Hearing … huh?

Vol. 3, No. 39
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. Romans 10:17

I love reunions; they are fun, funny, festive, and familial. Did I say fun?

There is a story that goes around about a reunion. Three generations attended this family reunion. They decided to tape the get-together, especially the dinner time. In the midst of the feast, a puggy little five-year-old screamed out at the very top of his lungs:

Pass the butter!

There was complete silence. Immediately the embarrassed mom hastily sends him to sit in a corner. Later that night, the grandparents were playing back the tape recording from the meal and discovered that little Tim, five times had quietly asked for the butter – five times all the adults were too busy talking and caring only about themselves; not listening to little Tim.

Most of us want our faith to grow; all of us know the power of the Word of God; few of us have developed the art of listening, hearing, and hearkening to the voice of God.

In our tradition we exalt the ministry of lecture in our teaching; even waiting until the end of the “lesson” to ask if anyone has a question or comment. The problem with this is that “listening” is not complete. There is ministry in listening; listening expects response. One elderly teacher told me: “I regret that often I have spoken; but I have sadly placed my listeners in a mode of silence.”

Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word, but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. –D. Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Listening expects response but is disallowed when the other does all the talking.

There are at least three steps in listening to God:
1. We must have a disposition to listen. It is easy to talk; difficult to listen. Listening is intentional (1 Samuel 3:10)
2. Hearing also demand an element of devotion (1 Samuel 3:19)
3. Hearing has a discipline attached. What do I do with the correction, suggestion, command, criticism, or even rebuke as I read, hear, study, and listen to the Scripture? How do I respond to what I hear?

Let every man be swift to hear; slow to speak. –James 1:19

Just a “Programming” note:

The next scheduled blog is for October 7, 2018. You will note as you go shopping that the Christmas decorations are already out, Amazon is already geared up, and you have received your L.L. Bean catalog along with several other mailings. The charities are at full-throttle. Christmas for these folks is already here.

Actually, Christmas for the Christian has been here for some time.

I want to begin to address Christmas in a unique understanding for 2018. Last year, I read a 31-day devotional by Paul Tripp, Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional. As I read the devotional, I was stunned with its teaching and how it drew me to the Lord’s presence.

I want to take include some excerpts from those devotionals and share them as a little twist to our Christmas preparations. I highly recommend Paul Tripp’s devotional.

I am going to read that devotional again this year. I hope you will join me with this. Further, Perhaps you will consider buying the devotional book – it is even available on Kindle. This would be one of the great book purchases for your life; so focused on God’s Word, and with clear applications for our current lives.

God bless you and your family as we begin our travel toward the end of our 2018.

Dr. Larry Lightner

Whoever . . .

Vol. 3, No. 38
For whoever will call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13

I taught classes in Comparative Religions, from the view of mainline religions, evangelical beliefs, cults, and even the occult.

There are comparative religions, but the Christian religion is not one of them. We must always be careful to place the Christian Gospel in a state of glorious isolation. –Joseph Parker

One of the things I would have wished Joseph Parker to say is: “but the Christian holds not to a religion, but to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Christian relationship is incomparable, not because of the place, or even the date of its origin; but simply and solely because it is essentially the Gospel of an incomparable Savior.

How would we fairly sum up the teaching of Confucius, Buddha, Mohammed, or the follower of Hinduism? These hold themselves to be counsels of “perfection;” they exude maxims of conduct, and they offer people of the earth what they consider to be “good advice.” Religions such as these are about man seeking after their god; not the Almighty God.

What is the essential characteristic of the Christian Gospel? It is the Good News! It is God seeking after humankind; chasing humankind with His grace. It is a message direct from heaven to earth; it is God’s Son willingly coming for our rescue. It tells how it is possible for guilty sinners to be at peace with their Creator, and thereafter to live in a state of peace, purity, and power.

Christianity is not only historical and doctrinal, but experiential. We are not called upon to achieve salvation; we are asked to accept salvation because it is the free gift of God.

Those who do so in simple faith, discover that the Almighty gives power at that very moment to accept His divine grace and mercy. Salvation is a provision, but it is provisional; it has been provided, but it must be appropriated individually to be effective in our lives.

It is not to all who are sincere, moral, religious, and kind; but to all who call upon the Name of the Lord. Here the divine’s redemption joins human responsibility and response. –Laurin

The Old Testament prophet, Joel, first penned this promise (2:32) and it reminds Israel, as well as incoming Gentiles, the Name of the Lord signifies the Lord Himself.

Calling upon the Name of the Lord denotes a full and entire communion with God. He who will call on the Name of the Lord profoundly humbles himself before God, recognizes His power, adores His majesty, believes His promises, confides in His goodness, hopes in His mercy, honors Him as his God, and lives for Him as Savior. –Robert Haldane, Scottish and Swiss theologian

Good News!

Christ died for our sins; He was buried, and He was raised for you and for me. Everyone needs to hear this; needs to believe this. Unfortunately, today’s evangelical believer does more sitting on their “rusty dusties” than they do getting on their feet and doing what Christ expects. Christianity is about your obedience to Christ’s expectations. It does not diminish with age.

The Gospel, the Good News, is a “be-saved” plea, not a “save-yourself salvation gimmick.”

What are you doing to reach the unchurched/unsaved people within the five-miles (and beyond) of your church?

A lump of clay . . .

Vol. 3, No. 37 – September 16, 2018
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Romans 9:20

In the past, at Christmas, I have given serious thought to buying something of the pottery line for Donna. Did you know there are different kinds of pottery? They include bone china, porcelain, salt-glazed, and others. Some are reasonable in pricing; some – well I am not into financing clay!

Pottery is really any object fashioned from clay and hardened by fire. This is simplistic. Porcelain is pottery that is resonant when struck and translucent when held to the light. Strike it and hold it; I think I am resonant like porcelain, LOL.

Paul illustrates Israel’s plight in world history to the analogy of the potter and the clay. The potter at work today is not different from the potter in history; somewhere, today, a person is spinning the potter’s wheel producing a vessel or work of clay in the same historical manner.

I have a smart phone; sometimes it is a dumb phone (or at least its operator is). The thing about clay, however, is that it is always dumb and never very smart. Paul is not saying we are just a dumb lump of clay; powerless and speechless.

He is telling us that the potter’s plan as the divine architect is for each person He fashions to be a creative original; unique and varied. There is nothing stereotypical with God.

Yet, God is a sovereign God; we are as clay in His hands to be fashioned, shaped, and molded into whatever the Master Potter determines is appropriate (Jeremiah 18:1-12; 29:11-14).

One only needs a sudden sense of personal danger, the sharp shock of a serious accident, the foreboding of bitter loss, the unexpected but utter overthrow of some well-laid scheme that seemed assured of success to acknowledge that God is in charge and as Daniel said:

Blessed be the Name of God forever and ever, for He alone has all wisdom and all power (2:20-21)
World events are under His control; home events as well!

Christian, Christian Leader, here is a question for us: Are we today rejecting His touch, His plan, His design? Are we struggling with the heat in the kitchen? The furnace is opened and the pottery is brought out, and it has in that furnace gained two things:

• It has gained strength
• It has gained a beauty or color that is burned into it

God is The Potter; humankind is the clay. Man’s power of self-determination cannot interfere with the counsels of God’s providence; even the diurnal rotation of the earth on its axis is under His control.
In Florence, Italy is a statue which once was found broken into more than a thousand pieces. One patient man with a rare skill picked up the shattered fragments and restored what was broken into its intended beauty.

Not only can our Master Potter shape, mold, and fashion – He can pick up our broken pieces of life and mend them to be what He always intended for us to be!

God, The Potter can pick up our broken lives lived in a broken world; what many would say needs to go to the rubbish heap, and mold that life, through His reconciliation, into a life of beauty as He always intended it to be.

He does this every day; He wants to do it for everyone He has created . . . today!

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