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Psalm 139:15 (NLT) You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. 17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!

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“By your patience possess your souls.” Luke 21:19 

God always equips us for the times in which we live. We sometimes wonder how our forefathers survived the times in which they lived.  It's really difficult to compare one era to another. Everyone has to learn, adapt, and overcome in their unique circumstances. One thing is certain, as God told Ruth during a crisis in her times, "You have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

Here are some translations from other Bibles:

NIV: "Stand firm, and you will win life." 

NASB: "'By your endurance you will gain your lives." 

NLT: "By standing firm, you will win your souls." 

If we've been in touch with the Lord during this season, we understand that Romans 8:28 has been in effect.

What is patience?

Patience is not simply waiting, it is waiting while under development by the Lord. 

Patience is honoring God’s process. Patience is waiting like a seed that has been planted. It doesn’t seem like anything is going on with that seed, but we know the process for seed germination is the beginning of producing the designed outcome. 

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Jesus Rose So You Can Stand!

Jesus Rose so You Can Stand.

1 Cor 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive

What does it mean to stand? The most obvious definition is: “To be in an upright position with all of your weight on your feet.”

Other meanings: To maintain one's position, as in “standing firm.” To be in a particular state or situation. To remain stationary or inactive,: to make firm, fix establish, To cause a person or a thing to keep his or its place; to establish a thing, cause it to stand

1 Cor 15:45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

In Adam we stand in our humanity and mortality. “In Adam, all die....” Without Christ people are standing but are “dead men walking.”

1 Cor. 15:14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive

I Cor 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

What does it mean to “think” one is standing. To think is to have an opinion, not necessarily to have God’s truth and promise. Adam and Eve thought that eating the fruit would make them wise.

Joshua 7:2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, “Go up and spy out the country.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.

10 So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. 13 Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.”

There was something in the camp and hearts of the people that kept them from standing up and prevailing over a minor obstacle.What is it in your camp or heart that hinders your stand?

Don’t just stand by. Stand up! Do not overestimate your resources and underestimate your stand.

Again, as it says in 1Cor 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

Put God’s Word ahead of what you think and your opinion. We are not just hearers of the word. We are doers. People who hear but fail to act miss the opportunity to stand.

Don’t just stand by. Stand up!

When we have the power of resurrection, we always have the power to always stand. Not only to stand up but to stand in the place of victory.

Philippians 3:9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Know Jesus and His resurrection power! His resurrection was not only a past event, it is a present day power for standing!

“Resurrection” is from the biblical Greek word: “Anastasis” which is a combination of two words meaning: “up” and “to cause to stand.”

Jesus will take you as you are and where you are.

Jesus will raise you from spiritual death to new life.

Jesus will show you the exceeding greatness of God power

Jesus will release that power in your life.

Jesus, the Last Adam, will reverse the curse brought about by the first Adam.

Jesus will introduce you to a resurrected lifestyle.

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SeedTime & Harvest: Preparing for Advance in a Time of Crisis

Jesus spoke a parable describing the conditions of people’s hearts in relation to God’s word, or the seed. How you handle the seed of God’s is the most important thing that you handle.

Matthew 13:1 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Look at what Jesus said in regard to The Purpose of Parables:

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 

 

He describe four conditions of soil, or of the heart: Three bad and one good. 

1) Wayside is an unreceptive place: In Palestine the fields were in long narrow strips; and the ground between the strips was always a right of way. It was used as a common path; and therefore it was beaten as hard as a pavement by the feet of countless passers-by

2) Stony was shallow. It is a then layer of soil over limestone rock

3) Thorny was full of weeds and distractions. Luke 8:14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. The thorny ground was deceptive. When the sower was sowing, the ground would look clean enough. It is easy to make a garden look clean by simply turning it over; but in the ground still lay the fibrous roots of the couch grass and the bishop weed and all the perennial pests [like crab grass], ready to spring to life again. Every gardener knows that the weeds grow with a speed and a strength that few good seeds can equal. The result was that the good seed and the dormant weeds grew together; but the weeds were so strong that they choked the life out of the seed.

4) Good ground was tilled and ready to receive seed. Which condition describes your heart?

Operating in your authority requires a heart prepared like a good garden or farm field. There’s a lot that God wants to do through us and with us.

Let’s deal with the condition of the soil with weeds and thorns. This condition best describes many of us who attend church. We do well receiving the word and understanding what we are hearing. But during the week, as a results of challenges, circumstances, and stuff we let into our hearts and minds, the word gets choked out. Jesus  said we become, “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life.”

The best way to stop being distracted, is to learn how to focus.

TThe Power of Sowing in Obedience to God  

Genesis 26:1 There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar.

Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. So Isaac dwelt in Gerar. 

12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. 13 The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; 14 for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him

LESSONS FOR YOU FROM ISAAC

  1. Resist the urge to be frightened and flee.
  2. When conditions change, make adjustments and remain obedient to God.
  3. Sowing is our business. Reaping is God’s business.
  4. People will envy your progress. Don’t give energy to them.

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Live In The House of Wisdom

The Path Principle

Proverbs 24:3-4 Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. 

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;  Fear the LORD and depart from evil.     

Proverbs. 4:26 Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. 

WISDOM

Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. 

Walking in wisdom is about making good choices. Wisdom is essentially the ability to look at several options, and select the best one. But that's not something we do very well all by ourselves. We need the wisdom that comes from parenting. We need to wisdom they comes from education. We need the wisdom that comes from training. And most of all, we need the wisdom that comes from God.

Interesting, what people seem to do most, being entertained, provides almost no wisdom at all. Some of the definitions of entertain include the words, Similar: amuse, divert, distract

Wisdom always comes from sources that are bigger than ourselves:

Isaiah said 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

The apostle Paul said: 1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

The best way to know if you're walking in wisdom is to think about the path that you're traveling. There's something called the “path principle.” This is something I heard Pastor Andy Stanley talk about many years ago.

If you don't like where you are now, you only need to think about the path you've been walking.

What is the path principle?

The path is a direction leading to a destination. When you step onto a path, you begin toward the destination of that road, regardless of your intentions. It doesn't matter what you intend to do, it only matters what path you are on.

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Romans 15:13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

We usually think about hope in one way or one dimension. We understand hope as something that people need who are struggling and feeling hopeless. Thank God that when we struggle, there is hope to sustain us. When life does not makes sense and hope seems lost, there is a great hope from God to lift us up. 

Hope is more than a survival strategy. Hope is not only for the hopeless. Hope gives substance to faith. Hope is a picture. Hope is a sustaining power from the Spirit of God. Jesus is the true hope giver.

The Biblical Greek definition of hope simply means,  “An expectation.” (noun); “To anticipate” (verb).

A modern dictionary definition of Hope: 1) a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, 2) grounds for believing that something good may happen

I want to suggest that there are three dimensions, or aspects, of hope: 1) Expectation, 2) Desire, and 3) Purpose.

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We Have Come This Far By Faith

Part Four: Dealing With Your Mountains: Leaves or Figs?

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Mark 11:12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany (modern Al-Eizariya, Palestine), He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it. 

20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”

22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. [“Be faithful to God and fruitful. Don’t be like this tree, putting out leaves, but showing no fruit.”]

23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

In this text, Jesus gave a faith lesson. He talked about dealing with mountain sized obstacles when he said, “Have faith in God.” Having faith in God, asking for things when you pray, and believing you receive them, you will have them.

This particular lesson on faith is different the the one in Matthew 17:20 where he said , “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

In the teaching from Matthew Jesus attached a qualifier to it when he said, “his kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” As he dealt with the inability of the disciples to heal of boy brought to them with spirit of infirmity that looked like epilepsy.

In both of these lessons, Jesus taught about the nature of faith in God as well as something within the believer that was necessary.

Faith in God is not all about getting stuff, it is about doing God’s will. Don’t forget this statement:

Faith begins where the will of God is known.

The will of God is never found first in wanting things for your enjoyment. The will of God is always connected to His purpose and your character.

Jesus teaching in Mark 11 is dealing with personal character and doing the will of God.

Important question: Why did Jesus curse the fig tree, if it was not the season for figs?

At this point in late spring in Israel and Palestine, most fig trees had not yet developed mature fruit (Mark 11:13). But this particular tree draws Jesus’s attention because it already has a full covering of leaves. It’s an early bloomer. Its foliage signaled that it should have early figs.

With that expectation, Jesus inspects the tree. He is immediately disappointed. The tree is all leaves, no fruit. There was expectation, but no satisfaction.

He said, Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.

It appears shocking that Jesus cursed the tree and made it wither from the roots, never to yield fruit again. This seems stunningly out of character for Jesus

What should we learn from this peculiar scene?

On the surface, it’s an object lesson on the power of faithful prayer and how to have faith (Matt. 21:20–22). But more is going on here. The fig tree cursing when understood as a parable, is also a sober warning for us today.

Fruitlessness leads to judgment.

Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is described as God’s vineyard, tree, or planting. Fruitfulness is one of God’s priorities

Exodus 23:19 The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. 

Isaiah 5:1,  Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. 2  He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also [b]made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes. 3  “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. 4  What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it?

Jesus said in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you[b] will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples

When he created Adam and Eve, He said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” 

Being fruitful in doing God’s will is part of human nature and God’s purpose.

In our relationship with God: as his own special planting, it is His will to yield spiritual fruit as his covenant people.

Psalm 1:3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.

Jeremiah 17:8, For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not [a]fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Think about your own figs.

When the disciples ask Jesus to explain what just transpired, he pivots and talks about prayer and forgiveness. 

Jesus said in Mark 11:24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Thus the fig tree cursing was not just about a fig tree, it was historical Israel. And it is also about us. It’s about all the people of God throughout time.

This is a sobering passage, this passage that reminds us of this truth: A follower of Christ, a true Christian, by definition must produce spiritual fruit —even if only small early figs).

In our lives we can show “leaves,” but no fruit. Things in people and churches can appear to be big and flourishing, but it may only be leaves and not figs. That does not please the Lord.

Your leaves can fool you. What will the Lord find upon close inspection? Will he find only leaves? Or will he find figs, too?

In our lives, there may be no fruit of holiness, no intimacy with God, and no faith serving, giving, loving, and honoring. 

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1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

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James 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

There has always been misunderstanding about belief and faith. There are a lot of people who believe in God and say they have faith in God, but are actually lost. James described the full sense of having faith, not that we work for something, but that our actions give evidence to our faith. Those actions are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Faith in God produces a change in the heart, one’s life, and one’s lifestyle. Faith is not just belief or something we do on Sundays or Easter, faith is a habit. 

Habit Defined: A settled or regular tendency or practice.

There are good and bad habits.

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“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory." ~ Romans 5:2 (NLT)

Why we need faith in God. 

Gen. 4:9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.” 13 And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

Outside of God's plan, people look like Cain, who disobeyed God and did things his way, “A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”Cain recognized his condition, “I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth.”

Fugitive Hebrew definition: “to quiver, shake, reel, stagger, wander, move, sift, waver, tremble”

Vagabond Hebrew definition: “to move to and fro, wander aimlessly, take flight, run away

What is faith? Faith has two definitions: 

  1. Passive Faith or faith as a brand: our doctrine or beliefs, such as Christian faith, Catholic faith, etc.
  2. Active Faith or faith as a lifestyle in Christ: Acting on God's promise and word. Jesus is the word. 

Matthew 9:2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

Certainly, you must have "faith" in order to "faith." If you don't have a relationship with Christ and a firm foundation in correct Bible doctrine, you can't have active faith. 

To win a football game, you just can't firs focus on catching the long pass for a touchdown. You begin with training, practice, learning all the plays, being in top condition. (Show Patrick Mahomes 3 and 15 play)

People want to God to honor their prayers and faith, but have no foundation with Christ and in the Word. 

 

The prayer of faith is not magic like waving your hand a saying "Abracadabra" or "Simon Says."

When the Bible says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God," it is not talking about belonging to a faith, as in a church or religion. The text is not saying "Without being a member of XYZ church it is impossible to please God."

From time to time, we heard statements like "Faith leaders" gathered. That's a reference to Christians, Jews, and Muslims and getting together. Such gathers can serve a purpose.

However, what we need is leaders living by faith, following Christ, and doing the Word.

The second half of the verse explains it, "because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

How Does Faith Come?

Rom. 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

How does (active) faith come and grow?

Passive Listening • Passive means, “not active, but acted upon.” Passive people are generally sluggish and disengaged—believing that “whatever will be, will be.” Passive listeners only “perk up” when something is said that has the promise of easing their burdens or bringing more comfort into their lives.

A passive listener is the kind of person who ignores the importance of changing the oil in his automobile every 3000-5000 miles. Passive listeners tend to take action when trouble arises. Passive listeners tend not to act until they are acted upon. Passive listeners labor under a great number of self-inflicted problems.

Convenient Listening • Convenient is defined as, “Situated within easy reach.” The convenient listener only applies his heart to hear when the information or task is within easy reach. The best things in life are not usually within easy reach. We should not live with a sense of entitlement. We should live with a sense of purpose and responsibility. 

Jesus says something that sounds strange on first hearing, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (John 11:12). He was not talking about physical violence in this text. He was talking about being willing to take action. We call it being “proactive.” Convenient listeners do not embrace this approach to life.

Critical Listening • The word “critical” is defined as, “exhibiting the spirit of one who looks for and points out faults and defects.” Communication often fails because of critical listening that is more concerned about finding faults than in understanding the content and meaning of the message. Critical listeners are not motivated to learn and grow. Critical listeners often develop a self-righteous attitude that seeks to obtain or maintain a superior position. At the same time, such persons are often frustrated with others for not listening to them. Jesus addressed this condition:

“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you and why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:2-3)

Active Listening • Active listening allows us to hear without the limitations of passive, convenient, or critical listening. This should be our goal. “Active” is defined as: “Not waiting to be acted upon. Prepared to apply what is heard and act on it—regardless of the circumstances.”

James 1:25 says, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

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