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First Service

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them”-Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Life together

How many of us listen to each other?  Really listen.  We might hear what someone else is saying to us, but do we hear them, or do we think we know what they said?

Most of us will hear 3 – 4 words of someone speaking to us and then start formulating what we are going to say.  We will hear where a sentence starts and then begin working on our come back, what we will respond with. In doing this, you are no longer listening, but are paying attention to yourself.  This is one of the first things I work on with couples that I am working through premarital counseling with.  Communication is the basis for every relationship, and if you are not communicating there is no basis for that relationship. This is why we pray, to communicate with God.  Part of this should be silence to listen for what God has to say to us.  We need to listen not only to get to know the other person, but we need to listen, because that is what we have to do in order to communicate.  In order to know how we need to respond we have to listen, and hear what is said to us. Then and only then can we respond with a response that is one that will build the relationship. It may not always be what the other person wants to hear, but it will build the relationship if it is spoken in truth and love after listening and hearing what was said. If we listen and hear, then we will get to know more about the person and grow deeper in relation to them.

That is what Bonhoeffer tells us in the quote above.  We owe it to others to listen to them. We need to hear them and to love them by being quiet and not formulating a response while they are talking.  To hear them as we hear His word.

So the next time you are listening, listen and hear. Grow in relation to others.

 

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The God of Your Father

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:1-6, NRSV)

What would you do if you saw a Bush burning but it wasn’t being consumed?

And then as you got closer to it you heard a voice calling your name from it?

I would probably run away screaming and not continue closer and take my shoes off. I would be scared.

But Moses approaches and listens to God’s calling.

But we are all actually called to the Bush. To remove our shoes and to walk on the holy ground that God has placed before us.

Sometimes God has to go to the extreme to get our attention and make sure we are listening.

Are you ready to walk on holy ground and listen to God?

 

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Solomon’s Great Wisdom

God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, children of Mahol; his fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He would speak of trees, from the cedar that is in the Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall; he would speak of animals, and birds, and reptiles, and fish. People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom. (1 Kings 4:29-34, NRSV)

Have you ever known someone so wise that you went to hear them? You just loved to listen to the talk?

I had a few seminary professors like this. I would seek them out for wisdom and still do today.

God-given wisdom is a gift we should all seek out and listen to in our lives.

 

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Joshua and Israel Cross the Jordan

Early in the morning Joshua rose and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites, and they came to the Jordan. They camped there before crossing over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place. Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, a distance of about two thousand cubits; do not come any nearer to it.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” To the priests Joshua said, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass on in front of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went in front of the people. The Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.” Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.” When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan. (Joshua 3:1-17, NRSV)

Again the people walk across dry land where there should be water flowing. God has shown His people again and again how He will be with them and take care of them. God stayed in the middle of the Jordan with the priests until every Israelite had crossed the river.

God provided for the people through Moses and now through Joshua. Is God working in and through your life?

 

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The Conquest of Canaan Promised

I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him. But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. When my angel goes in front of you, and brings you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, you shall not bow down to their gods, or worship them, or follow their practices, but you shall utterly demolish them and break their pillars in pieces. You shall worship the Lord your God, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from among you. No one shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send my terror in front of you, and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send the pestilence in front of you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, or the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates; for I will hand over to you the inhabitants of the land, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not live in your land, or they will make you sin against me; for if you worship their gods, it will surely be a snare to you. (Exodus 23:20-33, NRSV)

Here God told the Israelites that is they listened to God’s Angel that the land God promised them would be conquered by them.

Do we listen to God?

Do we do what we think He would want us to do, or actually what He is telling us to do?

Sometimes we get hung up in our own ways and our own insecurities and fall back on our understanding and our fears, but God is leading us to places we have never been and taking by means we can not understand. If we do not listen and follow His direction we will be lost and floundering.

So do you listen to God?

 

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The Plot to Kill Paul

In the morning the Jews joined in a conspiracy and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who joined in this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the council must notify the tribune to bring him down to you, on the pretext that you want to make a more thorough examination of his case. And we are ready to do away with him before he arrives.” Now the son of Paul’s sister heard about the ambush; so he went and gained entrance to the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to report to him.” So he took him, brought him to the tribune, and said, “The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you; he has something to tell you.” The tribune took him by the hand, drew him aside privately, and asked, “What is it that you have to report to me?” He answered, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more thoroughly into his case. But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him. They have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they kill him. They are ready now and are waiting for your consent.” So the tribune dismissed the young man, ordering him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of this.” (Acts 23:12-22, NRSV)

How can these people say they follow a loving God if they vow to not eat or drink until they have killed someone?

What kind of religion causes people to want to kill others simply because they are different from them?

And Paul used to be one of them. It seems that would make them want to listen more because he was the one who was going around rounding up followers of the way so if he is now a part of the way I would want to know why not get rid of him.

So how do we react to those who are different?

Are we open and able to listen, or do we move quickly to get rid of all those who are different?

 

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Paul Defends Himself

Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” The tribune replied, “Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying: ”Brothers and fathers, listen to the defense that I now make before you.”When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, they became even more quiet. Then he said: ”I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. (Acts 21:37-22:5, NRSV)

So Paul knew the crowd he was speaking to.

When talking with the authorities of the city he spoke in Greek, and when he spoke to the crowd that had brought him from the temple he spoke in Hebrew.

You see in our understanding of being a disciple of Jesus context is very important. You use clues from the society you are speaking to to make sure they understand the message you are delivering. To speak to the authorities in Hebrew wouldn’t have worked. Well maybe one could have understood, and the same for the crowd from the temple. You have to deliver the message contextually so it is understood.

How do we deliver our message of good news? The way we always have? Or in the context of those to whom we are speaking?

 

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