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.

 

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Prayer : The Calm that Follows the Storm

Reblog of a recent post by my friend Paul at granosalispaullocandro.wordpress.com

 It has been said that even as an exercise in itself prayer has psychological benefits. It can be a means of releasing the tension that result from worry and fear.

Yet we are assured from Scripture that prayer is not merely a subjective exercise like reciting a Buddhist mantra rather it is the placing of our situation, needs and fears in the hands of God.

Looking at the story of Hannah in the early chapters of the book of Samuel, we see an example of the change fervent prayer brings to situations.

For a woman to remain childless in those days was treated as a reproach and an inferred some sin in the life and God’s displeasure. Hannah although she had the devotion of her husband still had to contend with Peninah’s ridicule and reproach. The stigma of her society at that time was difficult to cope with.

Her visit to the tabernacle and fervent prayer to the Lord was such the Eli the priest accused her of drunkenness. She promised any child that God gave her would be returned to the Lord as his servant. Eli when he heard her story blessed her and wished her well.

17Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” 18She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. 1 Samuel 1:17

The immediate result of this prayer made in faith was relief from the grief and sadness she had experienced. This in itself is a real blessing. These emotions accomplish nothing and if indulged to long can be damaging.

The great result was the birth of the prophet Samuel who was on many occasions the saviour of the people and a great instrument in God’s hands.

Hannah Presents Samuel untuk Eli

The real blessing of prayer lies in its being mixed with faith in a God who engages with us and seeks our good. It is He who gives us peace in the midst of adverse circumstances and dire need.

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The Christian message is a revelation of a limitless ability to deliver. It is never a try; it is always a triumph.

A Bunch of Everlastings, F.W. Boreham

Image result for quotes from fw borehamGood Works

The natural result of the gospel of Christ is to manifest itself in good works and charitable works at home and abroad. The tendency however,  has been that the good work continues while the proclamation of the Gospel message goes by the board.

The other side of the coin is that the proclamation of the Gospel is made but it is not matched by a social concern for those in need.

In all things we must fight against a lack of balance and making our own ends the rule by which we act. We must take our lead from the New Testament church which boldly proclaimed the Gospel while at the same time ministered to those in need.

Wanna Buy a Duck?

Joe Penner was a comedian very popular in the 1930’s although little remembered today. Although highly talented he was gradually sidelined by the repetition of the same sort of material and catch phrases e.g. “Wanna buy a Duck”?

While it is true that the Gospel remains the same basic message, it never jades us by repetition.

Like Rome it has many roads that lead to it. As we would a flower or a mountain, we can see the gospel from different points of view and in different lights. Should the Gospel become dull and uninteresting to us let us look at it from another of its many perspectives.

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.”

Apprehension…

Some time ago I completed a daily reading series by Charles Swindoll, Come Before Winter…

While each reading was thought-provoking one reading in particular held my attention.

Apprehension…

One explanation of apprehension by Dictionary.com describes it this way, anticipation of adversity or misfortune; suspicion or fear of future trouble or evil.

Further reading of Dictionary.com includes the following synonyms, alarm, worry, uneasiness and suspicion, all implying an unsettled and uneasy state of mind, and again apprehension is an active state of fear, usually of some danger or misfortune.

This undefined uneasiness or feeling of uncertainty, misgiving or mistrust has the potential to cripple or immobilise, to hold us back.

“What frustration is to yesterday, apprehension is to tomorrow.”

…Swindoll

The admission by the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:22,
“And now compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.”,
has an air of apprehension against the backdrop of long term opposition faced by Paul across the course of his missionary journeys and the haze of an uncertain future.

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It’s apprehension that tightens the heart muscles, tugs on the reins, even generating the temptation to turn and run.

While openly acknowledging its presence Paul stood firm, refusing to run, emphatically declaring in Acts 20:24,
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

The bonds of apprehension are strong until DETERMINATION breaks their hold and we refuse to run but instead break free and move forward.

Further evidence of the character of Paul’s determination can be found in Philippians 3:7-15 where he finishes with these resounding words,
” I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

In the face of apprehension resolve to…

Giants…

Life has its challenges, some we manage relatively easily, others, “giants”, significantly impact our lives.

The story of David and Goliath recorded in 1 Samuel 17 has several lessons worthy of our consideration.

* Giants reveal who we, bring to light our character.
* Victories are won in the training. Our life training is preparation for our challenges.
* Faith practiced in the lesser battles equip us to overcome.

Even with these lessons in mind we can still face doubts and failure, and the “if only” question is on our lips. If only I had more faith?

This leads us to a greater lesson.

* REMEMBER THE SIZE OF GOD

So often we look at the giant then look at ourselves and see our inadequacy.

Listen to the words of 1 Samuel 17:45-47 NIV,

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. [46] This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. [47] All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

So often we read a Bible story in isolation however, the story is a part of the unfolding revelation of God. This same God wants to reveal himself to us, give us an ongoing revelation of himself in the midst of our circumstances. We are not alone, he is with us. Furthermore we belong to God’s community and so we face our giants in community.

This is my paraphrase of Deb Sorensen’s sermon this morning. Deb is the. Associate Pastor @ one2one church.

Keeping the Faith

Another post from my friend Paul…

Many years ago a man named John Bunyan was in jail, locked up for the way he had openly been expressing his Christian faith. He was just a poor simple tradesman but in that jail he penned a short book that has become legendary and has encouraged countless Christians to ‘stay the path ‘ that leads to righteousness. The book is all about staying on the path the Lord has set out for us instead of being led astray.

This concept comes straight from the bible and is reiterated many times. And it is of vital importance to young adults, who represent the largest ‘drop off ‘ group in the church, with up to 80% walking away from their faith.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13-14, “Broad is the road that leads to destruction… But narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” How do we stay on the narrow path?

Both Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:2 tell us, “The Lord will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.”

There are many things that will lead us astray. The desire to make lots of money to buy flash cars and big houses has led many astray, thinking things like, “My heart belongs to Jesus and that’s enough; he wouldn’t deny me the fruit of my labour.”

Or stupid, self-serving teachings have led astray many young people to focus on a charismatic personality, who is not actually grounded in the gospel and so misuses God’s word and creates a sect. Invariably this house of cards comes crashing to the ground and leaves its members disillusioned and with a destroyed faith.

Or sexual temptations, being drawn away by our out of control emotional desires , where we become hooked at our weakest point and choose this ‘love ‘ over God’s love. This is often a big wide fork in the road.

How do we stay on the path? By walking with the Lord…He promises to teach us his ways. But we never walk with someone in silence. If we have a real relationship then we talk as we walk. We unload our burdens and we listen to our Master. We are uplifted with encouragement, “Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

We are shaped, corrected, matured with His focus and purpose for our lives, to stay on track.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path ” Psalm 119:105.

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Blessings Paul.

I’m Having a Ball…

My name is Philip. During a recent conversation with my mentor Bruce I emphatically stated I was having a ball. If you knew a little of my history life had been anything other than a ball. What has changed?

Earlier in 2014 I decided to contact a former teacher. While it took nearly twenty minutes I was determined and I persevered until I finally contact Bruce. We became re-acquainted. It proved to be the first of many phone calls and text messages since.

I wanted to thank Bruce for calling me a Christian, over 40 years ago. Bruce was a teacher at the school I attended and a fellow student had encouraged me to speak to him. Bruce welcomed our conversations and counted it a privilege to explain to me how I could get close to God and become a follower of Jesus. During one conversation in a local cafe I responded and received Jesus as my personal Saviour. Then Bruce declared that I was now a Christian thus confirming the transaction that had taken place between me and God.

Over the phone my gravelly voice gave away the fact that I had throat problems and I had difficulty speaking. However, I made sure Bruce listened explaining that since my decision I had not followed through choosing instead to go my own way.

Just as firmly Bruce explained the parable of the Prodigal Son or Lost Son and while we may turn aside from following Jesus God never ceases to hold to His side of the contract. In fact my desire to contact Bruce was evidence or confirmation of God’s amazing grace drawing me back to Him.

Since that first telephone conversation things have changed. With the help of others, Bruce, Mabel, Pastor Rob and now Linton, I am working out what it means to follow Jesus. I want to make special mention of my good friend, Walter, who has stood beside me during the tough times and is now watching me take giant steps in my faith journey. Thank you, Walter.

During one of our conversations I explained to Bruce that in the past when I walked out the door of my home unit I did so with a chip on my shoulder and anger in my heart but now I walk out the door with a spring in my step and gratitude in my heart. Pastor Rob during his first visit gave me the words of Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” I’ve now placed these words above my doorway to remind me that I step out in God’s strength.

More recently I took up the invitation from Pastor Rob to attend a morning worship service at his church. Mabel, another one of my mentors accompanied me to lend moral support. I felt very much at home. Over a cuppa after the service I made use of the pen and note paper I use to help with my communication. Pastor Rob, who was standing behind me, noted the words that I had written, “Forty-one years absent.” He asked whether the words referred to me to which I replied, “Yes.” Pastor Rob immediately responded, “Welcome home!” I knew I was home.

15 In the story of the Lost Son, Luke 15, the penitent son on returning home receives a joy-filled, “Welcome home,” from the father and immediately a feast is arranged to celebrate the son’s return. I tell you I’m having a ball. God wants to welcome us home. He wants to know we belong and He wants us to have a ball. Bruce has given me another story, the Parable of the Great Banquet, found in Luke 14:15-24, to read with my new-found mentor, Linton, who I met at church.

I’ll be going to church again. Mabel will come with me again to lend her support and I have extended an invitation to my friend Walter to join me whenever he can.

I know I belong and I’m regaining a sense of worth and purpose. I’m excited because God is opening my eyes to where I can serve Him. I’m having a ball…

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