Sacrificial Love Is the Way

sacrifical love

Hebrews 10 (NIV)

10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 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.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”

38 And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

 

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice when He selflessly laid down His own life for us so that we could have eternal life with Him.  He offers grace and mercy so abundantly that it disarms and amazes us.

C.S. Lewis once said of Jesus, “When God becomes a Man and lives as a creature among His own creatures in Palestine, then indeed His life is one of supreme self-sacrifice and leads to Calvary.”

Jim Braddock once supported his family as he fought in the boxing ring in the 1920s.  A movie about this famed boxer’s life portrayed legendary boxing matches, as well as heart-wrenching realities that plagued the world during the Great Depression.  The movie was titled Cinderella Man and Russell Crowe played Jim Braddock in the movie.

In one powerful scene in the movie, Jim’s daughter, Rosemary, was sitting at their breakfast table and asked her mom for more food.  Her mother Mae responded that there was no more.  Jim didn’t lecture his daughter about being grateful and content with what she had.  Instead, he told Mae and Rosemary about a dream he had the night before in which there were thick steaks and lavish food.  With a gleam in his eye, he told his daughter he was full from such a hearty “meal” and asked if she’d help him finish his food.  Then he gave his daughter his breakfast, kissed his wife, and left for work.

We can reflect Christ’s love by putting the needs of others before our own and by pointing them toward our Savior, who sacrificed His own life so that we could have abundant and eternal life in Him.

As you read through Hebrews 10, we get a much clearer picture of the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for us; even the us that were yet to come.  Please read through Hebrew 10 again and ask yourself this question:

In what ways did Christ lay aside His comforts for us?

Then ponder the following question:

What are some ways we can reflect Christ’s loving sacrifice in our relationships with others?

We were designed to be a living representation of Jesus on this earth after He left this word almost 2,000 years ago.  Are we doing a good job of that?  If not, now may be a time to step back a reevaluate our priorities and make sure we are putting the most important things first.  Very rarely do any of us help or show love to another person and then regret doing that later.  We were designed to love others and help them out when they need help.  It is just a matter of doing it.  When you do, I promise, God will be smiling down on you.

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Don’t Be So Quick to Judge

judge 1

James 2:1-13 (NIV)

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.”  If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

 

A while back, while on the road for work, I found myself in a fast food restaurant to grab a bite to eat.  I was in the middle of a 6 hour drive so I was looking to get in and out as quickly as possible.  Shortly after I arrived, a bus full of school kids arrived and seemed hungry as ever.  Luckily, I had arrived before them so I had already ordered my food and just avoided the rush.  I was able to observe the action from my table as I was eating my lunch.

You should have seen the faces of the employees when this huge group of kids arrived.  You would have thought that the kids had never eaten out before or that their sponsors were stuffing them in preparation for a week of medicore camp food.  They ate and ate.

On the menu that day was a new, enticing concoction: the bacon sundae.  I love bacon and I also love bacon so why not put the two together.  The kids seemed intrigued, but each seemed afraid to actually order one.  Finally, one kid was brave enough to order one.  As soon as this young boy received his bacon sundae, the kids all gathered around him as if they were watching a science experiment that might blow up.  They gagged in mock disgust as this young boy sampled the dessert.  The other kids pronounced denouncing opinions of the sundae with great authority in their voices.  They spoke their judgments with maniacal glee.  It was quite a scene for just a sundae.

Playfully poking fun about a bacon sundae is one thing, but judging others about the weightier matters of life is a completely other matter.  It’s important to take care what and how we judge.  As recipients of God’s great mercy, Christians should be prayerfully and particularly mindful about the judgments we make.

Bono, the lead singer from U2, once said in an interview with Jim Daly, “The hypocrisy of the human heart is a remarkable thing.  And the piety and judgmentalism of the faithful can be very annoying.”  Those are some pretty strong and condemning words, but it is so often true.  Those who have faith should know better than to do this, but sadly, they seem to be leading the charge in judging others.

Biblical truth guides our knowledge of what’s right and wrong.  Biblical mercy and prayerful discernment should temper how and when we offer judgement to others.  Exercising a Christian attitude means making judgements based on biblical morality without being judgmental and self-righteous.

Today’s passage, found in the book of James, talks about this very thing.  It talks about how we should not judge people based on their outward appearance, but rather on the character found within their souls.  We should not show favoritism and it is really not our place to judge the sins of others.  The only One who has a right to judge is God.  We all get individually judged on our lives after we leave this world and that is the only judgement that really matters.  That is reason enough to leave the judging part up to God.  Our only job, when it comes to those around us, is to love them with the very best of our ability.

Take a few minutes today to think about some of the ways that God has shown mercy towards you in your life.  Think about times you were forgiven when you probably didn’t deserve it.  Use these thoughts when you think about your dealings with others and hopefully this will help you to be more merciful to others.

Can you recall any instances in your own life when you might have come across as self-righteous and judgmental towards others?  It can be an easy thing to do, but the long-term consequences of doing so can be very devastating.

Don’t be so quick to judge others.  Remember, you have plenty of things that could easily be judged as well.  We are all flawed, but despite this fact, God is still willing to forgive us.  Maybe that should be lens we see others through.

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Overcome Fear by Trusting God

fear 1

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

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.

In many ways, faith is the key to the Christian life.  Everything we receive from God we receive by faith.  He is the One helping, providing, encouraging, promising, and loving us.  And we know that God values our faith in Him.  Our faith is the basis of everything and it starts with our belief in God.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Then 1 Peter 1:7 adds that the “genuineness of your faith is more valuable than gold.”  Clearly, faith is immensely important.  Whatever hinders faith must be dealt with.  Fear hinders faith, perhaps more than anything else.

Alexander Maclaren once said, “Faith, which is trust, and fear are opposite poles.  If a man has the one, he can scarcely have the other in vigorous operation.  He that has his trust set upon God does not need to dread anything except the weakening or the paralyzing of that trust.”

As human beings, we desire to be in control.  The problem is, we’re clearly not.  Bad things happen to us and to people we know.  The world can seem out of control.  While it’s certainly fallen, and bad things do happen, it’s not out of control.  Our Father is in charge, despite all appearances to the contrary.  He can be trusted, though that’s not a guarantee against all pain.  God uses our suffering to make us more like Christ.

We exercise faith when we choose to take God at His Word and to believe in His promises.  Today’s passage, found in Isaiah 41 assures us that we don’t need to be afraid, because the Lord is with us and He will strengthen us.  We can trust that He won’t let us go.  Trusting in God’s promises helps us to overcome fear.

So as we are thinking about this idea, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What fears do you tend to struggle with?
  2. Can you recall times when God helped you overcome your fears?

I would encourage each of you to trust in God.  If you can find it within yourself to do that, God will replace your fears with a strong faith.  A faith that will transform your life.

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God Redeems Our Suffering

redemption

2 Corinthians 11:24-29 (NIV)

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

 

Hebrews 11 (NIV)

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b]considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

 

God isn’t in the business of bringing unlimited wealth, prosperity, and happiness to our earthly lives.  God’s in the business of transforming His children, whom He freed from sin’s shackles, into Christ’s likeness.  The Lord doesn’t promise His followers a walk down “easy street.”  He beckons us to shoulder our crosses along the narrow path.  The Father’s pruning hand is an expression of His love, as He prepares us to pursue His purposes for our lives.

The great author C.S. Lewis once said, “We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved; we are rebels who must lay down our arms.”

In the two passages, we see examples of the many hardships that God’s people had to endure throughout the Bible.  Paul, who sis more to advance the church more than any other person who lived, had to suffer so much suffering during his time on earth.  In Hebrews 11, we see a systematic account of all of the great people from the Old Testament and the suffering they endured.  Please reread these two above passages and ask yourselves the following two questions:

  1. What did the people listed in Hebrews 11 have in common with one another?
  2. What are some way the Lord can use suffering redemptively in our own lives.

As believers, we’ve experienced God’s grace, blessing, and redemption in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we won’t also experience trouble, hardship, pain, and suffering.  Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:38, “Do not both adversity and good come from the mouth of the Most High?”

Biblical history is filled with examples of God-fearing servants who faced adversity.  Noah faced a worldwide flood; Abraham faced an uprooting, a long wait, and an unthinkable command; Joseph faced betrayal, slavery, and false accusations; Ester face the threat of death; Job faced terrible loss; and Paul faced beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, and imprisonment.  Yet they all remained faithful, trusting in God’s perfect will and timing.

The Lord can redeem suffering for kingdom purposes.

 

Lamentations 3:32-33 (NIV)

32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

God does not enjoy the fact that we experience suffering here on earth.  But, sometimes we need to experience some suffering to get to the place that God needs us to be at.  In other words, we can’t fully become the person God has designed us to be without us having to experience valleys.  It is during these tough times that we are forced to rely on God and seek His help.  When we do that, God can fix us from the inside out.  If we never come to Him, we will never experience those changes inside of us.

The best part of it all is knowing that through God’s promise and the suffering that Jesus experienced on our behalf, when our pilgrimage as his followers through this troubled world ends, God will usher us into an eternal realm free from pain.  There is no pain and suffering found in heaven and that is what all believers have to look forward to.  What a glorious day that will be indeed.

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Walk in the Light

walk

John 8:12 (NIV)

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The word light is a metaphor that occurs more than 20 times in the first 12 chapters of John’s Gospel.  Jesus wasn’t saying that he was holding the light or that He had the light or that He’s the way to the light.  Instead, He unequivocally stated, “I am the Light.”  In doing so, He was claiming to be deity.  Rabbis used “light” as a name for Messiah.  When Jesus said He was the Light, He was saying that He is God and, therefore, He is the source of life.  The sun is necessary for sustaining life, but the One who created the sun and the universe is the source of all life.

C.S. Lewis once said, ”I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  Everything comes from God and is therefore filtered through God.  If a person does not believe that, then they are in denial.

Darkness is often a metaphor for sin, spiritual blindness, and death.  Light and darkness cannot coexist.  When you turn on a light in a darkened room, immediately the darkness vanishes.  Christ is the Light who dispels spiritual darkness.

Not only does the light dispel the darkness, but it also lights our path.  Jesus is essential to our spiritual life.  As rain and sun are critical to earthly crops, we need Christ to nourish and help us grow in our spiritual walk.  He alone possesses the map to life.

To be a follower of Christ is to give our body, soul, and mind in obedience to Him.  As we walk in the Light, He delivers us from darkness and guides us on the path towards pursuing His purposes.

 

Isaiah 2:5 (NIV)

Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

The question I want us to ask ourselves today is:

How can I be more intentional about walking in Jesus’ light in my daily life?

When you figure out what you can do, the next step is to implement them into your daily life.  Make it a daily rhythm in your life to spend time with God.  Be intentional about living your life in a manner that reflects Jesus.  Doing this will change your life forever.

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The Most Amazing Book Ever Written

bible 3

Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV)

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

The Bible is the most amazing Book ever written.

You may not agree with that statement, but before you choose to disagree, let’s look further into why I feel confident making a statement like that.

God used human beings to record His thoughts and words into writing so that others could know Him.  We learn this in 2 Peter:

2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV)

20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The One who spoke the universe into existence still speaks just as powerfully through the pages of the Bible that you can so easily hold in your hands today.

At the moment a person steps over the faith line (chooses to give their life to Jesus), believers receive the Holy Spirit and the lines of communication with God are established.  Then, whenever the Scriptures are read, children of God can hear His voice and the Spirit enables them to understand and put into practice what they have read.

The Bible is not just a good book with comforting verses.  It is effective in teaching us how we should live our lives and accomplishes the purpose for which God sends it to each of us.  We learn this in the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV)

10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Scripture is active and alive and “performs its work in those who believe.”

2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV)

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

The Word of God has the power to change our lives if will believe Him and do what He says.

God uses Scripture to transform us from the inside out.  His Word has the quality of a sword that cuts through our hearts and judges thoughts and intentions, delivering light to the darkness that so often resides deep in our souls.  This Book tells us not only who God is, but also who we are.

Sometimes life’s concerns can deafen our “spiritual ears.”  Before reading Scripture, it is important to ask God to help you hear and understand what he’s saying.  As you believe and obey, your spiritual hearing will become more acute and your time in the Word will be a more intimate conversation with God.

Today I would like to challenge us all to try to carve out a small part of our day to spend reading this great Book.  In addition, try to find at least one thing from what you read each day to work on in your own life.  This practice will transform our lives a little bit each day.  Over a lifetime, the transformation will be so immense, we will find that we are completely different and so much better.

Now tell me another book you can think of that will do that?  It really is the most amazing Book ever written!

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Which Type of Listener Are You?

listening

Acts 17:10-12 (NIV)

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

 

In order for the Holy Spirit to be unimpeded in its work, we must make every effort to hear what God is trying to tell us when He speaks.  It is possible, for example, to “listen to every word of a sermon, while actually not hearing a word of it. Sadly, there are some vacant attendees like this in churches each and every week.  Their bodies may be in the pew, but their minds are obviously somewhere else.  There are two types of listeners in practically every church in the world.  There are passive listeners and aggressive listeners.  You most-likely know them better as active listeners, but for the purpose of this blog, I am going to call them aggressive listeners.

A passive listener is one who’s present at services, maybe even every week, but just sits in their seat and lets their mind wander during the service, especially during the sermon.  They sit there and watch other people, noticing how they dress and act, socializes with friends, and makes lunch plans in their head.  They don’t go to church to hear from the Lord.  They show up out of habit, or because they or worried about what other people think about them, or because the simple act of going makes them feel better about themselves.

An aggressive listener, on the other hand, walks into the sanctuary excited about what the Lord is going to say.  This Christian has a Bible with them ready to read along, a notebook, and a pen in hand, ready to capture the meat of the message.  They scribble down as much as they can, trying not to miss a single point of the sermon.  Throughout the message, they ask themselves, How does this apply to my life?

I have been both types of listeners in my life.  Up until about 7 years ago, I was a passive listener.  I went to church, but because I was more worried what people would say if I didn’t go.  I was certainly not listening for God to speak to me.  I was going for all the wrong reasons.

Shortly after stepping over the faith line in early 2009, I discovered the art of taking notes during sermons and how, by writing things down, I got a lot more out of the sermon.  It also helped me remember what was said.  I could refer back to my notes throughout the week and I was getting so much more out of what I was hearing.  It has also helped me grow so much closer to God in the process.  Over the past 7 years, I have amassed a pretty large collection of binders and journals filled with notes from various sermons I have heard both in person and online.  It is one of my most valued possessions.  I refer back to them often.

God communicates in many different ways, and when He speaks, we should always listen actively, even aggressively.  If you find your mind wandering during worship, perhaps the problem is that you are approaching God in a passive manor.  Ask God to refocus your thoughts, and decide to be a better listener from now on.

I would also challenge you to consider getting a journal or notebook and use it for jotting down notes whenever you attend church.  The act of writing it down will help you to focus on what is being said and it will help you remember it later on.  It has made a huge difference for me and I think it could for you too.  Try it for the next three months and see if it makes a difference for you.

Be warned though, that if you start doing this, you will probably never go back.  That’s Ok, I’m sure God will appreciate it.

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