Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How do you listen?

I recently overheard someone complaining that they aren’t getting anything out of the morning worship service. The person explained that she tried to listen but kept daydreaming. She was bored.

This got me to thinking about the position our pastors are in. They work hard all week trying to prepare the best sermon possible. They pray for guidance and insight. Then they present what they believe is a Word from the Lord to a congregation that barely looks awake.

People are used to entertainment and yet that is not what the pastor is there for. I want my pastor to tell me what God has been teaching him. I want my toes tramped on. I want to be engaged. I want to think.

I think the best sermon is only as good as the audience that is listening. The pastor is responsible to be prepared and to present his message well. BUT the audience has a responsibility to listen well.

Do you do anything to prepare to hear the message on Sunday morning?

Here are some ideas to consider:

Be prepared - Pray for yourself. Pray that the Spirit would prepare your heart to receive the Word. Pray for your pastor. Pray that the Spirit would empower him to boldly preach the Word and to do so with clarity and conviction.

Another part of being prepared is getting enough sleep the night before. You can’t listen if you are falling asleep. I am sure it is discouraging for a pastor to be preaching his heart out and to look out and see people sleeping. Respect your pastor enough to be alert and listening to what he is preaching.

That brings me right into my next point. Be an active listener. It is through the renewing of your mind that God transforms your life. (Romans 12:2) So when you listen to a sermon, your mind needs to be fully engaged. Often times this requires some self-discipline. It is easy to let your mind wander. However, listening to the sermon is part of the worship that we are offering to God.

Listen expecting God to speak to you. Some people find it helpful to listen to sermons with a pencil in hand. This is an excellent way to help stay focused and it is a valuable aid to memory. The physical act of writing something down helps to plant the information in our minds.

Sometimes people think that they know the Bible well and they don’t need to look at the passage being preached. This is not accurate. Even if you have the passage memorized, there are always new things to learn by seeing the text on the page. Therefore, we benefit the most by having our Bibles open during the sermon.

Another benefit is that we can make sure what the pastor is saying is in line with Scripture. Look at what Acts 17:11 says about the Bereans. “for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Paul was not insulted when they scrutinized his teachings. Just the opposite was true. Paul commended them for their commitment to testing every doctrine according to Scripture.

Really listening to a sermon takes more than your mind. It also takes a commitment of your heart. Listen with a heart that is receptive to the leading of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to calm our fears, convict of sin, disturb our conscience, proclaim God’s grace, and encourage us in faith. Listening to a sermon should never just be a mental exercise. We also need to listen with our hearts and allow His Word to influence every aspect of our lives.

Receiving the Word of God requires humility. Listen carefully. Listen critically. But do all of this humbly. You are not a speech teacher. You are not a college professor. (Even if you are, the pastor is not your student.)  You are a beggar in need of nourishment. Don’t resist the Spirit’s leading. Set aside your pride and submit to God. Be a humble listener.

Lastly, be ready to put into practice what God is teaching you. Paul tells the Philippians in chapter 4, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” God is looking for a response from us when the Spirit speaks to us. James tells us to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” If we don’t apply what we are learning, then we won’t grow in our relationship with God.

Preaching the Word is a gift from God. Our churches need pastors who are whole-heartedly committed to preaching what God lays on their hearts. Never take your pastor or his commitment to the Lord for granted. He needs your support and your prayers.

Take a fresh look at the service this week. Think about how you listen. Honor God and your pastor by doing your part. Listen …. really listen. Be prepared, be alert, be engaged, have your Bible open, be expectant, be humble, and then act on what you hear.

Monday, May 20, 2013

It’s by grace

How can it possibly be May 20th?  Didn’t we just have Christmas?  Where does the time go?

I’ve been really busy developing curriculum materials for a new adult Sunday school class at my church and so it has been hard to get any writing done.

I’ve been thinking lately about the idea that I am a pretty independent woman. I get things done and I rarely ask for help. Unless, I just don’t want to do it and then I pretend like I can’t and ask for help. An example would be when I go in Home Depot to pick up something for my husband, I usually just find a guy with an orange apron and play the part of the “dumb wife”. I get really good help every time! Smile

But, most of the time, I take pride in the fact that I am independent. But how does that work with God? Sometimes I let my independent spirit translate over into my Christian walk and that is never a good thing. Sometimes I act like I don’t need the Holy Spirit because I can handle this all by myself.

“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Galatians 3:3

OK – so I’ve just called myself foolish because this verse describes me sometimes. How about you? Being good, working in my own strength, and obeying all the rules doesn’t make me righteous.

“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” “ Galatians 3:10

I can’t keep the law. I’m human and I mess up. I can’t even keep it for a day. This verse says I am cursed because of my failure to keep the law ….. that’s why God sent Jesus.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”” Galatians 3:13

I need the Holy Spirit as much today as I did the day I first believed. This life journey was never meant to be done in the flesh. It’s not about human goodness or strength. It’s about God’s grace. It’s always been about grace. It’s not God plus me. It’s just God.

It‘s by grace I have been saved through faith. It’s by grace I live and breathe and walk through my journey. It’s by grace I will enter into heaven and see Jesus.

If you think that makes it all too simple and too easy, know that Jesus paid for you with His life. His blood was shed so you and I could experience this grace. Though I receive salvation as a free gift from God, it is a priceless gift. It should bring upon me such a feeling of gratitude that I give my life as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing for God’s pleasure and service.

So get out there and trust God.  Live your life in grace.  Allow the Holy Spirit to live in and through you in order to serve a world out there that desperately needs to know the grace in which you now stand.


“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship.” Hebrews 12:1

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Why did I name this blog Christian Journey?

I accepted Christ as my Savior the summer between my junior and senior year in high school.  At that moment I was saved, born again, justified, whatever term you want to use. 

That day I started on a journey to heaven.  Thinking of my Christian life here on earth as a journey helps me visualize my life of faith.  It reminds me that I have a destination and that I haven’t arrived there yet. 

It encourages me to think ahead, plan ahead, and look forward with great anticipation the day that I will arrive at my final destination.  The day I will finally see Jesus face to face!

The journey is a process in itself.  It enables me to grow as I press on toward my goal.  Traveling on this journey is about reaching the destination, but it is also about experiencing personal and spiritual growth along the way.  The journey is a process that helps me become more like Christ.

How?  In one sense, I will be the same person when I complete my journey that I was when I began it.  Yet in other ways, I will be completely different.  I will have been changed by the things I have experienced along the way.  The journey offers me the chance, the opportunities, and the time to deepen my commitment to Christ and to anticipate my arrival to my destination.  That anticipation of the joy at the end sustains me through the hard times.

I am wanderer, a sojourner, an alien.  I am merely passing through this world.  I do not expect to remain here.  I do not want to “settle down” and be comfortable. 

There are days that I feel exhausted.  Continuing the journey seems hard.  In these times, I need to remember that God will continue HIs good work in my life and will help me finish the race.  I need to let the Holy Spirit do His work in my life and enable me to become more like Christ every day.  Paul wrote:

“He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:8-9.

Paul guaranteed the believers that God would consider them “blameless” when Christ returns.  This guarantee was not because of their gifts, service, or performance, but was because of what Jesus accomplished in them through his death and resurrection.  It was God's work, not theirs.  If you have faith in Christ, even if it is weak, you are and will be saved.  All believers are justified by God’s grace and stand before Him “blameless”.

“May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” 1 Thessalonians 3:13

“so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Hebrews 9:28

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”    Philippians 1:6

And so, I continue on my journey.  I trust Christ every day to work in me and use me.  I know that there will be hard times but I know that Jesus will go through those with me.  A journey is usually a winding pathway.  Sometimes you can’t see around the next corner, but I press on toward goal. Sometimes I have to step out in faith and trust that God is going with me and before me.

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”   2 Timothy 1:12b

Death remains a part of the journey but it is not to be feared.  It is really just the last barrier to conquer before I reach my destination. 

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.”  1 Thessalonians 4:16-18