Listening…

In her book, Time to Think, 1999, Nancy Kline lists ten components of a thinking environment,

  1. Attention – Listening with respect, interest and fascination.
  2. Incisive Questions – Removing assumptions that limit ideas.
  3. Equality – Treating each other as thinking peers,
  4. Appreciation – Practising a five-to-one ratio of appreciation to criticism.
  5. Ease – Offering freedom from rush and urgency.
  6. Encouragement – Moving beyond competition.
  7. Feelings – Allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking.
  8. Information – Providing a full and accurate picture of reality.
  9. Place – Creating a physical environment that says back to people, ‘You matter.’
  10. Diversity – Adding quality because of the differences between us.

Almost forty years before, in 1961, Taylor Caldwell wrote her novel, The Man Who Listens, where eighty year old John Godfrey fulfilled his dream of constructing a place, a physical environment, which said to people who entered, ‘You matter.’ With construction finished the story unfolds with accounts of the people who visited the sanctuary. Caldwell paints the aspects of the thinking environment for each one and deep personal change ensues. John Godfrey’s legacy proved to be more than just a building.

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I loaned my copy of Taylor Caldwell’s book to a friend some months ago. The book has since been returned. However, recently I received an Encouragement Card from my friend,

A huge thank you for loaning me your fabulous book about the Man Who Listens. I continue to pray that I will be a good LISTENER and I am humbled by the opportunities I have had to listen to those who need an ear. I have not forgotten the sensitivity and love that is conveyed through the pages of your book and it has resonated into my life. Thank you for your friendship and trust.”

The importance of listening cannot be understated. While we all have a part to play in listening to one another we are privileged to be able to turn to God. The Psalms abound with confirmation and affirmation that the Lord hears our heartfelt conversations with Him.

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer…..the Lord hears when I call to him.

Psalm 4:1,3

What a privilege it is to go to God. We have ready access to His sanctuary whenever and wherever we are, and He listens.

P.S. My copy of The Man Who Listens was lovingly presented, by one of my brothers and his wife, to our mother on the occasion of her birthday, 2nd October 1961. It captured my attention when I first read it and somehow it ended up on my bookshelf.

P.P.S. Encouragement Cards have been part of the life of our church for many years. There is space for a short note of encouragement on one side and the name and  address of the recipient on the other. The cards are collected during worship services at the same time as the offering then posted during the week. Each card has the words , Let us encourage one another, from Hebrews 10:25.

 

A Work in Progress..

In the Epilogue to his excellent book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Rob Bell draws our attention to the Apostle Paul’s thoughts in Philippians 1:6,

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”,

and highlights the powerful progression in the words ‘began’, ‘good work’ (a work in progress) and ‘completion’.

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All of this is God’s initiative, bringing to completion that which he has begun.

When we look at creation, there was God in the beginning. He is bringing it to completion.

When we look at God’s salvation plan, there was God, in Christ, working it out, working it through to completion at the Cross, and God placed his seal of approval on the finished work by raising Christ from the dead.

IMAGINE, the same power that God used to raise Christ from dead is at work in you NOW, bringing to completion that which he begun in you when received Christ.

Ephesians 1:19-20 puts it this way,

“…and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”

Imagine…a work in progress… being brought to completion.

He will do it!

Jude 1:24-25
“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

The Disciplines of the Christian Life

I started following the daily readings in Eric Liddell’s book, The Disciples of the Christian Life, on Tuesday 11 October 2011 finally finishing the year-long reading plan on Wednesday 13 March 2013.

Awareness of Eric Liddell and his accomplishments in the Olympic arena became more widespread with the screening of  award-winning film, Chariots of Fire.

Lesser known is Eric’s work as a missionary to China. Following the occupation of China by the Japanese Eric was placed in an internment camp where he died of a brain tumour on the 21 February 1945 aged forty-three.

A manuscript of Eric’s, A Manual of Christian Discipleship, that was known to be circulating in the internment camp was finally published in 1985 under the title, The Disciplines of the Christian Life.

The Scandal of Grace

Bill Hybels in his book, The God You’re Looking For, pp 116-118, recounts a story under the heading of The Scandal of Grace,

I once had lunch with a business executive with whom I’d been building a relationship. I asked for his napkin and his pen. The pen looked as if it cost at least two hundred dollars, so I knew I’d have his undivided attention if I used his pen instead of mine. He wasn’t about to let it out of his sight!

Taking his pen. I wrote GOD at the top of the napkin, then drew a line pointing down. Pointing to the word GOD, I said, “here’s God’s standard of holiness. Here’s a line.” and following the line downward, “and down here are the bad people of the world. Put and X somewhere on this line where you belong on the morality ladder.”

He did, and then I continued, “The gap between you and the holiness of God is the problem. You have fallen short of the standards of God’s holiness by your own admission. That gap is what you will stand accountable for on the day of judgment.”

I turned the napkin over and said, “All people tend to do one of two things with that shortfall.” I drew a line across the middle, then wrote, “The Moral Self-Improvement Plan.”

This is when people spend the rest of their lives trying to bring their X mark up a little higher. The Bible says it doesn’t work even if you give yourself a hundred lifetimes. You can’t get up to the place of moral perfection if you’re a fallen human being.”

Then on the other side of that dividing line, I wrote, “The Grace Plan.”

The guy said, “What’s that?”

“You’re not going to believe it. In the ‘Grace Plan’ God says, ‘I see the gap and I know you can’t make it by your own human strength, so I’m going to send Christ, My Son, to pay for the shortfall. Salvation and adoption into My family will be made available to you as a gift.'”

“Which of the two are you in?” I asked, “The Grace Plan or the Moral Self-Improvement Plan?”

“I’m in the Moral Self-Improvement Plan.”

I agreed. “From all i see of you, I think you are too.”

I’ll never forget what happened next. He looked up and searched my eyes. In that one, five-second glance, he was thinking, If only what you are saying is true. If I felt that today I could just abandon the self-improvement plan and receive grace as a free gift for an undeserving sinner like me, it would change everything.

This “sanctified suspicion” is what keeps so many people away from Christianity. If somebody tells us all we have to do is show up and get a free car, we know it can’t be true, so how can we expect a free ticket to heaven? This grace business just sounds too good, too easy. Successful people who have worked long and hard to obtain their place in society and their nice house and their big office and their imported cars simply don’t want to believe that God would give them a place in heaven. “Nothing gets handed to you on a silver platter,” they insist, and most of the time, they are right. But in this case, they are tragically wrong.

That’s why when you open your life up to Christ and you experience the grace explosion, you will be pelted with the shrapnel of relief. In the back of your mind, you knew you couldn’t earn your way into heaven, and now you realise you don’t have to. Instead of defining your relationship with God by your own efforts, you’ll watch in amazement as God draws near of His own accord. Hope will nourish your soul: Maybe with God’s help I can start my life over again. Maybe I can walk with a clean slate into a different kind of future.

Actually, there’s no ‘maybe” about it. It just comes down to grace, and it’s true. It’s also enduring.


(Note. While Bill used both sides of the napkin in his illustration consider forming a “Cross” on one side drawing the horizontal line through the “X”)

Miracle in the Mine

I’ve just finished reading Miracle in the Mine: One Man’s Story of Strength and Survival in the Chilean Mines, written by Jose Henriquez.

In chapter 13 Jose writes,

 “As we seek the Lord and begin to grow in the things of God, we begin to acquire the three special tools in life that enable us to face any adversities.

Become persons of prayer. Prayer for a Christian is as important as the air that he breathes.

Become persons who treasure the Word of God. It is necessary to understand and know the Word of God, because it edifies, educates, strengthens, and teaches us how to live and act.

Become persons who dare to build churches without buildings. If we are people of prayer who know the Word and have faith, we can raise up a church wherever we go, regardless of the environment, context, historical era, or any other impediments.”

An Amazing Tribute – Henry Clay Trumbull

On December 8, 1903, a great printing machine was awaiting a message in type that should carry, to the hundred thousand readers of the paper which it was to print, the news of the death of its editor.

The one who, in that moment of grief and uncertainty, must write the message, tried to view the seventy-three years of life that had just closed, the half-century of manhood that had ministered unceasingly.

The life was rich in varied and extended forms of service: as home missionary in Sunday-school work, as an army chaplain, as interpreter of the Bible, as traveller and explorer, as preacher and speaker and editor, and as writer of more than thirty volumes in the field of character-building and spiritual truth.

Yet in that hour when death seems to reveal the real man and his central power and purpose, the one form of ministry that stood out in clearest, whitest light to those who knew this man best was the ministry of which the world at large, though it knew him well, knew least. It was his self-sacrificing service for the individual: his instant and invariable putting the claims of one above the claims of many: his sinking and spending all that he had and all that he was in order to serve the on-at-a-time for whom he live.

And so the message that told of the earthly ending of his life was the message that the whole life had spoken; and the summons was sounded, to all who loved him, to ‘make his past a success’ by carrying on his greatest work, the winning of individuals to Christ. And it is significant that one of the least pretentious of the thirty volumes that Henry Clay Trumbull wrote is proving to be the most influential of them all in far-reaching blessing,-the little book that tells the simple narrative of his Individual Work for Individuals.

Thus wrote Charles G. Trumbull of his father, Henry Clay Trumbull, in the Introduction to Taking Men Alive: Studies in the Principles and Practice of Individual Soul-Winning.

Both of the above mentioned books came into my hands when a former pastor offered me the opportunity to        select several books for my keeping from his extensive personal library just before ending his long-term ministry at the church I attended . I count it a privilege to have direct access too these two classic titles. In the light of personal events of 2012 I have once again sensed the need to take both books of my bookshelf and revisit the stories written by Henry Clay Trumbull in his book, Individual Work for Individuals, and the studies in the principles and practice of soul-winning implicit in Henry’s stories prepared by his son, Charles G. Trumbull under the title of Taking Men Alive.

Contact Bruce at brusta001@gmail.com