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16 Lessons on Listening

Just finished reading a book that has been on the shelf for sometime - Listening Life by Adam S McHugh. The book has some real gems coupled with wobbly theology in few places. So sadly no blanket recommendation. But here are some very helpful truths I took away from it. 
1. We desire to learn how to listen better because we want to learn how to become more human. At the heart of listening is that it enables us to  love and welcome people into our lives. We all want to be story-hearers and not just storytellers because it is who God made us.
2. Listening is obedience! The word we translate into English as “obedience” literally means a “listening from below.” Obedience is a deep listening, a listening of the whole person, a hearing with your ears and with your heart and with your arms and legs.

4 Lessons on Prayer

I have just finished reading Alexander Whyte's Lord Teach Us To Pray. It is a good read but the book requires careful reading. The author has a tendency to lose sight of the biblical SATNAV. So here are four helpful reminders I picked up from the book about prayer.
1. Pray continuously - when we pray to God to give us things many of us have a tendency to stop. Whyte borrowing from Rutherford cautious us, "even as we got those good things by prayer at first, so we have to hold them by prayer to the end".
2. Praying effectively requires time - we need to set aside plenty of time for prayer not because God needs our time. We need time to prepare our hearts to seek God. Whyte says, "without a liberal allowance of time, no man has ever attained to a real life of prayer at all". 
3. Reading the gospels imaginatively enriches our prayers - Whyte believes that as we read the Bible we should try and visualise the events described before us.  He says, "I demand of you…

A Saviour for all seasons!

I am currently reading Alexander Whyte's Lord Teach us to Pray.  In a section on "The Psalmist and His Lord", he encourages to keep our focus on Jesus in every season of our lives: Now, if David could set Jehovah always before him in his prayers and in his psalms, Jehovah, Whom no man could see and live, how much more should we set Jesus Christ before us? Jesus Christ, Who, being the Son of God, became the Son of Man for this very purpose. And, so we shall! For, what state of life is there? what need? what distress? what perplexity? what sorrow? what sin? what dominion and what disease of sin? what possible condition can we ever be in on earth, in which we cannot set Jesus Christ before us in prayer and in faith, and for help, and for assurance, and for victory? Who are you? and what are you? and what is your request and your petition? Open your New Testament, take it with you to your knees, and set Jesus Christ out of it before you.

True Preaching

If true preaching does not subdue us, it is sure to exasperate us. The better the preaching is, the more it is either a savour of life or a savour of death to him who hears it. ALEXANDER WHYTE (Source: Lord teach us to pray)

What is prayer?

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, Uttered, or unexpressed; The motion of a hidden fire That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh, The falling of a tear; The upward glancing of an eye When none but God is near.
Prayer is the simplest form of speech That infant lips can try; Prayer the sublimest strains that reach The Majesty on high.
Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, The Christian’s native air; His watchword at the gates of death; He enters rest with prayer.
JAMES MONTGOMERY  (1771-1854)
James Montgomery was only five when his parents left him in boarding school and shipped off as missionaries to the West Indies, never to be seen again. Remarkably, James grew up to be a prominent publisher, hymnist, and avid supporter of overseas missions. He wrote four hundred hymns, the best-known being the Christmas carol “Angels from the Realms of Glory.” But Montgomery later said he received more praise for this hymn than anything else he had written. It a hymn that exp…

Today I Learned

Charles H. Spurgeon was visiting an elderly lady in an almshouse. He noticed on the wall a frame encasing a piece of paper with some writing on it, so he asked about it. The lady replied that it reminded her of an aged invalid man she had nursed many years before, who, appreciative of her kind care, had written his name on it in his final days. So she had framed it. After much persuasion Spurgeon was able to borrow the paper. When he took it to the bank, they exclaimed, “We’ve been wondering to whom the old gentleman left his money.” Hundreds of pounds were standing idle to his credit which now were transferred to her name. Living in poverty for years, she had actually been worth a great deal.

Church Unity

Before all things, the Teacher of peace and Master of unity did not wish prayer to be offered individually and privately as one would pray only for himself when he prays. We do not say: “My Father, who art in heaven,” nor “Give me this day my bread,” nor does each one ask that only his debt be forgiven him and that he be led not into temptation and that he be delivered from evil for himself alone. Our prayer is public and common, and when we pray we pray not for one but for the whole people, because we, the whole people, are one. CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE  (North Africa, AD 250)

Prisoner of Christ

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free; force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be. I sink in life’s alarms When by myself I stand, Imprison me within Thine arms, And strong shall be my hand.
GEORGE MATHESON (1842-1906)

Motivation for forgiveness

To forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what he says. C S LEWIS 

Write it down!

A Christian should keep two books always by him: One in which to write his sins, that he may be made humble. The other in which to write his mercies, that he may be kept thankful.THOMAS WATSON

A Bitter Monk!

Long ago, two monks were traveling and approached an unusually rough river. Standing alone on the bank was a woman who approached the monks and asked if they could help her cross so she could return home to her family. 
Knowing it was forbidden to touch a woman, one monk quickly looked the other way, ignoring her request for help. The other monk, feeling compassion for the desperate lady, decided to bend the rules. Breaking tradition, he lifted her into his arms and carried her safely across the rushing water. Exceedingly grateful, the lady thanked the helpful monk and left for home. The two monks continued on their journey. 
After miles of silence, the first monk finally said with disgust, “I can’t believe you picked up that woman! You know we’re never supposed to touch the opposite sex.” The compassionate monk replied, “I put her down miles ago, yet you continue to carry her in your heart.” 
(Source : Craig Grouschel, Christian Atheist)
This little medieval story captures the manner in …

Love your enemies

A Turkish officer raided and looted an Armenian home. He killed the aged parents and gave the daughters to the soldiers, keeping the eldest daughter for himself. Some time later she escaped and trained as a nurse. 
As time passed, she found herself nursing in a ward of Turkish officers. One night, by the light of a lantern, she saw the face of this officer. He was so gravely ill that without exceptional nursing he would die. The days passed, and he recovered. 
One day, the doctor stood by the bed with her and said to him, “But for her devotion to you, you would be dead.” He looked at her and said, “We have met before, haven’t we?” “Yes,” she said, “we have met before.” “Why didn’t you kill me?” he asked. She replied, “I am a follower of him who said ‘Love your enemies.’”  
(Source : L. Gregory Jones, Embodying Forgiveness)
This sister in Christ demonstrates an important principle. If you are a beneficiary of God’s costly grace in Jesus, you will practice costly grace with others. The forg…

The Root of Repentance

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Peace of silence

One word spoken in season will do more good than a thousand out of season. But in some cases peace, through having our faith to ourselves before God (Rom. 14:22), is of more consequence than the open discovery of some things we take to be true, considering that the weakness of man's nature is such that there can hardly be a discovery of any difference in opinion without some estrangement of affection. So far as men are not of one mind, they will hardly be of one heart, except where grace and the peace of God bear great rule in the heart (Col. 3:15). Therefore open show of difference is only good when it is necessary, although some, from a desire to be somebody, turn into by ways and yield to a spirit of contradiction in themselves. Yet, if Paul may be judge, they `are yet carnal' (1 Cor. 3:3).RICHARD SIBBES  (Source : The Bruised Reed)
The point here being that sometimes it is better to remain silent over certain truths where the discovery of our views would only lead to unneces…

Live lightly!

"Build your nest upon no tree here; for you see God hath sold the forest to Death, and every tree whereon we would rest is ready to be cut down, to the end we may flee and mount up, and build upon the Rock, and dwell in the holes of the Rock” SAMUEL RUTHERFORD

True face of pornography

The Daily Mail on how a growing number of women in Japan are stepping out of the shadows to say they were forced to work in Japan's multi-billion-dollar porn industry:
Young, pretty and hoping for stardom, Saki Kozai thought she had found her ticket to fame after an apparent model scout spotted her on a Tokyo street and offered her a job. Then just 24 years old, starstruck and excited, she quickly signed a deal with the agency he introduced her to, believing that she would soon star in promotion videos. In fact, it was not a modelling agency, and on her first day Kozai discovered the job required her to have sex on camera. "I couldn't take off my clothes. All I could do was cry...There were about 20 people around me, waiting. No woman could say 'no' when they're surrounded like that," she said. It is good to see the Daily Mail report this story because this is not just a Japanese problem it is a global problem. In a world of the internet the supply of porn…

Mysterious Ways

A clergyman many years ago was travelling by coach. He sat by the coachman’s side upon the box. The coachman was one of those unhappy men who fancy nothing is to be done without swearing. He was cursing, swearing, blaspheming, taking God’s name in vain, for many a long mile together. On he drove, now flying into a passion, now beating his horses, now cursing and swearing again. Such were the coachman’s ways. At last the clergy man said to him quietly, “Coachman, I am exceedingly afraid about you”. “Sir”, said the coachman, “what should you be afraid of? All is going on right, we are not likely to be upset”. “Coachman”, said the clergy man again, “I am exceedingly afraid about you; because I cannot think what you would do in heaven, if you got there. There will be no cursing in heaven; there will be no swearing in heaven; there will be no passion in heaven; there will be no horses to beat in heaven”. “Coachman”, said the minister once more, “I cannot think what you would do in heaven”.…

Today I Learned

The martyr John Bradford used to often sign himself at the end of his letters, “That wretched sinner, that miserable sinner, John Bradford”. Whenever John Bradford saw a man going to be hanged, he would say “There goes John Bradford, but for the grace of God”.
(Source : J C Ryle, Old Paths)