The leaves are starting to change. Yes, winter is coming, and I don’t like winter. I don’t like that the leaves all fall from the trees and they are left bare. Everything seems grey without life. Yet, I know that with winter comes the promise of spring, and spring will bring back the color and the look of life once again. It’s easy to read the weather at times. We can feel the chill in the morning and know that summer is officially over. We feel the wetness in the air and see the clouds and can know when it is going to rain. Yes, we can watch the weather channel but is that any more accurate than going outside and looking for yourself? Many think that we are living in the end times. I’m sure that many thought that during the world wars also, and during the outbreak of the Spanish flu. We saw the devastation of the mountain St. Helens, and realized that something must be happening in God’s kingdom. We saw the twin towers fall, and it seemed like evil prevailed and we wondered what it was all about, thinking this might be the coming of the end. We read all these and call them signs, but we fail often to read the knowledge of the One who made the mountains, the oceans, and can control the weather. He tells us this parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they put out leaves you can see for yourselves and recognize that summer is already near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, or that day will come on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come on all who live on the face of the whole earth. But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21: 29-36 The things that Jesus talked about that we are to notice are the sun, moon, and stars. He told us to watch the anguish among the nations. Even the seas will change. He said people will faint from fear. But then, we are to keep looking and then all will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with power and great glory. Jesus had admitted that He does not know the time this will happen, only the Father knows. But this is what will happen. He wants us to see it as we see the changing of the seasons, and not be in despair, but in anticipation of what is happening. Will we be around to see it? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, for the believer to KNOW that it will happen is enough for us to want to keep watch. Let’s not let the fears that are overcoming the world spread through us. We are stronger than that! Let’s be prepared and wait in anticipation of such a great event. I will admit to you, that is both a scary and an exciting time, but if we see it from God’s perspective, it should be a very exciting time, for we will be close to being with Him forever. This is a good time, with all the fear going around now, to do what we are told in the letter to the Roman Christians: “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 Won’t you join with me today in giving glory to our Almighty God for His great mercies, for they are never ending, and even though we take them for granted at times, today, let’s get back to the basics of life, the honoring and giving of our hearts to the One who will constantly be with us through all we may have to go through. Pastor Andy
To the Greeks, the word, charis (grace), was a beautiful precious word. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, says of the word, grace, “the whole stress lays on this very point, that it is conferred freely, with no expectation of return, finding its only motive the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver.” Grace to the Greek was an act that is beyond the ordinary course of what might be expected. Grace was a gift given from the heart of the giver without a desire of reciprocation. The recipients’ only act is to receive it. But there was one problem with this grace. To the Greeks, grace was always given to a friend, never an enemy.
This is where charistook on a whole different meaning to Christ-followers. Romans 5:8 described why, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.!” Jesus exemplified to His followers that grace was no longer a gift offered to their loved ones only but to their enemies also.
The greatest gift of all time was grace given to us by God Himself while we were stubbornly acting independently even in rebellion of His will. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). God had only one thought in mind, eternal life for each of us. He knew that it would take the shed blood of His sinless Son to achieve this. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says it this way, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
It took the gift of His Son to save us. As a Greek would tell you, your only responsibility is to receive His gift of charis/grace. John 1:12 states, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Paul clarifies this in Ephesians 2:8&9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” You can’t work to earn charis/grace, you receive it.
Do you know how we change our world, our communities, and most of all our families especially when you know they don’t deserve it? We offer them charis/grace, gifts from the heart of God with no expectations. You love period, end of story.
You may say this sounds like a whipping. Quite the opposite is true. The root word for charis is char which means “joy.” Experience the abundant life of sharing life with God by offering grace to others even enemies and watch God change lives including your own.
God doesn’t want His people to get stuck in neutral whose life is like a “neutral” color designed not to be seen. How many of us simply blend in without a desire to engage…go along to get along? We want safe without friction, comfort without confrontation, a peacekeeper who is always agreeable and never a peacemaker who is willing to confront when a situation calls for it.
I remember as a young kid in the mid-1950’s, my dad had an old chevy pickup which he would shift into neutral when going down large hills so that the motor was not engaged saving gas. Once in neutral, this old truck did not dictate its speed but allowed the steepness of the hill to determine how fast it went. It’s the same in life. While in neutral, we do not have to engage in the torque and drama of living, keeping it simple. However…
Jesus does not want His followers to be stuck in neutral. He has no desire for our lives to be about comfort, convenience, simple, and easy without drama. Christ makes His intentions known clearly in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Graphically and emphatically, Jesus has no desire for us to be stuck in neutral. “Lukewarm” is nice and easy but not what God wants.
It reminds me of the old story about how to cook a frog. When you put a frog in a pot of water, you want the temperature to be comfortable or it will jump out. The key is to keep the frog comfortable by increasing the heat very slowly. The frog is having a nice experience enjoying this sauna with a casual yawn or two along the way, eyes slowly shutting feeling drowsy and the need for sleep. Before he knows it, the water is boiling, and the frog is getting cooked. Are we not like the frog?
One of Apostle Paul’s spiritual sons was Timothy who did not like confrontation often shying away from it. 2 Timothy 1:6-8 declares, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” Timothy preferred to stay on an even keel; however, Paul disrupted Timothy and told him to jump out of the pot of comfort and convenience and get engaged.
It’s time to shift out of neutral!
On Wednesday, we discussed becoming “a compassionate listener.” Today, we will list and discuss the “blocks to becoming a compassionate listener”:
Mind Reading: You are mind reading when you disregard or distrust what your partner is actually saying and instead try to figure out what he or she “really means”. Mind Readers give too much importance to subtle cues such as tone, facial expressions, and posture. They ignore the actual content of what their partner is saying in favor of their own assumptions and hunches.
Rehearsing: You’re so busy rehearsing what you’ll say next that you never really hear what your partner is telling you. Sometimes you may rehearse whole chains of dialogue: “I’ll say, then my partner will say, then I’ll say…”.
Filtering: Filtering means that you listen to some things but not others. You may listen for signs that your partner is angry or sad or anxious and then tune out when you sense that your partner is okay and that you aren’t expected to respond to any emotional trouble. Filtering can also work to exclude things you don’t want to hear like drinking, gambling, etc.
Judging: Judging means that you have stopped listening to your partner because of some negative judgement, or that you only listen for the purpose of assigning blame and putting negative labels on your partner.
Daydreaming: Everyone’s attention wanders. When you’ve been with someone for many years, it’s especially easy to stop listening and drift away into your own fantasies. If you find it harder and harder to pay attention to your partner, it may be a danger sign that you are avoiding contact on certain topics.
Advising: Your partner barely has time to speak a complete sentence before you jump in with your advice. Your search for the right solution and your urge to fix everything deafens you to your partner’s simple need to be heard.
Sparring: You listen only to disagree, argue, and debate. You take a position and defend it, regardless of what your partner says. In many troubled relationships, sparring is the standard mode of communication.
Being Right: This block protects you from hearing anything that suggests you are less than perfect. To avoid suggestion that you are wrong, you will lie, shout, change the subject, justify, quibble, make excuses accuse, or otherwise fight off criticism.
Derailing: Changed the subject or joke it off whenever the conversation becomes too personal or threatening. By misdirection or humor, you avoid listening to your partner’s serious concerns.
Placating: You are too quick to agree. As soon as your partner expresses doubt, irritation or anxiety, you jump in with, “Yes…you’re right…I know…I’m sorry…I’ll fix it.” You are so concerned with being nice, supportive, and agreeable that you don’t give your partner time to fully express his or her thought.
Defending: Quick to feel misunderstood and judged. Fear drives the defender to be too quick to “explain” instead of fully engaged in listening.
- Put a checkmark next to the “blocks to compassionate listening” that best fit you.
- Place an asterisk next to the ones that you feel best reflects your spouse. How do they differ from the ones that your spouse selected for themselves?
- Discuss the above with your spouse. Make sure that you compassionately listen to each other…no condemnation or attacks.
Become a Compassionate Listener…
The large majority of these were created by M. McKay, P. Fanning, and K. Paleg in their book entitled Couple Skills: Making Your Relationship Work, 2nd Edition.
I always love to read the story of the good Samaritan. It is a story, not only filled with what is right to do, but it points to the heart of many of us during times in our lives when we are called to be merciful. For your reference, I will put the story here: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ “The one who showed mercy to him, he said.” Then Jesus told him, ‘Go and do the same.'” Luke 10:30-37 I think most of us would be quick to jump in and say, “Yes!” I would be like the Samaritan. But would we? Oftentimes we think it is the Pastor’s job, and will call the church to tell him that someone needs help. We’re quick to point out the need, but walk on the other side of the road. If the person injured is not like us, we might not want to get involved, and call the police to come take care of it. Or we will call an ambulance and leave the scene. But in Jesus’ story, He did not say the Samaritan went to the authorities to have them go get the man. He took care of him. His mercy was the kind directed by the Lord, and filled the Samaritan with compassion and care for another human being. He didn’t think about the many things he had to accomplish that day, He didn’t think about not having enough money to pay for helping this man. His only thought was on mercy. Can we honestly say we have THIS kind of mercy? How many times will we tell someone that they can call if they ever need us, only to hope they don’t call. The church is a good place to start showing the mercy of the Lord to others. If we can’t do it there, how can we do it in our everyday journey? Of course we don’t want our wives and daughters stopping by the road to help a person because of the way of the world. But what if the calling to help was from the Lord. Would He not provide? Would He not protect? We often find a hundred excuses why we wouldn’t be able to help another, and no reasons as to why we should, because the only reason to do this is mercy. To be like Christ is to be merciful like Him, to love like Him, and to be selfless like Him, and to think of others first. Then we will understand what it is like to be like Christ. Pastor Andy
You will never genuinely know another’s values or interests until you become a “compassionate listener.” Compassionate listening focuses on others…their growth, their healing, their interests, and their happiness.
Philippians 2:3&4 is a wonderful description of a compassionate listener, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Notice that true, healthy, safe conversation starts with an attitude of “humility…not looking to your own interests.” Be patient, humble, and compassionately L-I-S-T-E-N.
“Selfish ambition and vain conceit” are relationship killers. They are about “you” not others. They are not good listeners and are destructive to solid relationships.
James 1:19 is clear, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” The old saying is, “You have two ears and one mouth, so use your ears twice as much as your mouth.” This definitely is sage advice.
Notice what the Bible says about the speaker who speaks before he listens. Proverbs 18:13 declares, “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” Listen without judgment and hold your advice until you are sure you know the whole story. Speaking before listening blocks or delays the resolution of problems. If you are hasty and judgmental, you can bet others will not want to share anything of significance with you.
James 1:25 may spur you on to become a compassionate listener, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
Proverbs 15:14 speaks clearly to us, “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” If you want to be wise, one with a discerning heart, you learn from others which comes from being a compassionate listener.
A compassionate listener learns the worth and depth of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still and become an intentional, mindful and purposeful compassionate listener. Choose to be quiet and in humility value others by listening.
As a Christian college student, I was swept up in the Jesus Movement. It was a time in our country of great churn. There was marching in our streets to contest the unpopular Vietnam War, considered by most to be led by Washington D.C. politicians rather than professional officers of our US Military (sound familiar?). Racial strife dominated the press fighting for freedoms fueled by the assassination of the social champion, Martin Luther King. Drug misuse was rampant. President Nixon was impeached and removed from office. Our country seemed to be yanking apart at the seams. As a result, young Christians started greeting one another with the Greek word, “Maranatha.” It was a message of great hope.
Maranatha is an Aramaic word that means “the Lord is coming” or “come, O Lord.” The early church faced much persecution, and life for a Christian under Roman rule was not easy. The Romans required everyone to declare that Caesar was god. The early Christians knew that there is only one God and one Lord—Jesus Christ—and in all good conscience they could not call Caesar “Lord,” so the Romans looked upon them as traitors, persecuted them, and put them to death.
Living under adverse conditions, the believers’ morale was lifted by the hope of the coming of the Lord. “Maranatha!” became the common greeting of oppressed believers, replacing the Jewish greeting shalom (“peace”). Followers of Jesus knew there would be no peace because Jesus had told them so (Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51). But they also knew the Lord would be returning to set up His kingdom, and from that truth they drew great comfort. They were constantly reminding and being reminded that the Lord is coming (Luke 21:28; Revelation 22:12). Jesus taught several parables on this same theme of watching and waiting and being prepared for His return (Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 12:35-40).
Today, believers in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ live our lives in the light of the knowledge that He can come at any time. We are to be ready when the call comes. Every day we should expect Him to come, and every day we should long for Him to come. Maranatha reminds us to keep our eyes on the eternal things of the Spirit. To dwell on material things is to be in constant mental turmoil. Looking down, we see the earth; looking around, we see earthly things. But looking up, we see the hope of the soon coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To those who are discouraged today, Maranatha! To those who are worried today, Maranatha! To those who are filled with anxiety over the problems they are facing, Maranatha! Our Lord is coming!
Outside of the initial paragraph, the above content is written by www.gotquestions.org, a website written for the purpose of clarifying the Bible.
I was buried in anxieties accompanied by depression for 34 years…not fun! I frequently chastised myself mentally and emotionally that I did not have enough faith. However, that ended up not being true. I discovered that my problem was not unbelief but misbelief. Misbeliefs or untruths dictated the monologue or the continuous negative chatter that went on inside my mind. These thoughts were lies which were destructive mentally and emotionally.
Your emotions manufacture your behavior, your self-talk dictates your feelings, and the core of your mind (your heart) generates your self-talk. The foundational beliefs in my heart were misbeliefs/lies which produced erroneous self-talk. Darkness ensued resulting into behavior that restricted, betrayed, and compromised my walk with the Lord.
During these dark days constantly living life based on misbeliefs, I became a germaphobe which was horrible. Severe germaphobia was a terrible taskmaster. It impacted me practically every moment of my life. The devil used this to shrink wrap my world. My being was restricted and confined, and I could not break free.
Some of the diabolical thoughts at the core of my being were, You’re a reject…You’re crazy…You’re stupid…You’ve let the world kick your butt…don’t try anything proactive, you will fail…he/she doesn’t like me…that is so diseased…stay away from that…you forgot you disinfecting wipes…that waitress touched the top of your glass, ugh, I can’t drink from it. Planes and restaurants were disasters for my mind. My problem was not unbelief but misbeliefs.
How did I get well? I came to realize that I was in a spiritual battle that I could not win on my own. Ephesians 6:10&11 showed me how to win my battle…Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. The armor of God begins with the “belt (or girdle) of truth” which holds other vital pieces of the armor in place. Everyday was started by putting on the whole armor.
I recognized that the devil was a pathological liar. “The devil does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
I came to realize that the way the devil and world snatched my attention was through anxieties and fear. Philippians 4:6 became very clear about this, “Be anxious in nothing but in everything let you request be made to God…” I treated every “anxiety” that came my way as a lie and immediately handed it over to God.
I learned to trust God in detail. Proverbs 3:5&6 instructs us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.” I didn’t allow anxieties to become entrenched in my mind and treated each of them as a lie. Got rid of them immediately.
I saturated my mind with God’s Word…memorized and “chewed on it”. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31&32. Psalm 119:11, “Your Word of I hid in my heart that I will not sin against you.”
I started the day praising Him. Psalm 100 states for us “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His court with praise.”
Don’t do life by yourself. You need others. Be transparent and authentic with one another, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
It’s all about the Truth. “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:5). Misbeliefs/untruths will take you down. Get rid of them and live in the truth which sets you free…
I recently watched a sermon on Colossians by one of our favorite preachers/teachers, Alistair Begg, Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio. I would like to share a summary of the message here.
V.2 – To the saints and faithful brothers[a] in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Paul and Timothy are writing this to the “saints and faithful brothers” who in today’s vernacular are the Christians and their blessing on/to them is the grace and peace of God our Father! I would love to see this style of greeting resurrected in current day writing! Could you imagine opening an email and seeing this type of greeting to you!
V.6 – in talking about the “word of truth, the gospel”, Paul and Timothy write, “since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” The gospel has to be spoke or “preached” in order to be heard, but also it has to be understood! Arguments or “apologetics” are insufficient, although not unnecessary. How many times have you read a particular scripture only to have it come to life “all of a sudden” the hundredth time you read it! Only God can make clear what was once unclear!
v.10- so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Paul and Timothy pray their outward life would match God’s directives! The Family of God (big family) and our own personal families should look the same as is reflected in this verse! The challenge is not in our ability to articulate what we believe, but the ability to live in a way that those around us wonder what it is about us that is so different!
v.12 – giving thanks[d] to the Father, who has qualified you[e] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. One can only be qualified by God the Father and only based on Jesus who is our ultimate example; not based on education, race, gender or any other human characteristic.
v.13 – He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. We have been delivered from where we once were to the very presence of Jesus, NOT to be a member of or hold a certain position in a church.
V.18 – And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Matthew 19:4 – “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female” The Lord establishes the whole concept of marriage! This institution is permanent and universal. What God has established by creation will not be destroyed by mane! Light shines in the darkness and darkness cannot put it out! We cannot expect the non-believing culture to honor the marriage bond if they do not know its origin … which is creation?
2 Thessalonians 2:7 – For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. The mystery of lawlessness is at work all around us and at its most basic form is the opposition of Biblical views. We are in ANOTHER period in history where it seems lawlessness is almost unsurmountable … BUT GOD!!!
Our relationship with God is:
- There by creation
- Disrupted by sin
- Restored by Grace … only in Jesus
Jesus obeyed where Adam failed and Jesus took divine judgement that Adam (and we) deserve!
God is good … all the time and all the time … God is good!!!
A young, dear, mature Christian buddy of mine “commented” to me this week that others have scoffed at him about the song “Way Maker” being “over done”. Hey, I am 72 years “young” 😊and have this song playing several times a week as I start my day in praise. Let me assure you that Way Maker will become a staple for years to come. I have sung “Amazing Grace” from the day that I was saved on October 21, 1962, to this day and experience God’s presence practically every time. I am not saying that Way Maker will ever reach the lofty heights of Amazing Grace, but it is and will continue to be used by God. Let’s look at the four titles this song professes about our wonderful God:
Jesus is called “Way Maker”. First century Christians were often characterized by being “followers of the Way”:
- Acts 19:23, About that time, there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.
- Acts 24:22, But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.”
Isn’t it interesting that when describing who He was, Jesus started with “the Way”…”I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, there is no other way to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). He is the Way Maker.
Jesus is the “Miracle Worker”. Everyone of us as believers are a miracle. We have been “born again” (John 3:3-8), are “new creations…the old is passed away, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and are “being transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Romans12:2). The word, transformed means “to change in composition of structure, in character or condition.” We are like the miracle of metamorphosis from an ugly caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly. Each believer in Jesus Christ has been fundamentally changed. In the Bible, the book of Acts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present us with one miracle after another. All of this is performed by the Holy Spirit under the direction of Jesus, the Miracle Worker.
Jesus is the “Promise Keeper”. 1 John 5:13-15 states this so clearly, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” He is the Promise Keeper.
Jesus is “Light in the Darkness”. John 8:12 speaks clearly to this, “Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” Christ challenges us to be light to this world, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). He is Light in the Darkness.
Raise your voice, and, if you choose, lift up your hands, in surrender and praise. He is the Way Maker! Miracle Worker! Promise Keeper! Light in the Darkness! That is Who You Are…”