Listening: Finding Art within the Noise

Continued Learning, Part 2

I’m a great listener!  …just make sure no one lets my wife read this!  All joking aside, I don’t think I’m alone in my inability to listen at times.  Most of us want to share our thoughts and ideas.  Why? Because we thought them, and they seem to make sense.  What I’ve learned, however, is that my best thoughts are formed after I spend a lot of time listening.

This is a 3 part series about how we can continue to learn beyond the traditional classroom setting.

Listening Finding Art within the Noise

I’m offering four ways we can continue to learn by listening. Maybe we’ll be able to find some ‘art’ in all the noise.

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Who’s More Important: Jesus or Me?

The One Who Really Matters

We’re living in a world that demands our every moment of every day. Whether its politics, our jobs, family, friends, local church or community, we find ways to keep busy. The question is – who is at the center of all those activities? Is Jesus the one who really matters in our lives, or do we put ourselves in the center?

Who's More Important - Jesus or Me

The more we put ourselves in the center of our lives, the more we move away from Jesus. The more we move away from Jesus, the more stressed we become about the things we can’t change and the less likely we are to take the healthy risks that are required to follow Jesus’ agenda.

Jesus desires for us to selflessly use our resources so to benefit the Kingdom, not us. Click To TweetTo put this another way – are we being selfless or selfish?  If Jesus is at the center of our lives, then we use our money, time and energy for the benefit of Jesus.  If we are at the center of our lives, then we use those resources for our benefit.  Jesus desires for us to selflessly use our resources so to benefit the Kingdom, not us.

As I reflected on this personally, I thought about the two potential options this way:Discipleship Journey: Selfless vs Selfish

I know I need to make sure I’m moving towards the selfless side, but my humanity clearly wants to pursue the selfish side.

So how do I make sure I’m becoming a selfless disciple of Jesus?

The answer: start putting Jesus in the center.

That might be easier said than done.  I get that.  But let’s start with a simple narrative from Luke’s gospel.

Mary and Martha…

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)

Luke is trying to teach us about holy hospitality – how we welcome and allow Jesus to be the center of everything we do.  So much so, that we almost allow Jesus to be our host and we follow His lead.1

Mary focused her attention on Jesus.  She humbly took full advantage of the opportunity with Jesus. An opportunity that, in their culture, wouldn’t normally be an option.

Martha, on the other hand, was distracted by being “anxious and troubled about many things.” She was doing well and serving her guests, but was selfishly overwhelmed.  So much so, that when she spoke to Jesus she referred to herself three times (10:40).

Are we disciples (selfless) or are we distracted (selfish)?

I think we get distracted in our world of busyness and perfectionism quite often.  We get caught up doing things according to our agenda and forget to balance our lives according to Jesus’ agenda. Jesus is waiting for us to eagerly become selfless disciples, and not be distracted by selfish performance.2

What would our agenda look like if Jesus was at the center?  On the other hand, what would our agenda look like if we put ourselves at the center?  Would our priorities be different in each case? All too often, we sacrifice what really matters to pursue things that aren’t as important.

For example, when we become busy the first thing we often cut is our personal time with God.  Think about that – we cut the most important thing first.  From my experience, when we cut our personal devotions, we tend to default to selfishness.  From there, our priorities start to shift.

We shift from pursing God’s agenda to our own agenda.

We shift from growing the Kingdom to spending our money elsewhere.

We shift from committing our families to the local church to protecting family time at all costs.

Don’t get me wrong, family is very important!  But when Jesus is at the center of our lives, His call to put Him before our family begins to make more sense:

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Of course, “hate” is not referring to “dislike” rather the extreme difference between a selfless disciple and a selfish unbeliever.  We need to stop thinking like unbelievers and start challenging ourselves to become disciples.We need to stop thinking like unbelievers and start challenging ourselves to become disciples. Click To Tweet

I’ll let Paul’s words conclude:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)

Your turn…

Is Jesus at the center of your life?  Do your daily activities prove it?

I gave our congregation the opportunity to challenge themselves with a little exercise.  I gave them a sheet to list all their activities and to indicate which activities were most important if: 1) Jesus was at the center of their lives; and, 2) if we were at the center. It’s a humbling exercise if done honestly.

You can download the template here: Who’s More Important Worksheet. Maybe it’s a great way for you to take a spiritual inventory of what we spend our money, time and energy doing. I’ve also included a blank version of the above graphic.


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I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

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Is There A Grey Area? [UPDATED]

How We Find Our Way To Jesus

Ever wonder about the process of becoming a Christian?  If asked, many Christians would say, “By repeating the ‘sinner’s prayer.'1” They may even quote Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” With a simple conclusion of confessing and believing through a prayer to God.

Question: Is this process of finding Jesus the same for everyone or perhaps unique to each individual? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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References   [ + ]

5 Reasons Why Many Christians Don’t Know The Christmas Story

For many, the true meaning of Christmas is no secret.  If asked to articulate the true meaning, most would say something like, “Jesus coming to earth,” or some rendition of that.  If you’re a Christian, you might even add, “God with us” or “the birth of our Saviour.”

As a pastor, I wonder how many people could actually share an accurate version of the Christmas story with someone.  The more I talk with others about it, the more I realize, many Christians are unable to go beyond, “Jesus in a manger.”

So why do people know the meaning of Christmas, but not the story? There are really no excuses for this, especially for Christians; however, I think there are several reasons.  Here are 5 reasons that I’ve thought of:

1.      A lack of a Christian culture…

It’s time to face the music ? we don’t live in a Christian culture.  In fact, we may have never lived in a Christian culture, rather, in a culture that generally accepts what most people believe or care for.  In the name of human rights and freedom, Christianity (and religion in general) has been removed from many schools, malls, restaurants, town halls and many other public locations.  Christians go astray, however, when we forget or ignore where our culture is, and do nothing to spread the gospel and Christmas story.  When we ignore the lack of a Christian culture, we push away the Christmas Story with it.

2.      Tradition fills-in unknowns…

If you’ve ever read the Christmas story, as written in the gospels of Matthew and Luke[i], one of the first things you’ll notice is that there’s a lot left out.  For example, scripture doesn’t say how many Magi followed the star to Bethlehem; however, tradition says there were three of them because there were three gifts mentioned.  Likewise, scripture implies the Magi met Jesus as a child and not as a baby; however, tradition says the Magi are a part of the manger scene.[ii]  Sometimes we go astray when we let tradition impact the story.  It’s nice to imagine the story; however, we can’t lose focus on the important things that are actually included in scripture.

3.      It has been 2000 years…

It’s no secret, Jesus was born over 2000 years ago.  It doesn’t make the story’s impact less relevant; however, if we don’t study the text, the story will lose its flavour.  For example, if we let the modern day manger scene depict our idea of how Jesus came into the world, we’ll lose the impact of just how humble a stable was 2000 years ago. Whether it was inside or outside, it was where the animals slept, not humans!  The real humility of the story begins to come to life.  The story is still relevant today, if you’re willing to read it with relative eyes.

4.      Social justice has become the focus…

Giving gifts, helping good causes, or lending a hand are all great things, especially during Christmas!  There are so many ways we can all help each other, family, friends, and those less fortunate.  The story, however, isn’t gift giving; the story is the gift of Christ. Being in the spirit of Christmas is about shining a light towards the gift of Christ, by participating in acts of social justice.  We can’t let social justice take the lead over Christ.  If we do, many Christians will forget the Christmas story and write a new social justice story.

5.      “Santa” is more important…

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” the song proclaims!  I totally agree!  The question is, what’s “wonderful”?  We tend to lose focus on the true Christmas Story because we’re so caught up in Santa, Elf on the Shelf, presents, parties… and the list goes on.  While all of these things can be a lot of fun, if our time, money and lives are geared towards them, we’ll forget the Christmas story before we know it.  At the very least, focusing on the Christmas story will help us slow down during the season so we can focus on what God has in store for us and through us.  Unless God is at the centre, Santa will continue to move us away from knowing the Christmas story.

So where do we go from here? Can we make sure the Christmas story is heard and known? Can Christians be known for knowing the Christmas story well?  I’m offering a few suggestions for this Christmas:

1.      Read the Story…

Take time to read the Christmas story.  You may want to read it personally, with family, friends, or maybe a study group.  If you’re not sure where to start, check out Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.

2.      Study the Story…

Learn about the story and challenge yourself.  Take a few minutes to do a simple Google search, ask your local pastor, study it in your Bible Study group, or maybe even read a commentary.  Whatever it takes, learn something new this Christmas!  If you’re not sure where to start, answer this question: what’s different in each gospel story, and why are they different?

3.      Share the Story…

The story doesn’t have the same effect if you keep it to yourself.  The Christmas story is full of HOPE, LOVE, JOY, and PEACE and many around us could use all four!  Maybe you could send out Christmas cards with the story of Christ on them, share something you’ve learned with family and friends, or shine a light towards Christ by helping someone less fortunate.

 

There are so many reasons why Christians don’t know the Christmas story.  Most of those reasons are completely within our control; and, at the end of the day, it all comes down to actually living out what we believe.  We say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but do our lives and knowledge of the Christmas story prove it to be true?

 


[i] Matt 1-2; Luke 1-2.

[ii] Matt 2:1-12.

7 Reasons Why Sharing Our Faith Can Be Difficult

Sharing our personal faith with someone seems to be one of the hardest things to do.  It was common for first century people to share stories with one another – they lived in an oral culture.  So, when something impacted them, talking to people was fairly natural.  Today, in the twenty-first century, there are so many factors that slow us down to share the truth that God has gifted us with.  The good news is, many of these factors start with us.  If we can overcome the things that slow us down, sharing our faith will become a lot easier.

I’ll be the first to admit, sharing my faith is difficult.  That said, God has appointed believers to be his witnesses.  Luke shows us how Jesus prepared his disciples, not just for their own journey, but also to spread the message to others.  Over the span of Luke’s writings, Jesus called his disciples, taught and mentored them, sent out the 12 disciples, sent out the 72, provided for them spiritually and physically, laid down his own life to full-fill the mission, resurrected, told his followers to wait until more helped arrived, and when the Holy Spirit came, the followers of Jesus were given power to be witnesses in “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[i]  The message of hope, love, joy, and peace was not only brought to some, but eventually to the “end of the earth,” and it was accomplished by God sending those who believed at witnesses of how God impacted them.

So why don’t we share our story with everyone we meet?  There are really no excuses, but I think there are several reasons.  Here are 7 reasons that I came up with:

1. It’s our personal life…

The impact of God isn’t superficial.  When we experience the freedom of accepting Christ as the Lord of our lives, he starts to encompass our entire being.  With that, comes personal transformation.  Because it’s often very personal, we tend to hide what God has done and keep it to ourselves and close family and friends.  While some things are personal in nature, we need to remember that others deal with personal issues as well.  God may need you to share your story of freedom with someone who is struggling.

2. We feel unworthy…

Good, we should.  We have received an unworthy and unwarranted gift of grace from God.  That should make us feel very humble and unworthy.  The amazing part of God’s sending plan, however, is that he asks us, the unworthy ones, to be his Church.  He wants those who have been impacted by his love to spread the message to others.  We need to stay humble and allow the Spirit to move through us.

3. We have too many questions ourselves…

Because our relationship with God requires faith, there will always be some unanswered questions.  God is beyond are understanding in many situations and there are many times when we have to trust in God to ease our mind. That said, let’s remember two things: (1) don’t stop thinking; and, (2) don’t let unanswered questions stop us.  God gave everyone a mind, so let’s use it.  As we think about God’s glory, we may indeed come to a better understanding which we can then share with others.  As we live, however, let’s not let unanswered questions stop us from sharing God’s plan with others!  The next life-changing theologian could be awaiting our witness.

4. We’re comfortable…

We’ve all experienced being new.  Whether it be new to the Christian faith, or new to an assembly.  At some point, however, the newness wears off and we become comfortable.  This doesn’t only stop us from sharing our faith, but also disregards the need to share our faith.  We need to remember that God made us new and desires for us to spread that message of hope.  If we remain comfortable, then the message will die with us.

5. We’re unsure of the outcome…

I think it’s safe to say, most of us have many friends, co-workers, and family who don’t have a relationship with Christ.  Most of us would also say, they’d love for them to start having a relationship with Christ.  What stops us from sharing our faith?  I think it’s partly because we’re afraid of the possible outcome.  It’s normal to think through how someone will react to our testimony; however, we need to make sure we rely on the Spirit to bring life to what we share.  Read Luke 12 to see how the Spirit helps us with the right words to say and provides the right resources that we need.

6. Religious freedoms…

In our culture today, people are free to worship, live and respond to any religion of their choosing.  Some Christians interpret this to mean other religions are more important than theirs.  This is not entirely true. Religious freedoms allow for everyone to choose their own religion.  There is nothing stopping a Christian from sharing their faith, as long as they don’t force an individual to participate.  In fact, religious freedoms actually allow for Christians to share their faith to anyone who will listen.  Let’s make Christianity a desired option to choose.

7. We forget to ask God for help…

Sharing our personal story is difficult, but we’re not alone.  God has partnered with us be his witnesses.  Let’s go back to Luke’s gospel.  In chapter 12, Jesus taught his followers that the Spirit will give you the right words to say when you defend your faith.  Jesus followed this up just before he returned to heaven.  He said to wait in Jerusalem until the power of the Spirit comes to help you to be “witnesses of these things.”[ii] In Acts, the Spirit empowered the believers and they continued to spread the message.  Today, the same power can help us.  The Father and Son are willing and able to equip us with the Spirit to give us boldness to speak and to live-out Christian lives as witnesses of the truth. Let’s not be afraid to ask for God’s help!

I’m sure at least one of these reasons have crossed your mind at some point.  While many of them have lasting impressions and are difficult to overcome, the ball is in our court.  With God’s help, we can overcome whatever is slowing us down from sharing our faith.

God has called us.  God has provided a way to help us.  Will we choose to be a witness?

Join the conversation…

Why do you think Christians find it difficult to share their faith?  How have you shared your faith?


[i] Luke 5, 6-8+, 9, 10, 12, 22-24, Acts 1:8, ESV.

[ii] Luke 24:48.