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Archive for the ‘ears/listening’ Category

Little Big Things – Words – How We Say What We Say

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17 (NLT2)

As a lousy speller, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate “spell check” and “Grammarly,” without them these p-notes of mine would be unreadable, although I am sure many of still cringe at my use of the English language. However, spell-checking by itself is not enough, it won’t pick up using a rightly spelled wrong word, it won’t reign in my twisted grammar. My words need multiple checks, yours probably do too. It is like that with all of our words, all our communications, because it is not just what we say that is important but also how we say it. Love and kindness, and humility are not optional to the serious Christian life, to a Holy Spirit filled and directed life. You can say, “I love you,” and not really mean it. Were you ever told to apologize right now and say, “I’m sorry,” but you really didn’t mean it and although you said the words you weren’t sorry one bit?

Can you be too loving, too kind, too humble, too meek? Maybe, but judging by my own self and most people I have met we are not even close to the too loving, too kind, too humble line, so we might as well hide behind it.

We are capable, you know, to speak words and even say difficult things wrapped in love. We can decide to propagate our speech with kindness. We are able to check our pride, to edit our tendency to self-promote, to look at things from more than our own viewpoints, to use our words to benefit the listeners.

Just because we want to say it does not mean we should, especially if we are mad, disgusted, frustrated, bitter, disappointed, hurt, rushed, exhausted, betrayed, unappreciated, under-valued, treated wrongly, or are suffering an injustice. “Well it needed to be said and I’m glad I said it!” sounds good, but still is no excuse to leave love, kindness, and humility behind. We are so good at defending ourselves even when we are wrong, aren’t we?

Scripture tells us to:

  • “Speak the truth in love.”Ephesians 4:1
  • “What is desirable in a man is his kindness, And it is better to be a poor man than a liar. Proverbs 19:22 (NASB)
  • A woman of excellence,“She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26 (NASB)
  • “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)

 What happens when we divorce our words from the right attitudes, a godly tone, a Christlike heart? It becomes easy to speak (and type) harsh, self-righteous, divisive, manipulative, destructive, hateful, two-faced, deceptive, proud and arrogant words. Good words are robbed of their ability to bless, to heal, to encourage, to produce good. An “I love you,” becomes twisted. An “I am so sorry,” drives a deeper wedge. A good word or praise breeds distrust, “What does he really want.” Listeners are not better off for having heard them.

Right words are almost impossible without a right heart, but oh how refreshing it is to be on the listening end of right words from a good heart. The two of us, let’s keep praying and practicing the scripture below and both of us will be better off be. May the words of my mouth (all my words) and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NIV, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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We were hiking Half Dome (a 17-mile adventure) on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. Although we brought what seemed to be way to much water, and remember water is heavy, we were going through our supply way to fast. I was hoping our water would last us to the top and back down to a little spring that flowed into a basin about the size of a small sink, big enough to submerge our bottles and refill. When we got there others were already filling up and we had to wait our turn when a group of four come drugging through stepping right into the precious reservoir turning it into a muddy mess. Yes, no one was amused, and yes, everyone was ticked off and even more so when the rude spring stompers showed absolutely no remorse.

It doesn’t take much to pollute clean water, but it sure takes time and effort to clean it up. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is dealing with thousands of toxic waste sites in need of expensive cleanup. They got to be toxic waste sites because someone carelessly dumped enough toxic stuff to contaminate everything there.

Our words, our tongues, our communications have the potential to be like precious fresh water, refreshing the hearer, encouraging and blessing the recipients. But they also have the potential to be toxic, be destructive, contaminating hearts and minds, often for a very long time. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” Proverbs 18:8 (ESV). “With it (our tongue, mouth, communications) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?”James 3:9-11 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

So, how is it with your mouth, the words that come from your lips or your fingertips? Are they careless, mean, destructive, negative, hurtful, rude, vile, incendiary, gossipy, toxic, sarcastic, prideful, bitter, malicious, rash, thoughtless, manipulative, untruthful, misinformed, meddling, aggressive, attacking, impolite and lacking in what they could be and should be? And how often do you justify your toxic tongue by claiming justified anger, superior information, better understanding, the wrong of others, your own pain and woundedness? As loose as we might play with our words and lips, as much as we might justify ourselves, God is crystal clear when it comes to our mouths, the way we should use our words. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” Matthew 12:36 (NIV).

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be “ James 3:10 (NIV).

 “Reckless (rash, cutting) words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy (abusive, obscene) language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” Colossians 3:8-9 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”Ephesians 4:29 (NIV).

How do we do it? Clean up our words? Detoxify all communications, turn our speaking lips and typing fingertips and even our silences into a source of blessing?

  1. Stop the toxic flow. The stream of our words will stay muddy and polluted until we do. However, in order to turn it off we will have to travel upstream to our hearts and minds, all the way to where our words a generated and address our own pollution there. But while we make this journey we can stop the words before they come out. It is a wise thing to do. “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” Proverbs 10:19 (NIV).
  2. Filter what you let out. Careless words are also unfiltered words. Of course there are toxic words that run through a filter of a different kind. Before you speak, before you type, before you communicate, ask yourself, “Does this pass the love test, the kindness test, the truth test, the benefitting the hearer test, the pleasing God test?” “Is what is about to come out clean, edifying, and able to bless?” “A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray” Proverbs 25:11 (HCSB).
  3. Drink pure water, listen to clean words. Words don’t just go out they also go in. Who do you give permission to plant their words into your hearing, into your mind and heart? Who gets to put their morsels (Proverbs 18:8) into your ears? It will have an effect on your filter (see above). It is difficult to clean up your words while allowing others to dump their toxic waste. “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals (and our words)” 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NASB).

If this pastor’s note has hit a nerve with you pray the following with me and then start implementing the three steps above, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” Psalm 19:14 (NASB)

             To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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“Look at the birds … Consider the lilies of the field…” Matthew 6:26 &28

They were strutting their stuff; seriously, all seven of them, decked out to the nines, whooping and hollering at anything that remotely resembled a female. When the sunlight hit them just right they lit up in an explosion of iridescent colors, yet they were oblivious to just how spectacular they looked. Their tiny brains cooked on an overdose of springtime testosterone these seven boys put on the full show to garner an invite from our lone goose and three old chickens, which were glad for the fence separating them from this gang of juvenile toms. They strutted, they gobbled, they inflated their flaming red necks, they fanned out their magnificent tail feathers like big bouquets, they dropped their wings to the ground and danced in circles and figure eights trying to outdo their buddy next to him. It was quite the show, but it obviously did not impress the hens and goose, which only aided their efforts until in utter consternation and frustration over how anyone could resist such an exquisite display of masculinity and wooing, and so they decided to pack it in and move on. That’s when we saw her emerging from behind the woodpile, one solitary, plain clothed, smallish, wild turkey hen. I am not sure if she looked scared or if she was smiling over the fact that these boys were like putty in her hands, that she had the power to keep them dancing for the rest of spring. I do know that wherever she went they followed, trying to impress that girl, to make her chose just him. Susie and I were quite entertained by this impromptu morning turkey ruckus.

Of course, I could also tell you about the stellar jay and its hidden shades of blue covering its back, which only become visible when the light hits just right. Or I could tell you about our walk at Salt Point and its sandstone scar that has been the battlefield between the ocean and the continent for eons and in all of its rawness holds fascinating beauty. We could go out after church this weekend and try to discover as many different flowers dressed in timeless high-end fashion, I am sure it would take us more than the afternoon.

I understand why some say they don’t need church to be close to God, God does tell about himself through his creation, and he speaks and teaches us through it as well. He also speaks through his church in ways that nature can’t, it is not one or the other, but we are poorer if don’t pay attention to both. But that’s not my point for this pastor’s note. I wanted to remind you that God speaks to us, teaches us, and reminds us of important things (and often in connection with praying and reading Scripture, the Bible). Springtime seems to just want to grab our hands and pull us outside to look, to listen, to be captivated, to have the sunlight hit just right to reveal flashes of God that leave us breathless and in awe.

I remember sitting out on the tiny balcony of my brother’s apartment in the middle of Stuttgart. Like a good Swabian he and his wife had things growing on the balcony, but looking up swallows were giving an awesome areal show. For us living in Don Pedro, that seems rather ordinary, but God can speak through those swallows, a lizard on a rock, a gourd in the desert, a sparrow in the street, an eagle in the sky, a lily by the roadside, and turkeys at breakfast.

And what about those turkeys? They made me think about what a turkey I can be, that my base instincts are corrupted by sin and can have me act like a fool or hurtful and then excuse it a normal. I thought about #Me Too looking at that little hen who was being pestered and pressured by those seven males and that surely we can do better. I thought about how much thought God put into the plumage of a turkey, they really are a sight in full regalia. I was reminded that God wants me to dress in Christlikeness, reflect the beauty of Christ, from early morning till night, and for this entire season we call life.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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If you are searching for that that last minute or super special Christmas gift you might want to consider having a star named for the person you have on your mind. You can choose between an “Ordinary Star” (from $19.95), and “Extra Bright Star” (from $39.95), or a “Binary Star” (from $64.95). If you want go all out with this idea you can go with the gift sets (from $74.95, $84.95, $124.94 respectively).  You could join 17,000 others who plunked their money down to have someone’s name attached to a real star by this independent, albeit unofficial, star registry. Yes, you could brighten someone’s Christmas Day, more accurately night, in a way they never imagined. And if you ever misplace or lose your “Star Deed” you can contact the good folks at STARNAME Registry.org and they will help you. I am sure the passing along of this ordinary, extra, or double “bright idea” will be another reason why you so value my Pastor’s Notes.

I wonder. How much money have stars generated over time? How many other clever star schemes have people come up with? Astrology is alive and well even today, and suckers are still being borne every day. But the stars themselves, the universe as a whole does declare truth, The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship” Psalm 19:1 (NLT); “The heavens proclaim his righteousness; every nation sees his glory” Psalm 97:6 (NLT); “The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse (for not acknowledging and worshiping God)” Romans 1:19-20 (MSG, parenthesis mine).

Regardless of the tendency of sinful human nature to either exploit and pervert spiritual things or to disregard God and explain him away, the testimony of the stars stands, God is real, his power and wisdom are both incomprehensible and immense, we are accountable to him, and the most proper response to God is to love, worship, and obey him. “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him’” Matthew 2:1-2 (NLT). That star was visible to anyone who cared to look, but it seems people came to vastly different conclusion and vastly different responses. Most wise men from eastern lands stayed home, kept peddling the same astrology they had for centuries, it is difficult to adjust yourself to spiritual truth. King Herod saw the very notion of a new king as a threat his godless world of politics and power, it is difficult to submit to divine authority. The Jewish elite and scholars did not want their personal, political, and religious world be turned upside down, so they also gave it no significance, it is difficult to take God at his word.

For this Christmas I challenge you to look up into the night sky and see and hear its declaration of God, to pursue spiritual truth, to lead you to worship. If you follow that path it will still lead you to Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the ultimate revelation of God, the one who can save us from our sins.

Merry Christmas. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you are tempted to go the Star Registry website, RESIST! Instead look for ways to give those $20-100 or so to your church, a missionary agency, the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, World Vision, Compassion International, or help someone in your community, or find a way to help the millions of refugees of our day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed and they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the LORD has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it. Jeremiah 6:10 (NASB)

How’s your hearing? Especially when it comes to hearing God? I know, I know, it is easy to claim to have heard from God, it is quite another thing to actually have ears that are capable of listening to God. For the former all you have to do is say some words, for the latter you have to actually address your ability to hear.

Our physical ability to hear is impacted by host of things, trauma, genetics, illnesses, and age (No one told me that by middle age I would all but lose my ability to grow hair, except of course in my ears which all of the sudden are able to grow hair as quickly and as dense as a patch of bamboo. And how far does sound carry in a thick forest?).

What affects our spiritual ears, our ability to hear God?

  • Apathy. Not wanting to, not caring to hear from God. We don’t pay much attention to what we do not care about. We listen so much better to what is important to us.
  • Age. When we are young we are unfamiliar with the ways God speaks. As we get older it is not just unfamiliarity but also more and more things/“hairs” that impede and muffle God’s voice.
  • Filters. We develop filters through which we hear: cultural and sub-cultural filters, political filters, personal filters, religious/philosophical filters, interest filters, love and hate filters, and such. This filtering process limits God to speaking on only certain frequencies, on the channels we like, on the content we approve. It is tough to really hear God when we are busy censoring him.
  • Bones. Our ears don’t work well when we are mad, angry, bitter. When we are at odds with God it is difficult to hear him, when he allows the fire to burn us, evil to touch us, pain to torture us, injustice to cheat us, grief to strike us, or the inexplicable to happen to us or those who deeply care about without any good and satisfying explanation. It is so tough to hear while picking a bone.
  • Answers. There are few, if any, questions when we have all the answers and the more answers we have the more we usually talk and the less we listen. The more answers we have the more we claim to have it all figured out, the more we have all figure out the more we think others should listen, preferably to us, including God.
  • Noise. Try having a conversation at a rock concert, when the TV is blaring, with someone who has head phones on, in a crowded room. Try talking with someone who’s filled with worry, always in a hurry, constantly interrupted, or stuck in the trivial. Not to speak of some of things you read above under “bones.”
  • Inflexibility. Listening to God, being in a relationship with him requires faith and faith requires flexibility. In speaking to us God invites us to adjust ourselves, our lives to him. We like to have it the other way around, that’s why the more opinionated we are the less flexible we become. (I can already hear some objections, calls for theological clarification, but remember the topic of this p-note is listening to God.)

Oh how much I want you and me to be good at listening to God, to what he said through his Son Jesus Christ, when he speaks today by the Holy Spirit. Our lives are so much richer when we hear, when we know how to listen, especially to God.

“He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9 (NASB)

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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