Listen Generously- Always Encourage and Celebrate – Sermon
For me the New Testament is a blueprint on how we should be church. Other than the Gospels and Revelation, the rest are instructions to the early church. How to serve one another. How to treat one another, how to serve the community. What did the early church look like? A very potentially polarized group of people. Multiple races, cultures, traditions, cultural laws, everyone who had been fighting each other for a thousand years! Egyptians, Sumerians, Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, Romans, all mixed together in someone’s living room forming the first Christian Church in history. James instructs these people on how to listen to one another. Who thinks our country is polarized today? Well we have instructions in James on how to go about fixing this!
We need to be quick to listen and do so with your undivided attention. Minimize the distractions and let go of the need to agree or disagree. Suspend your judgment and be curious to know more rather than jumping to conclusions. Above all, listen to understand.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
This is not a new problem. It is not a social media problem; it is not an American problem. Over 3000 years ago in the Old Testament:
“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (Proverbs 18: 13)
“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” (Proverbs 12: 15)
How many times have you been having a conversation with someone, and you see the gears turning in their head, you know that as soon as you take a breath, they will jump in and tell you their idea, why you are wrong and why they are right!! Has this happened to you? Put a comment in the chat.
How did that make you feel? Where you actually being heard? Did the other person value your opinion? Did they respect your perspective? To be clear this is not about listening to agree, but instead to listen to understand. James did not suggest that we all must agree with each other, other than celebrating and worshiping Jesus the son of God!
What does it mean to listen to understand?
What or who would James want you to listen to?
Why do you think James has such a strong emphasis on your tongue?
Who remembers the Rhyme: Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me?
We were told a lie. Words are the most powerful thing, much more hurtful and destructive than any sticks or stones. They can last a lifetime!
Ideas for Action: Put aside phones and laptops. Turn off the TV or computer and face someone you love. Focus on what the other is saying; not on what you want to say. Be careful that you’re not interrupting because you’re not listening to them.
ALWAYS ENCOURAGE AND CELEBRATE.
At the beginning of this year, I had my second knee replaced. I am very grateful for the surgeons, nurses, aids, and physical therapists that took care of me. For this reason, I want to spend a little time talking about gratitude. Gratitude is a demonstrated biblical behavior highly recommended to the readers both at the time of writing and for today.
We are called to show gratitude and appreciation by regularly acknowledging the good works you see everywhere. Look for signs of spiritual growth and maturity among our members and staff. When you see it, point it out and rejoice. Pass on good reports that you hear about others.
A song of David. Psalm 138
1 To You, Lord, I give my whole heart, a heart filled with praise, for I am grateful;
before the gods, my heart sings praises to You and You alone.
2 I bow before You, looking to Your holy temple,
and praise Your name, for Your unfailing love and Your truth;
for You have placed Your name and Your word over all things and all times.
3 On the day I needed You, I called, and You responded
and infused my soul with strength.
4 May all the kings of the earth praise You, O Eternal One,
because they have heard the words You have spoken.
5 They will marvel at the Eternal’s ways, and they will sing,
for great is the glory of the Eternal.
6 Although He is greatest of all, He is attentive to the needy
and keeps His distance from the proud and pompous.
7 Whenever I walk into trouble,
You are there to bring me out.
You hold out Your hand
to protect me against the wrath of my enemies,
and hold me safely in Your right hand.
8 The Eternal will finish what He started in me.
Your faithful love, O Eternal One, lasts forever;
do not give up on what Your hands have made.
We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1: 3, 4)
Paul models encouragement and gratitude for us in a very specific way. He writes a letter to the church expressing his feelings. We read this and gloss over this lesson. Remember the New Testament is an instruction guide a Standard Operating Procedure guide for Christians! It is filled with instructions for the early church specifically and also for us.
When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. (Acts 11: 22, 23)
There are other examples of Jesus showing gratitude during his ministry as well. The early church was reminded by Paul how important this behavior is to the Christian Church throughout his writings. In the summer I get the privilege to be a leader for my church youth group. My kids have grown, and my daughter has a family of her own, yet I still choose to go each year. The reason I continue to go, is to be a part of the transformation of these kids. We take them completely out of their comfort zone with projects. Roofing, Drywall, window replacement, exterior painting on tall ladders you name it. Some kids have never even used a hammer before. We tell them to get on a high roof and replace the shingles. By the end of the week, their self-confidence is literally through the roof! The are transformed that week physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I make it a point to express my gratitude and acknowledge to each one, their hard work and facing their challenges to provide a family a better place to live.
Modern Day science has done a lot of research on the physical and emotional benefits of demonstrated gratitude!
The benefits are split into six groups:
- Emotional benefits
Make us happier
Increase psychological well-being
Enhance our positive emotions
Increase our self-esteem
Keep suicidal thoughts and attempts at bay
- Social benefits
Make people like us
Improve our romantic relationships
Improve our friendships
Increases social support
Strengthen family relationships in times of stress
- Personality benefits
Make us more optimistic
Increase our spiritualism
Make us more giving
Indicate reduced materialism
- Career benefits
Make us more effective managers
Reduce impatience and improve decision-making
Help us find meaning in our work
Contribute to reduced turnover
Improve work-related mental health and reduce stress
- Health benefits
Reduce depressive symptoms
Reduce your blood pressure
Improve your sleep
Increase your frequency of exercise
Improve your overall physical health
· Recovery: Gratitude may:
Help people recover from substance misuse
Enhance recovery from coronary health events
Facilitate the recovery of people with depression
Isn’t it cool to see biblical lessons being proven scientifically. No faith needed here. It is a scientific fact! How beneficial can this one behavior can be? The Bible teaches Gratitude, Science teaches Gratitude; however, this topic is not given much airplay! Many people take for granted what they have and want more all the time. Reminding each other of how grateful we are can make us happier, and confident in the grace that God has given each of us. Let’s show people gratitude beginning today! .. and never stop! We will only receive these benefits if we practice it!
Ideas for Action: Write a text or a note to someone close to you who just did something wonderful or important. With many details, tell them why you’re grateful or delighted by them.