate your passion, and instill hope. Take time to read and meditate on these verses through the day. Share them on social and with your friends.

Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Isaiah 40:31, “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

Psalm 31:24, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.”

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Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Psalm 46:1-3, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Psalm 16:8, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

A Joyful Noise

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” – Psalm 100:1

Seahawks

I am a Seattle Seahawks fan. The Seattle Seahawks fans are known for their loudness. It is said they are louder than when an airplane is about to takeoff. In 2013, the Seahawks fans screamed and made such a loud noise such that they caused a small earthquake which registered 137.6 decibels! The Seattle Seahawks fans are serious about their support of their beloved team.

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Psalm 100 encourages God’s people to worship God without any restraints. The Psalmist exhorts the people to freely express their love for God. For us today, we are to freely worship God. We are to remove all restraints which inhibit us from articulating our undying love for God.

Joyful noise

Why joyful noise?

SAVED. We are to be joyful because we are no longer slaves to sin. God set us free. “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” – Romans 6:6

GOD’S PRESENCE. Our present circumstance, though not perfect, is much better than where we were. The past was doom and gloom. God redeemed us from a dark past. Here, in the present, the presence of God sustains us. We are joyful because God is with us, no matter the circumstances. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

VICTORY. We are joyful because we are over-comers. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.  “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

ANSWERED PRAYERS. Many of us can name a few or many answered prayers. We owe it to God to thank Him for hearing our prayers. We owe it to Him to thank Him for all His blessings and miracles.

THE FUTURE. We are full of hope for the future. God is preparing a bright future for us. Why should we be sad? We will not let the pain of yesterday rob us of the future that awaits us. “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him.” – I Corinthians 2:9.

We might not cause the earth to shake like the Seattle Seahawks fans do, but we must not shy away from a deep expression of our love for God. Our joyful noise for God must shake the gates of Hades. Are you ready to make a joyful noise to the Lord?

Confession is Good for the Soul

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I John 1:8-10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

It’s been said, “Confession is good for the soul.” Is this statement true? Is confession easy to do? To whom should we confess, anyway? I must confess, I find it hard and awkward to confess my sins to other people. I find it difficult to confess to God, as well.

Confession to God is serious business. Confession to God means we accept our sins, and we acknowledge that God can do something about our sins. Here are some reasons why people struggle to confess their sins to God.

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  1. IGNORANCE. You do not know what you do not know.  You don’t know what you did wrong. Sometimes you have to wait for a sermon or for someone to remind you of your transgressions. Some people do not believe their actions are sinful. They think their actions are just misguided mistakes, and errors. No need to confess, so they think.
  2. GUILT. This is the big one here. People struggle to face God when they are aware of the huge wall of sin blocking their view of God. They may feel bad, remorseful, and ashamed. They might wonder if the Holy God would want to hear from them. They envision God saying, “Not again. How many times are you going to keep sinning and coming back to ask for forgiveness?” Acknowledging your own sin is a humbling exercise. Facing God while you are in sin is embarrassing and shameful. Hiding or ignoring your sins does not make the sins disappear. Sooner or later, you are going to deal with those sins. It is better to confess them now, when grace is available, than at a time when it would be too late.
  3. BUSYNESS. A rushed life has no time for deep, thoughtful communication with God. When people are rushed, they tend to make general, drive-by prayers. They gloss over serious problems, and dismiss them as insignificant errors. Quality, unhurried time with God is conducive for serious reflection on the ugliness of sin, and the beauty of God’s abundant grace.

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Every time we confess how we have missed the mark of God’s love and truth, we open ourselves up to the mending work of the cross. Jesus’ wounds hold true life-changing power. This is the shocking reality that confession can open up to us.” (Adele Calhoun)

Yes, confession is good for the soul. It makes the soul right with God. God knows your sins. God is not happy with your sins. Continuing in sin places your relationship with God in jeopardy. You must confess your sins, not only to clear your conscience, but to clear the path to God.

Stop running, stop hiding, confess your sins to God, and God will cleanse you.

Called to be Faithful

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“I recently read about an old man, walking the beach at dawn, who noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up with the youth, he asked what he was doing. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. ‘But the beach goes on for miles and miles, and there are millions of starfish,’ countered the man. ‘How can your effort make any difference?’ The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to safety in the waves. ‘It makes a difference to this one,’ he said.” – Hugh Duncan, Leadership Journal.

Faithfulness makes a difference. When I hear the word faithfulness, I think of words and phrases like loyalty, stick-to-it, hang on, consistency, reliable, dependable, always there, never give up, and so forth. Faithfulness means loyal, unmovable allegiance to God, spouse, family, people, school, work, or a cause. For us as Christians, we are called to remain faithful to God, and in all our relationships and commitments. We face obstacles and temptations which seek to derail our faithfulness and allegiance to God. Yet, we are called to remain faithful through it all.

How to remain faithful

1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” From this verse we learn the following:

  1. Be alert at all times. Keep your eyes open. Be attentive to your surroundings and situations. The devil seeks to attack, frustrate, and destroy your faith. Watch out for people, things, and places which might derail you. 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind.Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

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2. Stand firm, immovable, grounded, anchored in your faith. Establish your position and refuse to let anything move you. Say, “Not today, nor ever. Not in my house, devil!” Ephesians 6:13-14, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then…” 

3. Do not be afraid. The enemy will huff and puff; situations will intimidate you, but do not be afraid. Stand your ground. Be bold. Be fearless. Isaiah 41:10, ““So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

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4. Be strong. Draw your strength from God through prayer. When you are weak, trust God to give you strength to persevere through it all. Joshua 1:6-7a, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous.” Yes, you can be faithful. Someone is counting on your? Your faithfulness makes a difference.

Bringing Our Pain to Jesus

Cross Sunset

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate our dear mothers. Mother’s Day can be a great day but can be a painful day for those whose mothers are no longer here with us.

The sun was about to bid the day farewell. It had turned into a big, tan ball lingering on the threshold of the sky and the earth; day and night. The warmth of the sun was diminishing as a cool breeze began to sweep over the earth. Darkness encroached ever so slightly, as light progressively disappeared. The good day was coming to an end. ‘Say “Hi” to everyone. I am going to wait in the room,’ Rutendo said, as she descended down the stairs. Our room was on the ground floor facing west just a few feet from the lake. The jetty (dock) went from the edge of the building extending into the lake. The dock sat above the lake as if it were floating, rather hovering above the clear, glassy lake.

I rushed up the stairs to the school office. The School For Youth Leadership building in Lake Munmorah located in NSW Australia sat at the top of a steep flight of stairs. I walked past a couple of fellow students. The receiver of an old phone with a curled chord lay on the desk. I picked up the phone and said, ‘Hello’. On the other end of the line was a familiar voice. It was my sister, Sunbeam. Her voice was muted, broken, and somber. I could barely hear her, as she started crying. She paused for what seemed like an eternity.

My mind raced, rather spun in circles, as I tried to figure out what news she was about to share.  My heart thumped hard as if it would break my rib cage.

‘Rutendo’s mother just passed away…’ she said. What? Suddenly, I went blind – I saw nothing. My head seemed to go into a tailspin like I was being tossed back and forth, spinning in an emotional tornado. I did not hear anything else she said. My knees buckled under my frame, tumbling me into the chair. This sad, painful news came to me almost like a spear had been driven into my core. I sat there motionless. I felt warm tears trickle down my cheeks. I wept. I wept for my wife. I wept for my father-in-law. I wept for my wife’s siblings. How would I share this difficult news with Rutendo? How would I let Rutendo know her best friend, her mentor, her confidant had passed away? How? My feet were heavy as I began the descent to our room to share the news with my wife. This was the most painful news I have ever had to deliver. That became one of our darkest nights together.

Family

Mother’s Day is a heavy day in our household. Mother’s Day is a reflection day in our household. Mother’s Day is a day of cherishing warm memories of my mother-in-law. Mother’s Day can be a painful day for those whose mothers are no longer here with us. If you lost your mother, you are not alone. Let this year’s Mother’s Day be a day to fondly remember and cherish the times you shared with your mother. Let this year’s Mother’s Day be the day you bring your raw pain to Jesus. Come cry at his feet. He will hear you and wipe your tears away. He cares for you. He loves you. You are not alone. Jesus is with you, through your darkest pain.

Embrace this Mother’s Day as a way of honouring your dear mother’s memory.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Revelation 21:4)

‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ (Psalm 34:18)

Fellowship Matters

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Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Fellowship is the intentional gathering of God’s people to walk alongside each other, socialize, learn, and encourage each other. Fellowship constitutes spending quality time with the family of God.

WHY FELLOWSHIP IS HARD

  1. Selfish ulterior motives. What’s in it for me? I come to get. I come to be entertained.
  2. High, lofty expectations. It has to solve all my problems.
  3. Introvert. Do not want to be around people. Want to be alone. Want to get away from crowds.
  4. Do not want to be around religious people. Don’t want to hear religious talk. I’ve my friends far from here. Phony, hypocrites.
  5. Too spiritual, too quickly. Too heavenly minded, no earthly good.
  6. Too shallow, too goofy. Feel it’s a waste of time. Too earthly minded, no heavenly good!
  7. Too busy. Life demands. Work and family, school and social life. No time for another extra church thing. Busy schedules.
  8. Dysfunctional relationships. Distrust that this would work. Fear there will be fights and disagreements.
  9. Insecurities. I’m not as good as they. I might be exposed. Not ready to be amongst them. I can’t afford to bring those items. I don’t know what to wear. Fear of being judged.
  10. Hurt/gossip. Sometimes Christian groups are not safe environments.

Here is how I define FELLOWSHIP

F – family. Friends. You belong.

E – encourage, inspire. You can do this. This is how it’s done.

L – Listen. Learn from each other. Observe each other. Older and younger. Grow together. Learn with each other. KNOW CHRIST; KNOW OTHERS; KNOW YOURSELF

L – Love one another. To know all is to forgive all. Misconceptions gone.

O – Obliged to check in. Accountability. Liable. I haven’t seen you at church in a while. 

W – Witness, talk about the Lord. About life. Teach others.

S – Service. Carry each other’s burdens. Be there for each other.

H – Human touch. Hugs and care. We crave human interaction.

I – Intimacy. Deep knowledge. Deep friendships. Closeness to others.

P – Pray. Know what to pray for. Prayer partners. Prayer list.

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HOW TO FELLOWSHIP

  1. DISCIPLESHIP GROUPS. Join a group. Band, songsters, Bible Study, etc
  2. GREET PEOPLE (BY NAME). Know people. Celebrate their special occasions.
  3. MEALS.  Join us in the fellowship hall for a meal. Come in say HI
  4. SOCIAL MEDIA/Facebook. Use social media to keep in touch, and to build relationships.
  5. OUTSIDE CORPS. Organize and attend outside corps events. Organic meetings outside the corps can build relationships.
  6. PICNIC. Picnics are essential in the life of a corps life. The park, sports, BBQ, children’s games, sitting at a table, all encourage fellowship.
  7. FAMILY EVENTS. Invite and celebrate family events together.
  8. DO CORPS MINISTRY TOGETHER. Fellowship can be done on your way to CCM, a concert, serving at the Food Bank, etc.