Tag: parenting

7 Tips for Listening to Sermons

I sat across my wife, Robyn, at Sunday lunch a few weeks ago. As we started to eat, she turned to me and asked, “Could we talk more about the sermon this morning and each week?” The question seemed straightforward. Then she added, “I would like to hear what you think and some Sundays we rarely mention it after service.”

Recalling the last few Sundays at lunch with Robyn, my mind raced from the morning sermon to the next part of the day. She rightly pointed out a missed opportunity. We could share about areas God challenged us to grow in a setting both of us experienced.

Listening to a sermon invites to a community conversation and can deepen our understanding of a passage. It allows us a chance to talk to each other about spiritual matters in our lives because we can respond to a shared experience. It calls on us to process how the Bible relates to our lives.

You may want to understand the Bible in deeper and more significant ways. You might desire to have a more meaningful dialogue with others about following Jesus.  Listening to sermons can bring these opportunities to you. Here are seven tips to for listening to sermons:

1. Take Notes.

In the last couple weeks, I have started taking notes on YouVersion. This app allows churches to input the points from the speaker. I have found myself focusing on what the speaker says about the point, rather than trying to write out the point. Other people using the app like having online storage rather than paper.

Whether you use paper and pen or an app, you retain more by taking notes. You can go back to your notes during the week or in conversation.

2. Focus in on the Reading of the Passage.

When the speaker or pastor begins to read the Scripture, follow along. You may want to highlight or underline verses that you have questions. Certain words or phrases might jump off the page. I like to add a date of the sermon in the passage, so when I come back, I can recall it.

3. Recognize the Cues.

At certain points of the sermon, the speaker might signal an important insight in understanding the passage. Here a few cues to identify:

Definitions – The speaker unpacks the original meaning of a word in Greek or Hebrew.
Biblical References – Note the additional passages mention and the idea associated with them. You can go back later and re-read the passage.
Context – Consider the back story of the passage and what other events surrounded it. Why did the author write this? Who is the audience? These insights can help a passage become more relevant.

When you hear these cues, make note of it. You might even want to highlight the verse associated with it.

4. Utilize a Group Guide.

Often, churches will provide group guides for small groups. You may want to have one with you during service looking at the questions. After the sermon, you can even answer the questions personally before going to a group.

5. Post on Social Media.

Social Media invites us to a further conversation. A point or Scripture passage might have come alive. Posting can reaffirm the same point that others have heard. It adds to the community element. Share a picture on Instagram. Use the series #hashtag in a Twitter post. Check-In to the church with Facebook.

6. Re-Listen to the Sermon.

Take time to listen to a podcast or watch the video. You can do this in the office or when driving in the car.

7. Discuss the Sermon.

Just like Robyn encouraged me to do, talk about the sermon. You might listen to the sermon with a family member or friend. Use this opportunity to share and hear from them. Small groups give you an opportunity process the passage together. You can use these two questions to start a conversation:

What questions did you have?
What point stuck out the most?
What challenged you?
How will you respond to this passage?

What tip would you offer for listening to a sermon? Share in the comment section below.

Photo by Aaron Burden.

Reads of the Week | 02/13/2016

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Start your weekend with these five articles in the Reads of the Week.

Touchdown Jesus: Johnny Football’s Fall before the Altar of Icon by Valerie Dunham

The best article that you read about Johnny Manziel. Dunham phenomenally observes our cultural objectifying of athletes. She brings a fresh and redeeming perspective to this issue.

For All the “World-Changers” Now Driving a Minivan by Ashley Hales

I think many of us struggle with the view of our ordinary life compared to our dreams of changing the world. Read from Ashley Hales in this article:

Maybe vocation and calling is so much more than an equation to figure out. And maybe calling is big and vocation is small. Because calling is simple, but it’s fathoms deep. It’s borne out of knowing who I am—not the smart version, but simply the loved child of Jesus. My self-narrative is only this: I am the beloved child of God. He delights in me.

The Lord Is My Shepherd or Predator? by Knut H. Heim

We have memorized and repeated Psalm 23. Heim delves into the background of this famous passage and helps us contextualize it for the 21st Century.

Tweens’ take on Valentine’s Day: Get over yourselves, grown-ups by Petula Dvorak

What happens when a columnist asks tweens about love and Valentine’s Day? Dvorak fascinatingly looks into the perspective of 12-13-year-olds.

What Christians Forget about Work by Aaron Armstrong

Armstrong reflects on the redemptive aspect of work in our lives. It’s not something God meant for us to avoid, but a space where we can experience life in Him.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Roman Mager.

Reads of the Week | 12/05/2015

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These five reads from this past week challenged, encouraged, and provided perspective for me. Check them out for yourself.

Thanks to the Internet, Everyone is a Storyteller by Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff gives three ideas of using the internet to connect with your kids. Part of the genius of this article is your children can learn a little bit about your childhood and connect with you.

7 Habits of Leaders Who Inspire Loyalty by Harvey Deutschendorf

Harvey Deutschendorf provides seven habits of awareness of others. Inspire loyalty within teams means genuinely listening and taking time for others in our homes and workplaces.

The Legacy of George F. Johnson and the Square Deal by Guy Raz

I’m giving a little homage to my hometown, Endicott, NY. This article and radio story share about George F. Johnson, who brought business to my hometown.

Were you lonely when you were a freshman? by Brian Doyle

Doyle recounts his freshman year of college. His authentic reflection reminds us of the loneliness around us.

Always Advent and Never Christmas by Andie Roeder Moody

A call to recapture the celebration of Advent. Moody gives insight into the context of this season and provides practical thoughts on making the most of the season.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

The Question Behind the Question

Questions rarely come out of nowhere. Think of when your child asked a deep or meaningful question about life. Perhaps, a friend sitting with you at coffee paused and then reluctantly posed one to you. You might have received a text message that you could not respond to another text.

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You might have heard it said, “Don’t answer my question with a question.” True, this adage makes sense for direct and “yes” or “no” questions. At other times, a question is an invitation to a significant aspect of another’s life. When we answer too quickly, we can run the risk of not understanding.

The most meaningful questions people ask result from a deeper place and even hours of processing it in their mind. They might have a story to tell. Maybe, they care far less about your answer and just want you to listen. To immediately reply, misses the “why” of the ask in the first place.

So the next time someone asks you a deeper question, here’s a few steps to understand what might lie behind it:

1. Pause

Sometimes, we talk too soon. Let the silence settle. Take the time to digest what the person has asked of you. They might even have more to say. You could miss that if you immediately talk.

2. Affirm

Consider when you ask a significant question. It requires courage and authenticity. Identify those characteristics in others. Value their journey and process, then share what you affirm in them.

3. Understand

Don’t miss the opportunity. Just ask them, “Can you help me understand what’s behind that question?” Let them tell you more. Providing the space of listening allows them to process and for you to have context.

4. Respond

Not every question needs an answer. Often, we find people need space to share. Consider what they have said to you and offer perspective. If you don’t have a answer, don’t offer one. On the other hand, if you have insight look to connect with them.

It’s a gift when someone asks you a meaningful question. Let’s not miss the opportunity to build the relationship. Discover the question behind the question.

Photo credit by Vadim Sherbakov.

Comparison

A friend provided a powerful observation. He said, “I realized I was not (Insert the name of a famous leader).” On the surface, a comment like that can sound disappointing. If you heard him say it, you could sense his freedom. That comment relieves unrealistic expectations.

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Comparison defeats us before we start. It causes us to procrastinate because we never add up to others. It can cause us to wallow in our self-critique. Consider these statements we say to ourselves:
I’ll never change the world like that person.
That mom has it all together, and I can barely keep up with my kids.
Their marriage is so in sync while my spouse and I nitpick.
They influence way more people than I ever could.
It comes so easy to them.
I’ll never be as talented or skilled as that person.

Worst of all, comparison blinds us to the grace of Christ. God created you with gifts. The Greek word for gifts in the New Testament is charismata (I Peter 4:7), literally meaning “grace-gift.” Why does that matter? Every ability, talent, and resource we have results from Christ’s work in us.

The Gospel frees us from the lies of comparison. Our worth shifts with our evaluation with others. When we recognize Christ’s grace, we can begin to realize His unconditional love for us and others. No longer do we have to feel the trap of adding up. We can accept who Christ has made us to be. This acceptance allows see the opportunities in front of us to serve and love others.

How do we being to move past comparison? I think it starts with the statement my friend made. Fill in this blank:

I realize I am not (Insert Person’s Name You Compare Yourself).

That awareness brings us to ask God, “What have You called me to do?” We can then begin to identify how Christ has gifted us. In using those gifts, others around us can experience God’s grace. What would change in our lives if we accepted the gifts God has given us and the place He has called us? I think we would recognize His presence and the opportunities He has put in front of us.

A freedom from comparison leads us to collaborate rather than isolate. We no longer have to look others as competitors. Rather we can recognize God’s gifting in them. In understanding how God has created us, we can even ask them for assistance in our weak areas. A community marked by grace empowers others.

What would change in your life if you didn’t compare yourself with others? How has God gifted you? What opportunities has He given you today to experience His grace?

Photo credit by Matthew Weibe.

Reads of the Week | 11/28/2015

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I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. This installment of Reads of the Week feature the five guest bloggers. Each one of these posts provided a remarkable insight into gratitude, perspective, and relationships. If you missed any of them, click the links below to check them out.

The Tin Man Drops His Axe by Janna Moss

Your Life Will Never be the Same by Elaine Englert

What Do You Say? by John Iamaio

A Thanksgiving Reflection by Michael Keys

I’m Thankful for Dental Floss…Really! by Robyn Englert

What were your reads of the week? Share the link below in the comment section.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

A Thanksgiving Reflection | Guest Post by Mike Keys

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from Mike Keys. He’s married and a father of three. You can find him mentoring young leaders at Browncroft Community Church and cheering on the Buffalo Bills.

What an incredible year. Our sons will finish college. Our daughter got married to a remarkable young man, and my son Jeremy will get married this spring! So much to be thankful for, so much to look back on and so much ahead. I often reflect on the past and see the twists and turns my family and myself have experienced.

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The hand of God is everywhere once we start looking. Many decisions along the way have shaped, prepared, and changed me through the twists and turns of life. What college to attend, who to date, who to marry, drugs or no drugs, what career path.

What is most amazing is how at each turn there were significant people in my life to guide me and influence me and help me find the right path. To think all these individuals were coincidental is just fantasy. God providentially placed them in my path at each critical juncture to move me along.

It is for these individuals that I am most grateful. Their support, their honesty, the way they lived their lives.
At 12 it was a man named Bill who told me never to feel sorry for myself.
At 15 it was Herb, my biology teacher, friend and mentor. He took the time to know me and included me in his family. His influence kept me out of trouble when trouble was everywhere around me.
At 18 it was Mr. LaPre, another teacher. He believed I would do great things and told me so. He had more faith in me than I did at the time.
At 21 it was my two closest friends Andy and Andy, yes both my best friends are named Andy. They encouraged me to take chances with my career and gave me the confidence to follow my dreams instead of what I always knew.
At 25 it was my bride, supporting me as a young father to get more involved with our children. 

I could go on and on and on. These people and many others have significantly impacted my life. Someday I will write a book about My Great Friends.

Yes, it is people at the end of the day that I am most grateful. It is people that motivate me to be better but more important they motivate me to invest in others. I am at my best when I am pursuing relationships and encouraging others.

My hope for each of us today is that we begin to see all the gifts God has bestowed upon us through others. God Bless you. Happy Thanksgiving, Mike.

Photo credit by Abigail Keenan.

What Do You Say? | Guest Post by John Iamaio

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from John Iamaio. He’s married with two kids living in the Rochester area. Besides avidly following the Buffalo Bills, he serves as an Area Director for Cru Rochester. Follow him on his blog at https://johniamaio.wordpress.com/.

Since becoming a parent ten years ago, I have realized there are certain phrases locked into my subconscious that could only understand once I became a father. Who knew I would be the guy saying “If all your friends jumped off a bridge…” or the classic “because I said so, that’s why!”

One of the first times I could tell this part of I unlocked this part of my brain is when I started asking the question “What do you say?”

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There are two occasions when I utter these words. The first is after an egregious error on the part of a child (i.e., they hit another youngster with a blunt object). I want my kids to realize the pain they have caused. Their appropriate response in this scenario is “I’m sorry”.

The second time these words leave my lips is when someone has been gracious to my child. Perhaps their aunt has just crocheted them a brand new Snoopy sweater. Regardless of what the child is feeling inside, I instantly find myself asking, “What do you say?” In this case, the goal is to create a spirit of gratitude.

Does forcing your kid to say “Thank you” actually inspire inner thankfulness? Ummm… I have no idea! I’m not thinking when I say the words, remember?! The real question is “Why do we need a reminder to be thankful at all?”

Upon casual observation, it would seem that we are not naturally grateful people. Thankfulness is learned. It is something cultivated in our lives.

As we mature, many of us become accustomed to expressing thanks for gifts we have received or acts of service performed for us. This is a good thing. Having someone over your shoulder repeating the phrase “What do you say?” could get annoying.

Over the last few years, I have realized there is another level to thankfulness. It goes beyond being thankful for the “good” things in my life. It’s an ability to ask myself the question “What do you say?” even in difficult times. Every weakness, every trial, every failure is an opportunity to express a grateful heart. In the end, those experiences have shaped me as much as all the blessings and any success.

Dealing with a seizure disorder when I was young, made me keenly aware that life can be out of control. Working for uncaring bosses developed a sense of what it is like to feel unappreciated. Experiencing broken relationships, taught me that loneliness hurts. The list goes on and on.

In each of those cases (and many more), the negative circumstances I experienced gave me a slight appreciation of the deep hurts and wounds that people carry around in their lives. They have also shaped me into the person I am today.

Maybe our parents were right. Perhaps our lives would be happier if we learned to ask the question “What do you say?” a little bit more.

Photo credit by Arthur Rutkowski.

Your Life Will Never be the Same | Guest Post by Elaine Englert

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from Elaine Englert, my Mom. She and my Dad reside in Endicott, NY. You can find her teaching water aerobics at the YMCA and blogging for them at http://ymcabroome.org/blog/.  She’s the Mother of my brother, sister, and myself along with our spouses, most importantly the Grandma of my niece.

“Your life will never be the same!” Those words still ring as clearly in my ears as when I heard them in 1988. My six-year-old daughter’s oncologist’s eyes filled with compassion, as he described the pineapple-size tumor on her kidney, the treatment plan, and her future.
A few days later, I stood facing the hospital window to shield my daughter from the tears chasing down my cheeks. Way down on the sidewalk below, I saw people bustling about the ordinary events of their ordinary day on a sunny late April day.

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My ordinary days ended on Monday, a week and a half earlier in the pediatrician’s office. It was just a fever in a little girl who only once needed antibiotics. The doctor examined her and slipped out the room. He returned holding a stack of orders for the hospital across the street. When he pressed them in my hand, I saw “STAT” written on top and deep concern etched in his kind face. I held tight to Susan and took the last steps in the safety of the familiar. I tried to swallow dread as hard as a rock as we walked through the hospital doors. After hours of tests, someone told me they were admitting her. My husband rushed back from a trip and arrived soon after. Thursday evening I viewed the scans that gave the cancer a name, Wilms Tumor. The doctor sent Susan home the next morning and instructed us to have her at a hospital an hour away on Sunday afternoon to prepare for surgery on Monday.

Susan endured countless pokes and needle sticks during her 11-day stay. On the 10th day, Susan had her first round of chemotherapy. My confident little girl grew withdrawn and rarely spoke. Nothing in my 30 years prepared me to watch my child suffer so intensely and feel so helpless to help. When we got home, we returned to a daily routine, but 60 weeks of chemo cycles stole the ordinary. I was a wreck.

During this time, the Lord and I had many tear-filled conversations. I entrusted Susan and my fears into His care only to grab them back in the next crisis. Though I directed most of my anger at myself for missing a 4-pound tumor and for my spiritual shortcomings, one night I called God out as my daughter writhed in pain that could not be soothed, “I am her parent; as her parent how can You allow your little girl to suffer?”

The Lord waited for my honesty and brokenness to reveal His Father-heart for me. He called me to journal one gratitude daily, no matter how many difficulties filled those 24 hours. On the days I struggled to find anything, I often found the blessing in the ordinary. I scribbled down a word that my 23-month-old added to his vocabulary. I celebrated all five members of our family sitting around the dinner table. Other days, I journaled about His mercies when the doctor discovered Susan’s cancer. In only 10% of Wilms cases do patients run a fever like the one prompting me to make a doctor’s appointment. Susan’s surgery was delayed a few days because the surgeon was attending a conference on Wilms. We had people praying literally around the world for Susan. Friends, neighbors and church family, stepped in and met needs for food, rides, child-care. Our pastor called a day of fasting and prayer for Susan shortly after that sleepless night. From that day on, things improved for Susan.

The most enduring entries included verses others shared to encourage me or verses the Lord pointed out to me in my daily times with Him. They anchored my soul in the storm and revealed His desire for a relationship with me, his daughter. My life was never the same when I finally found rest in his “chesed,” the Hebrew word, often translated, as his steadfast love.
Psalm 107:28-29, 31 (ESV) best expresses my thanksgiving to Him:
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still….
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love….”

On an extraordinary day, this past March, nearly 27 years later, Susan married her beloved, Ben. Tears of joy chased down the cheeks of many…mine mixed with tears of gratitude to my Father.

Photo credit by Alex Jones

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