Posts Tagged ‘Listening’

Adult and child.jpg

Matthew 18 – TOO ADULT

GRAHAM (an entrepreneur and 2IC of a company): “I know they learn quickly, they’re creative and they are curious and interested in life. They remember things easily and are fun loving people who have retained an imagination. I think it is wonderful that they don’t believe in limits.

I know that they find a way into your hearts so that you end up loving them, excusing them, defending them, laughing and playing with them and you can’t do without them. But what’s the deal with relating them to people in authority, people who are great? You have got to be kidding? 

They are distracted so easily from a task, loud most of the time, demand attention and interrupt all the time. When they get tired, they get cranky. They want to eat all the time, and want others to get it for them.”

JESUS: “I called a little child to Me.” 

GRAHAM: “But Lord, how is a child related to greatness. I would understand if you said you have to be less self-serving and less self-centred, or listen more. But how is the calling of a child related to greatness?

In fact, why call a child at all. Children throw tantrums in shopping centres and are uncooperative when you want them to do something. They hit their brothers and sisters, disrupt a good conversation, and are bored easily. They are careless with their toys, changeable in their moods, and cling to their mothers.”

JESUS: “I called this child and the child came to Me, and I placed them in the midst of My disciples to teach them about greatness.”

GRAHAM: “So let me get this straight. This is a picture, right? You CALL the child then PLACE the child. There is a CHOICE made by the child to come. So, at least, this child is OBEDIENT. Are you saying that Your calling looks for a response of OBEDIENCE? But isn’t it the person who gives the direction the one who is great. You are the One who has the authority, especially since You managed to get a child to obey You?

And by the way, what about stranger danger? What were the mum and dad thinking? Were the parents around? Did the child know You?” 

JESUS: “I called the child and the child came.”

GRAHAM: “I guess the parents must have known You. Everybody knew You and, come to think of it, I seem to remember parents bringing their children to You so You could lay Your hands on them and pray for them. 

Didn’t that bother You? Having parents forcing their kids on You?”

JESUS: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:13-14 NLT)

GRAHAM: “Oh, please, You can’t be serious. Children lie if it suits them, they are impatient with getting somewhere in the car, lack manners at the table, are irresponsible with tasks unless paid, covetous of their friends toys, possessive of their own, untidy and lazy about cleaning up, and so obstinate about knowing things they have got wrong.” 

JESUS: “When I called, the child came and I placed the child among My disciples.”

GRAHAM: “You said that before but what are You saying, Lord? Are You saying that You PLACED this child where you wanted him or her to be because OBEDIENCE comes before someone can be POSITIONED? But it’s still You giving the direction. Are you saying that greatness is being in the position You place us, the place where we can be used for Your purposes? Is this what you mean by greatness?

I still can’t accept it that a child can be great. Children in Your time on earth had no rights. They can’t be great. Children are so dependent on adults and yet insist on being independent. They are always asking questions, never want to go to bed early, embarrassingly make fun of others, hate homework and structured learning. When they are small they demand to be picked up. When they are big they refuse to give you a hug. How is that great?”

JESUS: “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

GRAHAM: “But Lord, children have no responsibilities, stand in front of the TV, invade your personal space, cough without covering their mouths, pick their noses, play in the dirt, pass on colds and flu and nits and ringworm and worse diseases. They have high pitched screams, have no idea of danger, and have far too much energy to keep up with. They break toys, and if they can’t get what they want, they ‘cry’.”

JESUS: “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming Me.” 

GRAHAM: “OK, Lord. Let me try to get my head around this. The Child was called, so she or he was old enough to understand, turn to You, exercise trust and obey. He or she makes a choice, a positive choice towards You.

I think You are trying to tell me that I need to think of greatness in the simplest of terms. It’s not the flaws of children that you want to emphasise but the simplicity of faith. This child, in this situation, is a picture of what it means to have dependence on You and trust in You.

I guess you are not saying that I am to be childish, but childlike, and have a simple openness in being directed in my life by You. To be great is to find my purpose and position in life lining up with Your purposes and where You want me to be. OK, I get it. Save me from being too adult.”

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 17:4-5 – THE RIGHT TO SPEAK AND THE CHOICE TO LISTEN 

Listening Button, by Ross Cochrane

Listening Button, by Ross Cochrane

He is always getting into trouble. He opens his mouth and it ends up being offensive and someone goes away upset or embarrassed. It’s not that he doesn’t think or listen. It’s just that he interprets things through the eyes of impetuosity, chauvinism or even racism. As a follower of Jesus he is maturing but he still has a way to go.

Because he thinks that he has something worthwhile to contribute he blurts out ideas and suggestions and that’s what usually gets him into trouble. I shouldn’t talk. Most of the time I am thinking the same thing, but don’t say anything.

I learn a lot from Peter’s impulsiveness although he embarrasses me and himself in the process. He speaks openly when he should listen. He is insensitive and tactless and later regrets saying anything at all. He is spontaneous but borders on recklessness. It’s not as if he doesn’t know others are listening. Classic foot-in-mouth. Unprompted theatre.

Benjamin Franklin said “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Peter maybe impetuous but his suggestion in this case is not stupid, just wrong. He may misunderstand the significance of what is happening but he is actively seeking to piece it all together. He will always remember that although he had the right to speak, he also had the choice to listen.

Having little experience of Jewish culture Peter’s suggestion seems odd to me, but apparently far away in Jerusalem there are many at present who are commemorating the Feast of Tabernacles. They build and live in make-shift shelters for a week to remember the Exodus when Moses led the Hebrews from Egypt; camping out in the wilderness before entering the promised land.

Shelters in the Exodus of Moses were necessary because although Israel was free from oppression, they were not free from their sin. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they entered into the promised land because of their disobedience; their mistrust of God’s appointed leaders and their lack of trust in God’s provision. Their make-shift shelters spoke of their sin. 

Peter blurts out, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4 NLT). But associating Jesus and these returned saints with Israel’s sin isn’t a good idea. On the contrary, Jesus death will lead people directly into the freedom of forgiveness and the promises of God. Milk, honey and grapes would have been better memorial symbols. 

“But even as Peter spoke, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy. Listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5 NLT).

Sometimes my words are the sound of a broken window and unfamiliar footsteps creeping through God’s truth like unwelcome guests. When such words presumptuously seek to break and enter into God’s territory, then He invites me to listen and obey Jesus. I have the right to speak but more importantly the choice to listen to His voice. I can receive the light of forgiveness rather than dwell in the shadows of the make-shift shelters of my sin. I can give voice to my shame and regrets, or choose to listen to the voice of His mercy. Lord, I’m listening. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:1-5 – WHEN LISTENING FINDS THE RIGHT VOICE 

Listening. © Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Listening. © Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

When Listening walks with a friend in the park or offers them a cup of coffee in a quiet bay window overlooking her garden she happens upon the most amazing stories. People are always willing to open up to Listening. She mirrors your movements as you speak to her and hears your heart. She doesn’t interrupt or tell you what you should do, but somehow at the end of the conversation you discover for yourself a pathway ahead. 

Listening has a twin sister called Hearing. Although they bear a strong family resemblance to each other, they are quite different. Hearing is distracted easily. She watches the News at night on TV but could not tell you what was said. She is more interested in the sound of your voice than in the conversation. She can sit with you but the sounds float around her head and she gets lost in the domain of imagination or in the pressing things she is yet to act upon. 

It is when Hearing becomes too emotional that she least resembles Listening. She parks in clearways and blocks the traffic with conversational narcissism; showing no interest in what you are saying. In her childhood she had trouble remembering and paying attention to what she was told. As a result her grades suffered and she developed behaviour problems. 

Being a child of Nurture, Listening makes her living as a Nanny. She takes hold of the sounds born into the world from anothers thoughts, and cradles them in nurturing arms, raising them into responsible maturity, and returns them to the conversations of life with Understanding. 

I found Listening at the beach when I wanted to give voice to my questions. She was gazing at the ocean waves rolling in. “Conversations are like the ocean” she said. She taught me how to surf, riding the noisy waves on a board called Perspective, deftly and sensitively responding to each rise and fall as the crests curled around us. My questions became less insistent as we made our way to the shore and by the time we had reached the sand the world once again almost made sense. 

Once, when I was walking through the city, crowded in by voices and traffic noise; just an anonymous face in a crowd, somehow Listening recognised me from afar, smiled and waved. She knew a quiet café to sit and talk. 

Sometimes it seems that Listening waits at the door for me to return home, and hearing the keys jingling as the door opens, anticipates my presence by being fully engaged and ready to hear how my day has gone. Listening looks me in the eye but sees beyond my words. 

Listening loves me. I see her often personified in the eyes of my wife as she greets me after a long day or in the mischievous smile of a grandchild who finds me in my study, gives me a hug, asks me a question and waits patiently with big eyes for my response. She is defined by relationship; family, friends and innumerable encounters, and she is nurtured with Prayer when my words remain unspoken and I begin to be attentive to the whispers of God. 

Prayer and Listening are mountain climbers. On a mountain they can stir my imagination, inform my opinions, hold me enthralled by exposing me to my deepest creative self, open me to new ideas, and make me expect more, reach for more and motivate my very being with appreciation or inspiration or worship. 

I was not surprised to find Listening climbing the mountain with Jesus and the disciples. When she saw Jesus shine like the sun and heard Moses and Elijah talking with Him about His exodus, she tried to help Peter interpret what was going on. But Peter had been asleep, and Prayer had remained with Jesus. It was only on waking that Peter learned that some conversations cannot be interpreted without Prayer’s access to heaven’s perspective. Without Prayer even Listening was unable to help. 

When Listening is directed to the voices of our experience, voices of our emotions, voices of our expertise or voices of our senses, despite her insights, she is still not suitable to interpret miracles or spiritual truth. 

On this mountain Listening is directed to a Person, the only One able to interpret the past, give voice to the present and fulfil the future. God’s voice whispers from the cloud, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy. Listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5 NLT). 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:51 – UNDERSTAND?! – Part 19

Understand?!

Why is He asking me this question? Yes, I understand! Well, not everything but I get most of what He is trying to tell me! Actually I miss quite a lot of what He is saying. OK, OK. I admit it. At times I so don’t get it.

My teacher in primary school slammed his cane down on my desk and said “Do you understand?”

My Mum scolded me with the rules of the house numerous times with “Do you understand?”

The Commanding Officer sharing with His Senior ranking Officers about the strategies of a major battle with the enemy says “Do you understand?” UNDERSTANDING is essential, especially when other lives are at stake!

If the preacher on Sunday morning asked me directly after the service “Do you understand these things” I’d have to say “Um.. which part?” but I must admit that it would FOCUS my mind the next time he spoke.

Jesus asks me that question right now and I have to say “No Lord. I don’t understand. Please teach me more so that I can understand.” He looks at me with eyes that pierce through to the heart and says “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge…” (Matthew 13:12 NLT). There is no rebuke or condemnation in His voice, but the importance of His words cuts deep into my soul.

Jesus repeats that idea of understanding in Matthew 13 quite a bit. He says “Anyone with ears to hear should LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND(Matthew 13:9, and 43). At least five times He speaks about the importance of UNDERSTANDING in Matthew 13:9,11,12,23,43. He doesn’t want me simply to hear what He teaches me. He wants me to GET IT! He wants me to listen carefully and comprehend His Word. Not only for my sake, but for the sake of others who come under the sphere of my influence. My understanding of His Truth will have an impact on those around me and in some way the world will change. Yes, I know, maybe the impact will be small, but the world has changed each time I get it right and share His Truth.

I notice that even the Disciples don’t understand all the time. They ask Jesus a lot of questions. Listening, being honest and asking questions is OK with Jesus. He seems to like the Berean heart. They “searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (Acts 17:11 NLT). I can’t live it and share His Truth if I don’t have some kind of understanding of it.

I just praise God that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).

When I’m not on track I just have to ask for wisdom (James 1:5) and the Holy Spirit “leads into all truth” (John 14:17). 1 Corinthians 2:16 assures me that I have access to “the mind of Christ”. He’s in charge of even my understanding when I come under His authority and get to know Him better. That means that I don’t have to be some kind of GENIUS when it comes to understanding my Bible.

Jesus said that He IS the Truth (John 14:6). Fear of the Lord (reverence for Him as King and ruler of my life) is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalms 111:10 NLT).

Jesus says in John 5:39-40 (NLT) “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to ME! Yet you refuse to come to Me to receive this life.”

Jesus looks at me and you today and says “Do you understand these things?” These parables of life and faith. If I am honest I will reply “Not always.” The redeeming factor is that I have a relationship with the One who does. That makes all the difference. Every day.

Is it “what you know or who you know”? Or is it that “what you know helps you know He who knows you better than you know yourself”. Understanding = putting it all together about Christ.

The invitation to understand this morning is the invitation to come under the sphere of His influence for the answers you need in life by coming under His authority and giving your life to Him. God bless you with understanding as you take that incredibly important step today.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:10-17 – HOW TO GUAGE YOUR SPIRITUAL APATHY – Part 3

Hard Hearted Towards God

We visited the Opera House in Sydney not long ago. Thousands of people on foot! I am reminded that there is a spiritual INDIFFERENCE that walks the concrete footpaths of my city and what Christ has to say is often swept away or trampled by UNRESPONSIVE and negligent attitudes. The sounds of the city snatches away our attention and the persistent voice of Christ’s love fights to be heard above the collective sighs of our APATHY. Just like the parable of the Sower and the Soils.

It seems to me that the parables of Matthew 13 are directed to my city – especially to those not intentional in listening to Jesus, in order to give them perspective on what they are doing and opportunity for them to repent and believe and become fully alive to the things of God. They are a mirror and guage for me to see how I respond to spiritual truth.

Jesus speaks of HARD soil, defensive, closed and bitter towards God. He speaks of others with SHALLOW hearts, and superficial faith, and of those so PREOCCUPIED and busy that they miss their opportunity to discover what life is about. Then there are those who have RECEPTIVE hearts to the message He gives. They are like fertile soil, producing a crop worth harvesting. Yet even some of them produce in a LIMITED way, giving only 30% and 60% returns.

His disciples are intrigued by the story, but they see a whole lot of people in the crowd like those I saw in the streets of Sydney who don’t understand what He is trying to say, so they ask Him why He uses parables.

What Jesus says is astounding!

In Matthew 13:11 He says “You are PERMITTED to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are NOT. He is about to invest something by way of the resources of heaven into people’s lives, but some are NOT PERMITTED to understand? What does He mean that some are NOT PERMITTED?

It seems clear that in this passage they are NOT PERMITTED TO UNDERSTAND and it is FOOLISHNESS to them because they REFUSE TO LISTEN, not because God has put earplugs in their ears. A negative response to Jesus and His message means they are refused the SECRETS of the Kingdom of Heaven. God won’t FORCE me to listen, and equally when I refuse to listen, then He won’t PERMIT me to understand. I’m either receptive or left ignorant. If I slam the door so deliberately on God, then He also deliberately allows me the CONSEQUENCES of that choice.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT) says “The message of the cross is FOOLISH to those who are HEADED FOR DESTRUCTION! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” Are they headed for destruction WITHOUT A CHOICE of faith? I don’t think we can read that from the context of this passage. The choice is evidently there but they have refused to LISTEN. As a result even what they understand becomes foolishness to them and they are HEADED FOR DESTRUCTION because of their deliberate rejection of Christ and His message.

When the message of Jesus is treated as being ridiculous, unreasonable, unbelievable, over simple, uninspiring and those who share His message are treated with the same contempt, then it is obvious that the seed falls on hard, shallow and thorny ground.

Jesus puts it this way in Matthew 13:12 (NLT) “To those who LISTEN to My teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are NOT LISTENING, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” 

God bless your eyes and ears today. The invitation He gives to us is to SEE and HEAR with the eyes and ears of faith. May Jesus be able to say of you today “… blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.” (Matthew 13:16 NLT)

Pastor Ross 

Matthew 13:1-17 – MAYBE IF I ACTUALLY LISTENED FOR A CHANGE! – Part 1

Ears to hear?

In the middle of an argument, my Mum would say something like this – “Maybe if you LISTENED for a change, you would understand what I am trying to tell you!” So often I am not so much LISTENING but simply waiting for the other person to finish so that I can get across my point of view. Not really a very teachable position to be in. Ears to hear but unwilling to listen.

Joan is 99 years old and she feels that her world is so isolated. Even with hearing aids, she has to listen carefully to pick up anything I am saying. Ears that don’t hear well but more than willing to listen.

In Matthew 13 Jesus says “LISTEN!” with even greater authority than my Mum and with a voice that even Joan can understand. He addresses this problem of how different people are responding to Him. I can get caught up in all the arguments, but the real issue is to do with LISTENING. MAYBE IF I LISTENED…

Just a simple story. Jesus is obviously speaking about something important, but as I read, it doesn’t seem all that significant. The question is “Am I going to miss what He is trying to tell me because of my preconceived ideas about Him or because I insist on my own points of view?” Maybe if I listened….

It’s been a BUSY DAY for Jesus. He has been doing some amazing miracles and teaching with incredible authority. He has been bombarded with a steady barrage of artillery from the Pharisees by way of insults and challenges. It’s usually the religious people who criticize Jesus the most. He does not allow this to distract Him and encourages others to stay on track and LISTEN. Ears to hear.

He says in effect that listening is like a “farmer” who has seeds to plant and he goes into the field and scatters them. The seed that falls on the “FOOTPATH” is eaten by the “birds”. Other seed grows in “SHALLOW SOIL” with “UNDERLYING ROCK” and it wilts because it doesn’t have deep roots. Other seeds grew too, but they grew in a THORN infested area. They grew up and the thorns choked the tender plants (Matthew 13:3-8). We’ve got some thorny weeds in our garden like that.

It seems that this farmer does have some “FERTILE SOIL” in his field and it is the only ground that produces a crop worth harvesting. Even then he doesn’t get a very good crop in terms of his overall investment in seed. The crop he does receive from the fertile soil doesn’t all give him a 100% return. Some of it only yields 30%, and some 60%.

Just a simple story without explanation. In fact Jesus doesn’t seem as if He is going to give me an explanation at first.

But He goes on to tell me that anyone with EARS TO HEAR should listen and understand (Matthew 13:9). So this is not meant to be just a nice story. It has significant meaning and implications that are worthwhile for me to understand and apply. Is that the FIRST CLUE to being FERTILE SOIL – having EARS TO HEAR?

Is He talking about faith when He says “He who has ears to hear”? I don’t know yet. One thing is clear. There are those who don’t hear and don’t understand (Matthew 13:11-17). Apparently it takes an INTENTIONAL HEARING if I am to understand anything Jesus says. Or, like the Pharisees, I can remain far too intentional about not listening to anything He says.

So the invitation Jesus gives me is “Listen!” God bless you today as you respond to Jesus by saying “What would my world look like if I listened to what Jesus is saying here and spent time intentionally seeking to understand how it applies to my life today.”

Jesus looks to me as He speaks to the crowd in Matthew 13:9 (NLT) and says “Anyone with ears to hear should LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND.” “OK Lord, You’ve got my attention. I’m listening?”

Pastor Ross