Tag Archives: Listening

All the Difference

The third time the disciples saw Jesus after He came back to life, it happened like this:

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. …  (John 21:4-7a)

This wasn’t just a startling way for Jesus to identify Himself.  Jesus didn’t spread His arms and shout, “Ta Da!”  It was a lesson for them, a lesson for us.   If you want to work with Jesus, pay attention to what He tells you to do.  It makes all the difference.   Notice, I said, “If you want to work WITH Jesus,” not, “work FOR Jesus.”  That too makes all the difference.  Jesus had taught His disciples:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.   (John 15:5)

Nothing.  A nice round number with a hole in it.  If you decide to work FOR Jesus, you will probably accomplish nothing.  That is, unless you pay close attention to what He tells you to do, in which case you will be working WITH Jesus.  A friend of mine used to say, “Always ride a horse in the direction he is going.”  The same principle applies for those who would work with Jesus.  And that makes all the difference.

Anger Danger

When people talk about our Presidential campaign process it is usually with a mixture of dismay and disgust. How did we get here?  The word most frequently used to explain the chaotic turn of events is “anger.”  Voters have become so angry with what has and has not been happening in our government that they latch on to candidates who seem to share their sense of anger.  It is happening on both the left and right sides of the aisle.

But watch out!  Anger is understandable, but rarely a reliable starting place for developing effective solutions.  They say, if you want to win a fist fight, make your opponent angry.  In his anger he will make mistakes.  If we vote for those who simply sound angry, we will likely have to live with their mistakes.

Anger is frequently caused by feeling misunderstood.  Trouble is, anger also leads us to stop listening to one another, to less understanding and then to more anger.  That is why so often in our, so-called, debates, more than one candidate shouts at the same time, neither one listening to the other.  Without listening and genuinely seeking to find common areas of understanding, it is impossible to work together toward solutions.

Consider this:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  –  (James 1:19–20 (NIV84))

Instead of voting for someone who merely sounds angry, what about voting for someone who thoughtfully listens and then seeks a real solution to what has made you angry?

The Trouble with Democrats… and Republicans

Next time you are arguing about politics (or anything else…) pay attention to what is going on in your mind when the other guy is speaking.  Most people spend that time putting together their next argument and mentally rehearsing it, while only halfheartedly listening to what is being said to them.  They may hear a word here and there, enough to get the gist of what they assume the other person is saying.  And when they get a chance to reply, the same thing happens in reverse.  Which is why arguments are rarely constructive.  Nobody is listening.

James, the brother of Jesus wrote this good advice:


My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,…” –  (James 1:19 (NIV84))

Real listening is more than registering noises in one’s ears.  Listening means attempting to truly understand the emotions and meanings being conveyed.  Real listening has not happened until you can restate what you heard, in your own words, to the other person’s satisfaction.  That last part is the key.  The idea is for them to look startled and relieved, with the realization that you really understood it, your really got it.  If you work for that to happen, before you state your positionthen you will have a better chance of being understood, too.  But as long as two people simply lob angry slogans at one another, without listening, not much is accomplished.

It seems to me that much of the hostility and divisiveness we experience in our culture could be reduced or even eliminated by the simple act of listening.  Real listening.  Give it a try and see if James wasn’t right.  Be quick to listen and slow to speak.  And slow to get angry, too…

“…for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  –  (James 1:20 (NIV84)

Danger! Parables at Work

Would Jesus deliberately disguise or hide the truth from some people?  That’s a question His disciples asked and you might be surprised at the answer.  If you have a bible, turn to the 13th chapter of Matthew and listen to the audio clips below.  I’ve sliced and diced an original message into 5 bite-sized chunks, so you can fit them into your schedule flexibly


It would be helpful to me to know how this different blog format worked for you.  Did you have any problems listening?  Were the individual sections too long or too short?  Any other suggestions or feedback?  I may not be able to respond or post all of the responses, but please know I’ll read them and take them into consideration.

Affair Protection

Is your marriage vulnerable?  Might one of you have an affair?  There is a very simple and yet powerful way to protect it.  It’s found in just one verse in the Book of James.  If you actually do what this says, you could “affair-proof” your marriage.  This verse is easy to understand but hard to remember to do because it runs contrary to human nature.

Here it is:

” My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19)

When you are in a conversation that is even slightly adversarial, while your partner is speaking, isn’t it true that you seem to listen, but are really thinking through how you are going to respond?  Coming up with some killer logic, so you can win the argument and emerge the victor?  That is what most people do. It’s human nature.

But if, instead, you put aside your own thoughts and rebuttals and actively try to understand what your partner really means and also how they really feel, you will be amazed at how it changes things.  If, before you respond with your own thoughts, you take a moment to make sure you really have understood your partner, understood him or her to their satisfaction, that one little move will really calm the storm.

But it gets better than that, especially in a marriage.  When people “fall in love” they spend a lot of time listening to one another and really trying to understand one another.  It’s a key ingredient in romance.  Think back to your first dates if you don’t believe me.  When a marriage goes stale, if one partner begins to listen – really listen – in an active and interested way, it’s amazing how quickly that one simple thing can begin to restore the lost romance.  It’s like maple syrup on pancakes.

Listening to really understand your partner is an effective way to “affair-proof” your marriage.  Most affairs do not begin with sex.  They begin with listening.  When someone seems really interested in you.  You know the old line: “My spouse doesn’t understand me…”  And it goes from there…

Marriage counselors charge $100 an hour – maybe more.  Apply James 1:19 and you can save a bunch of money.  Probably save your marriage, too.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.