Posts Tagged ‘Understanding’

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

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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

Part 8 – Matthew 11:25-30 – WITHOUT THE ENCUMBRANCE OF GENIUS

Without the Encumbrance of Genius

Perhaps it is the reason that I embraced Christianity so easily – THE CHRISTIAN FAITH DOESN’T DEMAND INTELLIGENCE. I’m not criticising intelligence.  I have an above average intelligence level. Well, actually, although it was above average according to the IQ test I completed at School, it was more tilted towards the average side than the above part. I have imagined having an intelligence level that would ASTOUND people, but unless that miracle happens I will remain who I am, without the ENCUMBRANCE OF GENIUS and I will always have to examine things carefully before I can understand them.

Jesus prayed an unusual prayer in Matthew 11:25-27. After the cities of Korazin and Bethsaida had ignored Him and rejected Him, He prayed

“O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank You for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the CHILDLIKE. Yes, Father, it pleased You to do it this way!”

Jesus says that only the childlike can understand spiritual things. He doesn’t say childish, just childlike. I must admit I can have a little trouble with distinguishing between the two at times, but I do recognise God as my Father and I know that I am in His family.

Some time ago I received a number of pocket sized Gideons Bibles with white covers to give out to the staff and residents of Shalom. Shalom is an Aged Care Facility and I work there as a Chaplain. These small New Testament Bibles are given out in Schools in Australia every few years by the Gideons. Someone gave some to us.

As I offered the aged residents of Shalom these Bibles it occurred to me that I needed to ask them whether they could read the SMALL PRINT. Few of them could. People in their 80’s and 90’s don’t often have very good eyesight for reading normal print books, let alone the pocket sized version I was handing out. It was an EXERCISE IN FUTILITY. They were literally BLIND TO GOD’S TRUTH. The only Bible many of them have now is me. Anyone want to donate some large print pocket Bibles that I can give away?

Jesus talks of a different kind of BLINDNESS. Blind due to my INDIFFERENCE to His miracles and message. Blind to His will and purposes in my life. Blind to a relationship with God because of my self sufficient attitudes.

2 Corinthians 3:14 (NLT) says “the people’s minds were HARDENED,” It is like a veil over their thinking “so they CANNOT UNDERSTAND the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.” Ephesians 4:18 describes it as having their “UNDERSTANDING DARKENED, being alienated from the life of God”

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT) says that it is Satan who “has BLINDED THE MINDS of those who don’t believe. They are UNABLE TO SEE the glorious light of the Good News. They DON’T UNDERSTAND this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NLT) puts it this way “But people who aren’t spiritual CAN’T RECEIVE THESE TRUTHS from God’s Spirit. It all sounds FOOLISH to them and they CAN’T UNDERSTAND it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”

Jesus makes it clear that the only way to understand God is through Him. He says “No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27 NLT)

Now that’s AUTHORITY! Jesus stands as the ONLY MEDIATOR between me and God. (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus does the choosing and He has chosen to reveal the Father only to those who believe and come under His authority.

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE can come to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME. Acts 4:12 (NLT) says “There is salvation in NO ONE ELSE! God has given NO OTHER NAME under heaven by which we must be saved.The only access I have to truth is to COME TO HIM and the key is faith not intelligence. It is CHILDLIKE FAITH, not genius. It is not being self sufficient but humble enough to be DEPENDENT upon Him. Nothing wrong with intelligence. I need a brain to think through these things but knowing God is not dependent upon intelligence. It demands coming under the authority of Jesus Christ.

I love the way 1 Corinthians 1:25-29 (NLT) puts it “This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans… Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes … when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. … and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

God bless you Church as you exercise the foolishness today of believing in Christ and coming under His authority for your life, WITHOUT THE ENCUMBRANCE OF YOUR GENIUS. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Pastor Ross