RSS

Tag Archives: listening

Please Consider an “Unlike Jesus” Seminar – Part 6

Friends: As you know, my most recent book is Unlike Jesus! Let’s Stop Unfriending the World.  I’m convinced many of us believers meet only with other Christians, watch only Christian movies, and eat only Christian casseroles. We make lousy friends because we’re not sure we’re supposed to be a friend of sinners!

In the next few posts, I’m going to hammer pretty hard on this idea of being a friend of sinners — like Jesus was! I have one goal in mind — to get you (and me) much more serious about the unbelievers we know and to challenge us to develop deep, committed friendships with them.

Just so you know, I’ve developed three videos which cover the basics of my book and can be used in a Zoom kind of church study. I would gladly lead the discussion (live) after your church group watches each video. All we have to do is schedule the meetings.

We’ve looked at the first two videos and a couple of short pitches for the book. Let’s look at a fourth pitch about . . . goodness!

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

Please Consider an “Unlike Jesus” Seminar – Part 5

Friends: As you know, my most recent book is Unlike Jesus! Let’s Stop Unfriending the World.  I’m convinced many of us believers meet only with other Christians, watch only Christian movies, and eat only Christian casseroles. We make lousy friends because we’re not sure we’re supposed to be a friend of sinners!

In the next few posts, I’m going to hammer pretty hard on this idea of being a friend of sinners — like Jesus was! I have one goal in mind — to get you (and me) much more serious about the unbelievers we know and to challenge us to develop deep, committed friendships with them.

Just so you know, I’ve developed three videos which cover the basics of my book and can be used in a Zoom kind of church study. I would gladly lead the discussion (live) after your church group watches each video. All we have to do is schedule the meetings.

We’ve looked at the first two videos and a couple of short pitches for the book. Let’s look at a third pitch about . . . listening!

 

 

Tags: , , ,

“It’s Fine. I’m Fine. Everything’s Fine!”

But what if it isn’t? What then?

I’m convinced that with most people not everything is fine. And if they just had somebody they could talk to, they just might share where life isn’t so fine.

Christian — are you willing to be that safe listener? The older I get the more I’ve convinced that we need to spend more time and energy listening rather than telling.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The gospel needs to be shared. And that usually involves words! But listening, really listening, opens the door to sharing the gospel.

I love the blind singer Ray Charles’ statement when he says, “Most people take their ears for granted,” says blind singer Ray Charles. “I can’t. My eyes are my handicap, but my ears are my opportunity. They show me what my eyes can’t. They tell me 99 percent of what I need to know about my world. Because of my ears, I can communicate naturally and freely with people everywhere. I don’t have to find an unnatural way of expressing one of the most basic human instincts God has given us.”

Are you and I using our ears as God intended? Would you try an experiment with me this week? Ask five questions (that are non-threatening) of one of your unsaved friends — and let them tell a bit of their story! Here are some questions that I’ve found helpful.

How long have you been retired (if they are)? What hobbies are you engaged in? Please tell me a bit about your family. I’m sorry to hear about the divorce you went through — that must have been painful. What’s the best part of your job (if they are employed)? The worst?

I asked an almost 80-year-old tennis player the other day the following questions: “Steve, how long have you lived in this area?” [“About 20 years.”] “Really. Have you been able to find a good church?” [“No. We’re not religious.”] A little while later I said to him, “You know, Steve, I’m not really into religion.” [“You’re not?!”] “No. You see, I think religion is spelled D-O. It’s all about what you DO. And the problem is you never know what the quota is.” [“Hmmm.”] “I’m into Christianity and Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. It’s about what God has done for us.”

I wish I could tell you that the conversation ended positively, but Steve said, “Tell me why so many ‘Evangelical Christians voted for TRUMP!!??” I then just let him rant a bit. But I listened.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 13, 2020 in listening

 

Tags: , ,

A Challenge to LISTEN! (another shameless plug for my “Unlike Jesus”)

 

Tags: , ,

Another Great Quote from Erma Bombeck! Listening!

“It seemed rather incongruous that in a society of super sophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 11, 2019 in listening

 

Tags: , ,

Ten Habits That Have Helped Me in the Christian Life (Habit #6)

If a habit is simply a discipline practiced over and over, I have a lot of them! Some of them are good habits; some not so much. How about you?

We are sometimes described as creatures of habit. Do our habits help us in our moving ahead spiritually — or hinder us?

I want to get better at spending time in God’s Word, at praying, and at developing an attitude of gratefulness. I find it easy to spend time alone with the Lord and I really want to share the Lord with others.

A sixth habit that most believers need to work on is developing friendships. Both with members of the family of God and with unbelievers.  I love the quote that says, “True friendship is when you walk into their house and your WiFi connects automatically.”  Plutarch’s statement is very practical: “I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.”

God’s Word has much to say about friendship.  Notice these verses from the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 12:26
The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.

Proverbs 18:24
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 22:24–25
 Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.

Proverbs 27:5-6
An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.

Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

Developing genuine friendships demands TIME!  We must invest in the lives of others, asking them about their lives, their joys, their challenges.  And then we must listen to what they tell us.  I love the C.S.Lewis quote when he says, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  Please share below one aspect of your discipline of developing friendships.  (to be continued)

 

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 6, 2018 in holy habits

 

Tags: , , ,

Ten Habits That Have Helped Me in My Christian Life! (Habit #5)

In these posts we are asking what habits have I found helpful in my maturing process as a believer. Reading God’s Word, spending time in prayer, developing an attitude of gratefulness, and being alone with Him are vital to my daily walk.

A fifth habit that I’m working on is being ready to witness to others. I know. I know. Witnessing seems to be such a burden, such an opportunity to embarrass oneself. So how can we take the sting out of sharing Jesus with others?

Here are a few considerations that have helped me. First, I need to remind myself that I am on a mission for the Lord. In John 17 Jesus makes it clear that He has sent us into the world to represent Him. Not to witness is clear disobedience to the continuance of His mission!

Second, I am slowly learning that every person has a story to tell and they just need to know that someone will listen! If we are willing to spend time with others and we let them know we will listen to them, they will begin to open up and share their lives with us. Evangelism by strafing (like a combat plane over an enemy encampment) is not witnessing.

When they know we will listen to their story, there will be places where we can carefully insert gospel truth. Some of these conversations may seem fruitless (like listening for a half an hour to one friend complain about the cost of shingling her house), but they are investments in long-term relationships!

Inevitably those who share their stories with us will begin to ask us questions. And it’s a whole lot easier to witness when we’re being asked questions, right?

In our next post I want to talk about a topic many of us need to really work hard at — the topic of basic friendship! But let me ask you — whose story are you going to listen to today?

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry . . .” (James 1:9)

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 5, 2018 in holy habits

 

Tags: , , , ,

The Eavesdropper — A Short Story

Joe E. Mudd never intended to pursue the career of an eavesdropper.  Career?  More like a hobby, really.  An avocation.  [That’s a great word, he thought to himself.  Avocation.  What would you call a fruit with a hobby?  An avocado avocation!  He laughed to himself at his juvenile humor].

His hobby started rather innocently.  Today one can easily become an eavesdropper by just showing up in public.  Cell phones!  People have normal-voiced conversations with others on their cell phones.  Some even put their conversation on speaker.  Wow. That sure makes it easy to eavesdrop.

[What an interesting word.  Eavesdrop.  He pulled out his iPad and looked it up.  eaves·drop verb, eaves·dropped, eaves·drop·ping, noun verb (used without object)

1. to listen secretly to a private conversation.

verb (used with object)

2. Archaic. to eavesdrop on.

noun Also, eaves·drip [eevz-drip]

3. water that drips from the eaves.

4. the ground on which such water falls.

Origin:  before 900;  (noun) Middle English evesdrope, evesdripe, Old English yfesdrype;  as v., probably back formation from eavesdropper, late Middle English evisdroppyr,  apparently literally, one who stands on the eavesdrop  in order to listen to conversations inside the house; see eave, drop, drip

So the word originally had the idea of someone who literally stood on the eaves of a house to secretly listen to the conversation of others, Joe thought to himself.  That sounds like the GUTTER, he laughed.  I’m in the gutter listening to people’s private conversations!

Joe also prided himself on his powers of observation.  As he sat in the local Starbucks, he watched the customers come in for their morning fixes.  What a cornucopia of outfits!  [That’s an interesting word too.  Cornucopia.  Hmmm.  This one he looked up:  cor·nu·co·pi·a [kawr-nuh-koh-pee-uh, -nyuh-] noun

1. Classical Mythology . a horn containing food, drink, etc., in endless supply, said to have been a horn of the goat Amalthaea.

2. a representation of this horn, used as a symbol of abundance.

3. an abundant, overflowing supply.

4. a horn-shaped or conical receptacle or ornament.

There was certainly an overflowing supply of  variously attired, caffeine-addicted adults who flowed into this establishment each morning, like heroin addicts needing their methadone shots.  So sad, Joe thought.  To be so enslaved to a chemical.  What a waste!

But he caught his mind wandering.  I need to focus, he told himself, if I’m going to get anything done today.

By getting something done today Joe did not actually mean work.  He hadn’t worked in years.  His “disability” — he sneered at the term — allowed him to leave his job at the post office in style.  When that sorting rack had fallen on him, lawyers seemed to come out of the woodwork to help him with his case.  The settlement had been adequate, although he was left with a permanent limp.

But today he needed to clear his mind and listen.  The coffee shop had about 18 people enjoying their favorite, over-priced hot (or cold) beverage.  This morning there were seven gathered in couples and four sitting by themselves.  The two women to his right were talking non-stop about exercise regimens, muscle aches, and diet plans.  Joe pointed his finger toward his mouth like he was going to force himself to throw up.  What a waste of human breath, he thought.

In front of him sat two young teenage girls, one studying her blueberry muffin, the other checking her phone for hoped-for messages.  The couple at the table in the center of the Starbucks spoke softly with one another.  The man’s back was to Joe.  He was a large man, dressed in a dark suit, sitting on a wooden chair that looked like it was going to collapse at any moment.  Joe thought about the fragility of life, of how people routinely take the stability of chairs for granted, never realizing the amount of faith it requires to sit one’s entire weight on a chair which one has not first tested for stability and strength.  [Another great word.  Fragility.  frag·ile [fraj-uhl; British fraj-ahyl] adjective

1. easily broken, shattered, or damaged; delicate; brittle; frail: a fragile ceramic container; a very fragile alliance.

2. vulnerably delicate, as in appearance: She has a fragile beauty.

3. lacking in substance or force; flimsy: a fragile excuse.

Origin:

1505–15;  < Latin fragilis,  equivalent to frag-  (variant stem of frangere  to break)

We all suffer from fragility, don’t we?  The late-20’s-something females at the corner table were talking a mile a minute.  As they got up to leave, Joe was thankful.  Man, could those women talk!  They were attractive, but didn’t seem to invest much energy in listening to what the other was saying.

Joe had been coming to this Starbucks for a few months now.  His eavesdropping had become very practical at times.  He remembered overhearing one elderly lady say to her companion, “I’m having the worst time with my kitchen sink.  It just seems to leak, and leak, and leak!”  She looked so distraught, he thought to himself.  When she and her friend left, Joe followed them out and delivered his now famous line, “I am so sorry, but I couldn’t help but overhear a bit of your conversation.  I know a great plumber who’s reasonable and polite and has a great reputation.  And he’s not a relative!”  He recalled the elderly lady’s face light up as he gave her the contact information for Pete’s Plumbing.

But not all my eavesdropping has been successful, he reflected with a frown.  That couple that was going through a terrible fight with each other.  Man, they did not want my help when I suggested a marriage counselor to them.  I thought the guy was going to take my head off!  They were furious that I had been listening to their domestic battle.

Maybe today I’ll have better luck.  Ah, here comes an older woman and a young girl — and they’re sitting right next to me!

Joe’s heart began beating faster.  He had once thought about buying one of those spy things that magnified other people’s conversations.  They weren’t that expensive and apparently allowed you to hear with “crystal clarity” (per the TV ad) what others were saying.  You just had to “point the small directional mike toward your target.”  Joe was tempted, but he thought to himself, “That’s an unfair advantage.  I want to do this au naturell!”

The older woman’s name was Margaret; the younger woman’s Melissa.  Although they were huddled close together, Joe could hear almost every word they were saying.  He had been working his way through the book Lip-Reading Made Simple, so he felt that he could accurately follow their conversation, as long as he watched their lips carefully.

“I’m so glad you decided to have coffee with me, Melissa,” the older woman said.  “I’m sure this is a difficult time for you.”  [Difficult time.  Why?, wondered Joe].

“Mrs. Hamilton, I’ve always considered you like my Mom.  I’m sure she would be quite disappointed with me right now.”

“Sweetie, please call me Margaret.  And your dear mother, God rest her soul, I believe would be quite proud of you.”  [What in the world are they talking about?].

“I can’t believe this has happened to me!”  [What?  What has happened to her?]

“Melissa, you’re only sixteen, but you shouldn’t be surprised about, you know, this being a possibility.”  [My goodness, is the young woman pregnant?!]

“I know.  I know.  Margaret, do you think God will forgive me?”  [Oh, boy.  Are these a bunch of religious kooks?]

“Dear, you know what the Bible teaches.  God promises to forgive those who come to His Son Jesus, admit their wrong-doings, and believe in their hearts that Jesus paid for their bad choices by His death.”  [I thought God grades on the curve — our good works versus our bad works?]

“Margaret, but this is a pretty big wrong-doing, isn’t it?”

“All of us fall short of God’s standard of absolute perfection, don’t we?  That’s why we need someone to rescue us from our bad choices, our bad attitudes, our failure to worship the real God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

Joe sat back in his chair a bit, taking a sip of his water.  He thought to himself of all the inane conversations he had listened in on, but this one was different.  He cupped his hand behind his left ear to hear better.

“Margaret, I know you’re a religious person.  I’m just not into religion right now.”

“Sweetie, let me clear something up for you.  I spell ‘religion’ d — o.”

“D — o?  I don’t understand.”

“D — o.  Religion is what you do.  And the problem with religion is that you never know if you’ve done enough.  In fact, if you really think about it, doing good things can never make up for the bad things we’ve done in the past — or the bad thoughts we’ve had.”

“I understand, I think.”  Melissa was listening hard.

“Melissa, I’m into Christianity.  And Christianity is spelled D — O — N– E.”

“Done?”, Melissa asked.

“Yes, Dear.  DONE.  The Bible says Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  He paid for our wrong-doings because of His love for us.”

Margaret and Melissa got up from the table, having finished their drinks.  [No! No! thought Joe.  I want to hear the rest of your conversation!]

Joe didn’t know what to do, but he followed the two women outside, meekly walked up to them, and said, “I’m so sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing some of your conversation . . .”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 3, 2017 in short stories

 

Tags: , ,

UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 15)

If it is true that we seldom develop friendships with “the lost” primarily because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable, and not because we are afraid we will adopt their sinful ways, then one Old Testament character immediately comes to mind.  Jonah.

No, I’m not thinking of his being swallowed by a great sea creature.  I’m referring to the fact that his heart doesn’t change throughout his four-chapter saga.  I recently preached on this minor prophet and used a pretty simple outline:  Jonah’s Predicament (Ch. 1); Jonah’s Prayer (Ch. 2); Jonah’s Preaching (Ch. 3); and Jonah’s Pouting (Ch. 4).  The book concludes with Jonah furious at God for withholding His judgment of Nineveh, the Assyrians’ repenting, and Jonah being angry at God for taking away his comfort.  Comfort, not conversions, was Jonah’s focus.

Would you agree that we should never underestimate the comfort factor?  Developing deep relationships with lost people is messy, time-consuming, and unsettling to our comfortable routine.

Part of the problem is that I am very me-centered.  I may not always realize my default position, but many of my decisions and choices come down to “What’s in it for me?”  Does this conversation fit into my agenda, advance my goals, meet my needs?  Am I wasting my time here?

A few weeks ago I was invited to one of my lost friend’s home after playing a set of tennis with him.  He talked for an hour about how he wanted to change out the wooden banisters in his house for chrome ones.  But I listened and I asked questions.  I had to mentally force myself to focus on him and the topic he had chosen.  We didn’t talk about Jesus or Christianity or being born again.  We (He) talked about banisters.  But we had a conversation.

I wonder — Could it be that some of us are rather poor at conversations?  While we long for conversions, must we be reminded that friendship involves a hefty dose of listening?  And each conversation that we engage in holds the potential of advancing that friendship, perhaps toward conversion.  Are we listening?  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 25, 2017 in discipleship

 

Tags: , , , ,

Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 29)

Psalm 29

A psalm of David.Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 6.04.40 AM

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
    Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
    with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
    the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
    and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 5, 2016 in Psalm 29

 

Tags: , , ,