We are all aware of our need to communicate—it starts early in life. In order for a baby to communicate that he needs something, he will cry. It is amazing how effective a baby can be at communicating without words. After a while, we learn our first word, and then it isn’t long before we are talking a blue-streak.
One would think that by the time we reach our adult years we would be good at communication. However, communication is more than just speaking words. Communication is also listening to what others are saying. Isn’t it amazing that many times our preconceived ideas can play into what we think someone is saying rather than what they are really saying?
I often think about how men and women communicate. Years ago, I heard Dr. Johnny Pope make the statement: “Men communicate in headlines and women in fine print!” Here is how that goes. A man comes home from work, and his wife asks, “How was your day?” He replies, “Fine!” She wants to know what happened at the office or the shop, but he just generalizes and says it was fine. A woman will ask her husband, “How does my hair look?” He will reply, “It is nice!” He thinks he is paying her a compliment, but she replies, “Oh, you don’t like it!” because he didn’t say, “I really love it,” or “It is the best hairdo ever.” In her mind he is just making a statement.
This isn’t the only way we see a breakdown of communication. Sometimes, we totally misunderstand a situation, and based on the way we think things are or perceive that they are, we respond to them. I recently preached from II Kings 5 where we find the story of Naaman, the captain of the host of the king of Syria. The Bible says he was a leper, and the little Hebrew maid spoke about the man of God, the prophet Elisha, that could heal the leprosy.
When the king got word that the prophet in Israel could heal leprosy, he sent a letter to the king of Israel saying that he was sending his captain for the king to heal. The king of Israel thought the king of Syria was picking a fight with him. What the king of Israel didn’t consider was that there was a man of God, a prophet named Elisha, that could help. Elisha sent word that the king should direct the captain to his home. More misunderstanding happens when the captain shows up. Elisha doesn’t come out himself; there is no fanfare, just a messenger. A servant of Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River in order to be healed. The Bible tells us that Naaman was in a rage. Why was he so angry? Because he thought that the man of God would come out personally to meet with such an important person as himself. He thought he was worthy of that kind of treatment. After all, he was in charge of the king of Syria’s army. He was also put off by the dirty Jordan River. In his mind, the rivers in Damascus were better than the dirty Jordan River.
God was communicating to the captain, and God used those that accompanied the captain to further His communication. They reasoned with him saying that if Elisha had given him some difficult thing to do, he would have done it—why not try this simple thing? He humbled himself and did what he was told, and God healed him.
It is often our human pride that gets in the way of our communication. Pride breaks down our ability to hear properly. Many times our hearts are hardened by sin and that keeps us from hearing and communicating properly.
Truthfully, the greatest element in communication is not our mouth, our brain, our lips or our tongue—it is our heart. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 15:8, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” Matthew 15:11, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”
Here are a few ideas to keep our communication from breaking down:
- Listen more than you speak. Really listen to what is being said. Let a person explain what he is seeing, feeling and hearing.
- Ask God for wisdom in response to critical times of communication. As a preacher, it is imperative that I communicate properly, effectively and powerfully. I can’t do that without the help of the Lord. If you are a teacher, parent, spouse, employee, or employer, we must communicate well. Ask God for His help.
- When you have made a communication mistake, whether it is what you have said or in misunderstanding what you have heard, take responsibility. Don’t act as if it isn’t important. Make sure that you are able to communicate with those people you deal with on a regular basis.
- Saturate your heart with the Word of God and fellowship with the Lord. That will do more to keep your heart right and help you with good and sound speech than anything else.
On July 4, America celebrated its’ 238th birthday; it is a day that every true, freedom-loving American celebrates and appreciates. My wife, Denise, and I really enjoy spending time with our grandchildren. Recently, we were able to spend time with our grandchildren that live in another city. While with them, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered their decision on what is being dubbed the “Hobby Lobby Case.” The Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby stores, are ardent followers of Christ. As such, they felt that the Affordable Health Care Act and the mandate that employers provide contraceptives and drugs to induce abortions along with their insurance coverage was a violation of their religious principles. Because of their strong religious beliefs, they felt that they should not be required to provide this coverage for their employees. They felt so strongly that they were willing to stand up against the Federal Government and resist this portion of Affordable Health Care Act. The case made its way through the Federal Court system, finally winding up at the Supreme Court. The decision siding with the Green family and the Hobby Lobby Corporation was a very important decision.
For a while now, I have been thinking that the America I grew up in as a boy no longer exists. The America my grandchildren are inheriting is vastly different. I would never have thought that, as a boy growing up in America, our nation would be where we are morally, ethically, and spiritually. Who would have thought thirty-years ago that a corporation would have to bring a suit against the federal government to stop from having to provide abortion-inducing drugs? When I was a boy, I would never have envisioned a day in America when over 50 percent of the households would be unmarried. When I was growing up, it was considered sinful for people to live together without being married. Today what once was wicked has now become fashionable and accepted in this decadent society. Who would have thought we would have a federal government that refuses to enforce the law when it comes to marriage? Less than twenty-years ago the Defence of Marriage Act, DOMA, became federal law. In short, it said that states wouldn’t recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. Attorney General Eric Holder, a high-ranking cabinet member of President Obama’s administration, has refused to defend this law. In fact, we now have a President and administration that is working hard to grant special rights to the LGTB groups. These groups have an agenda, and they are diligently working to get their agenda enacted and are determined to go after individuals or groups that oppose them. They are equating their struggle to another form of civil rights. When, in reality, they have the same rights that you and I have; however, they want the right to redefine marriage and morality.
The Bible makes the statement in Psalms 11:3, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Let me give you a few things that we can and should be doing.
- We can and should be praying for America every day. Put our nation and its moral and spiritual deliverance high on your prayer list. Prayer is important.
- It is important that Christians continue standing up for righteousness in this society. When we believe that God clearly spoke in His Word against all kinds of sexual immorality, we must continue to preach and proclaim what God has said.
- It is important that we live righteous lives and that we seek to have the power of God upon our lives. It is important that we don’t live cloistered lives inside the four walls of the church. We need to be out in the community showing folks the love of Christ.
- It is important to share Christ in personal soul winning.
- It is important that we teach our children and grandchildren that the truths of God’s Word transcend culture and laws.
These things will help us in our battle with this godless, immoral culture in which we live and that our children and grandchildren will inherit.
I realize that these may be the last days before Christ’s coming. Obviously, some generation will have to be the last generation before His return. However, there is something that Christ has told every generation of believers to do—He said “Occupy till I come!” The word “occupy” means that we are to be busy conducting His business until He comes! Even the last generation before His return should be busy. Let’s be busy for Him today!
One of my favorite Scripture passages in the gospels has to do with the Lord’s teaching on prayer found in Luke 18:1-8. The first verse states the Lord’s purpose, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” The purpose of this parable was to encourage God’s people in the matter of praying; it was also to give them an incentive not to quit praying. The parable is told of a widow that went to a judge to seek his help in a matter. In the beginning, he evidently didn’t give this woman any help. Perhaps he said, “I don’t have time, nor am I interested in this matter; goodbye.” The parable indicates that this woman didn’t take “No” for an answer. It seems that she was determined to get this judge to respond to her need in a positive way. The idea is that she was there continually.
I get the idea that she was there when the judge arrived for work and would speak to him on his way into the court room. Maybe she was there during his recess and would speak to him about her need and case. Perhaps she was there when he headed home. Finally, the judge said, “While I don’t fear God or regard the person of man, I am going to grant this woman’s request lest she continue badgering me and wearying me with her continual coming.” Then the Lord goes on to say, “…shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him…” That is a rhetorical question; the obvious answer is, of course, He will avenge His own elect.
Let me give you some prayer lessons from this passage.
- God expects us to pray. It is obvious from this passage that our Lord is encouraging us to pray.
- God knows, as human beings, we tend to quit when things don’t immediately happen as we ask. We are told here to keep on praying and not to quit. The indication is that there are times when God is going to stretch out the praying time and delay His response.
- God rewards those who continue praying.
- We know that God isn’t giving us a lesson that we can have whatever we want as long as we pray long enough and endure enough—that is not the case. It is obvious that we are talking about something that is within the framework of God’s plan for us. He wants us to pray and pray and pray some more.
In my own life, I have found that God wants me to pray about His power for ministry. We need to know that the key to accomplishing things for God is not found in better programs or slick marketing techniques. While there is nothing wrong with programs or making sure the literature produced is first class, what we really need is the power of God upon our lives. That doesn’t come unless we are praying. There is a price to be paid to have God’s power.
Whatever your problem may be, it is a problem that God wants you to pray about. There are times when God puts things in our lives that cannot be dealt with any other way than by prayer and seeking Him. Let me encourage you to learn from this parable—God wants you to pray and pray and pray some more.
Next to my salvation and my relationship with God, nothing is more important to me as my relationship with my family. I am very blessed to have grown up in a healthy, spiritual family. My parents were saved before my birth, and early in my infancy started attending this church and hearing preaching from the Bible. That Bible-preaching and teaching helped them in their marriage, and certainly, in the teaching and training of us, their children.
I was a young Bible college student when I met and married my wife. We weren’t married long, about six months, when we found out that Denise was going to have our first son. Kevin was born as I was entering my final year of Bible college. It was a challenge to work, go to school, be a husband and father, and be involved in ministry. Yet God enabled me. I wish I could tell you that I was a perfect parent, but the truth is, I made a lot of mistakes as a young father. However, God is good; we were able to raise three fine sons. Our sons are all married to good, godly women, and they have given us ten grandchildren. It is a wonderful time when our entire family is together, and we get to laugh and tease and just thank God together for His blessings.
As a pastor, I do a lot of counselling, and I realize that there are a lot of people that have what we can call a dysfunctional family. A lot of this dysfunction is because people get saved later in life, and they lived a worldly life before their salvation. As a result, they made a lot of mistakes that carry over to family relationships. In spite of their salvation, the long-term damage is done and some things are not easily repaired. By the grace of God and through His mercy, God is able to help them do better.
No matter what your family situation is, let me give you a few thoughts that will help.
- We should live for the future in our families. Every decision we make as believers ought to be made with the thought of how that choice will impact the future of our family. The reason many families are in a mess is because they make decisions based on the moment and not on the long term.
- Live with a short memory toward mistakes of the past. Forgiveness for past transgressions and mistakes is essential in every family. While we might be hurt and bear marks from the past, God forgives us, and we must forgive one another.
- Love your children unconditionally. It doesn’t matter how old they are; your children are still your children and are to be loved. You might not like their choices, and you might not be able to approve of their lifestyle; however, they still need to know they are loved.
- Continually pray for your family. The devil is very smart, and he is constantly looking for ways to divide. It is important that we pray a hedge of protection around our marriage and our children. I pray every day, and at times throughout the day, for my wife, children and grandchildren.
- Live in such a way that your children are never ashamed to say that you are their parent. My dad died a few years ago, and I shared with him while he was dying that I was so proud to say that I was never ashamed to call him my dad. He lived a credible and very authentic Christian life. I want to leave my children and grandchildren the same legacy!
We need to get back to working on our homes and families. This is where the battle for the future is won or lost. As you wage the cultural war, remember that God and children are worth fighting and living for!