Talking Instead of Listening

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Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 42:1 

There are verses of Scripture, which implore us to listen rather than to speak. James 1:19 says, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger”. Very clearly, God is saying through James that we are to speak less so we can listen more.

However, this particular admonition found in James has to do with speaking less so that we can do a better job of listening to others. After all, we are to seek to understand before being understood. There is great wisdom in listening to others before we speak.

Proverbs 18:13 teaches us that “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 29:20 says, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Indeed, it is wise to listen to what others have to say before we speak.

On the other hand, there are times and situations when it is better to speak instead of hearing, talk instead of listening. 

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, wrote the following: 

“The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you.” 

Lloyd-Jones then referred to a man after God’s own heart in Psalm 42, which recorded a lament of David during a season of possible depression. Lloyd-Jones continued.

“Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.”

David concluded the Psalm by talking instead of listening. Talking to self instead of listening to self. And what did David say to self? He told self that there was no need to despair because of the hope found in God.

In the midst of whatever hardship you may be experiencing, are you talking or listening to self? 

Something to think about…

 

APU, LGBTQ and WWJD

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…“Go. From now on sin no more.” John 8:11b

On or about September 21, 2018, Azusa Pacific University announced that it would be dropping their policy preventing students from engaging in “romanticized” same-sex relationships. They would, however, continue to be hard-fast on celibacy prior to marriage and that marriage is ordained by God to be between one man and one woman.

I intended to write this blog the week of September 24, but delayed it because there was an immense amount of research that needed to be done before I could write a cogent article. I’m still not sure if I know enough to articulate deeply on the subject. 

I do know what concerns me about what is happening. I will share one of those things.

According to one of APU’s Associate Deans, “Our values for the pilot program are inclusivity, love, bravery. Our goals are care, connection and conversation. These all seem like Christian values to me,” the Associate Dean continued. “I believe that our program’s mission is alignment with the values of the university in caring for students and creating conversation about difficult topics.”

The Associate Dean continued, “I’m not a big fan of who’s right and who’s wrong in this conversation, I’m a big fan of caring for people.” This is the statement that concerns me the most. (Citation: Calvin Freiburger, Follow Calvin; along with several other blogs and articles)

While caring for people should always be one of our highest priorities, Christians (and institutions that represent themselves as Christian according to their beliefs) should also be very concerned about what God thinks is right and wrong. As a result, we should be very concerned about who’s right and who’s wrong as a natural and necessary extension of what God thinks is right and wrong. If God thinks “romanticized” same-sex relationships are wrong, then we should think they are wrong rather than setting up a standard of behavior that is contrary to God’s Word. 

I agree with Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when he said on his podcast, The Briefing, that APU’s decision is “…a complete reversal and repudiation of the historic Christian understanding of what romance is to be as defined by scripture and what is appropriate as sexual and gender identity as described by scripture.” 

Then, on October 1, 2018, it was reported by Christianity Today’s News and Reporting that “Days after Azusa Pacific University (APU) dropped a ban on “romanticized” same-sex relationships from its code of student conduct, its board of trustees reversed the changes” according to statement by the APU Board of Trustees.  

It was also reported by ZU Media, a campus newspaper, that “The school’s much-discussed shift on same-sex relationships had been approved by APU’s administrative board, but not the board of trustees”. 

So things are back to normal. Or are they? If the Associate Dean’s thinking is prevalent at APU then this isn’t even close to being over. 

What’s more important? Doing what we think is right or doing what God thinks is right? 

Another way of saying this is, “What would Jesus do (WWJD)?” I know what Jesus said, “Go. From now on sin no more.” John 8:11b

Something to think about…

The First in His Own Cause

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“The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17

How often does someone come to you regarding a dispute and want you to intervene or express an opinion about it? Occasionally, often, all the time or never? Sounds like a multiple choice exam, doesn’t it?

Most of us will have an occasion to find ourselves in the middle of a dispute or disagreement of some sort and have to serve as a mediator, supporter or listener.

We have heard numerous times that there are two sides to every argument. However, when it involves us… the other side normally doesn’t count. 

What’s fascinating about this is the phenomenon that whenever we get drawn into a dispute between two people, the one who shares first almost always seems right. In almost every situation someone is always “first” to present his or her side of a dispute. 

I have sat with husbands who have issues with their wives and after listening to them, I have severe reservations about their wives until I hear the wives’ version and then I need the Wisdom of Solomon because they both seem “right”. 

People seldom lie to their pastor. But they do give their unique perspective of their situation or circumstance. Then, upon examining the other side, you soon realize that there is a different perspective of the same situation.

Take to heart what it says in Proverbs 18:17. If asked to intervene or express an opinion regarding a dispute, try to listen to both sides before coming to a conclusion. The word, ‘examine’ in verse 17 means to search out facts, investigate, explore, probe and inquire.  

Upon doing our due diligence, we should ask the Lord to give us the Wisdom of Solomon before moving forward, knowing that the Lord will be with us every step of the way.

One added thought. At the onset of his reign, King Solomon prayed for one gift from God. He didn’t pray for wealth, good health or lasting peace. He prayed for an understanding heart, which came to be known as the Wisdom of Solomon. An understanding heart means a heart that will listen well enough to make correct judgments. May we all have the Wisdom of Solomon, which begins with a listening heart. 

Something to think about…

From One Thriving Church to Two Hiving Churches

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At our All Church Summer Conference, I was going to share the story of the Hive, when Evergreen Baptist Church became Evergreen SGV and Evergreen LA. As I was preaching, I realized that I would have to edit the sermon and decided to leave out the story of the hive. For this blog, I am going to share the genesis of the hive.

There were two important Bible verses in my life as a pastor. In 1 Samuel 3:9, the High Priest Eli instructs Samuel to listen to the Lord after Samuel hears someone calling to him at night. Eli tells Samuel to say, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.”

I have always attempted to listen to the Lord regarding our church and my life as a shepherd.

After listening, there was a second step that Samuel learned about listening to the Lord found in 1 Samuel 15:22, which says, “Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.’” After hearing from the Lord, Samuel always attempted to obey the Lord’s voice.

The Bible teaches that “to obey is better than sacrifice”. Sacrifice was perhaps the single-most important act in Israel’s relationship with God. Yet, Samuel understood that obedience trumps sacrifice. Over the years, the Lord has spoken to me and I needed to obey.

In 1995, Evergreen was confronted with the challenge of outgrowing our campus. We were beginning to experience sociological strangulation. Sociological strangulation happens when the physical facilities cannot handle more people.

The symptoms of sociological strangulation are when 80% of available parking spaces are used, seating capacity in sanctuary is at 80% or more and classroom space is 80% utilized.

We looked for remedies. We tried to purchase additional adjacent property. We prayed about moving to a larger site or starting a satellite church.

In 1995, while at a conference, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Split the church”. When I returned from the conference, I began to share about the possibility of planting a church with either Ken Fong or me leading the plant.

No one was in favor of the idea at first. But, I knew that if it was from the Lord, it would happen. Gradually, the church family warmed up to the idea as they began to see the benefits of such a venture. Rather than calling it a split, we coined the term “hive” for the venture from the Lord.

In 1997, after about two years of prepping the church family, we hived the church and Evergreen SGV was given birth. The rest is history.

Listening to the Lord and being willing to obey has resulted in incredible blessings as we moved forward as Evergreen SGV, and with every blessing, may God be glorified.

How is God speaking to you? Are you willing to obey?

Something to think about…