“Listen Generously” Kelly LePenske

WAY #3. LISTEN GENEROUSLY.

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. Scriptures: James 1: 19, 20; Proverbs 18:13; Proverbs 12:15

IF YOU’RE ANYTHING LIKE ME (aka human), chances are high that you’ve interrupted someone, raised your voice when you’ve lost your patience, or you’ve jumped to conclusions before hearing the rest of the story. We resort to this kind of behavior not because we want to, but because we’re so wrapped up in ourselves. Our time. Our agendas. Our egos. Our pain.

What would happen if you slowed down for a moment to cherish the person in front of you? What if you surrendered the need to be right or to get your way? What if, instead of treating someone as a means to your end, you simply treated them as a person deeply loved by God? If this sounds too difficult, maybe a good place to start is by remembering that God deeply loves you, even on your messiest days.

In 1 Samuel 1, a depressed woman named Hannah goes to the temple to pray. It’s the same temple where Eli works, the local high priest. Hannah’s been unable to have children for years, and because others have mocked her for just as long, she’s deeply depressed. When she begins to talk to God, praying passionately but quietly, Eli watches her from the sidelines. Instead of showing Hannah pastoral compassion when she’s visibly upset or listening to understand, Eli interrupts her prayer. Surely her mumbling confirms that she’s drunk! And there’s no room in the temple, or on Eli’s watch, for a woman like her.

When Eli confronts Hannah, she tells him the rest of the story: “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. I have been speaking out of my great anxiety all this time.” Man… even high priests get it wrong sometimes! And so do we when we’re quick to dismiss the person right in front of us. Listen generously this week. It could transform someone’s heart, even your own.

Kelly LePenske


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“Speak the Truth with Love” Pastor Spencer

WAY #2. SPEAK THE TRUTH WITH LOVE. Speak honestly and directly in a way that clearly reflects love and support for one another. Be courageous enough to say what needs to be said, even when it’s difficult Address issues directly with those who are involved or affected; speak to, not about, others.
(Read: Ephesians 4: 29; Ephesians 4: 31; Ephesians 4: 15)
 
“You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” Some of us of a certain age may recall this tag line from an old television ad for Fram Oil Filters. A mechanic wiped his greasy hands as he spoke to the camera, “I just replaced his engine. He’ll pay me a lot for it. He could have spent $10 for a new oil filter and saved himself a bunch. You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” You’ll pay the mechanic, now or later. As a general rule, you’ll pay more later.
 
I think this rule applies to relationships — spouses, children, parents, siblings, staff, and church members. You’ll pay more later than earlier but there’s always a bill to pay. I’m referring to conflict. Because we’re a collection of redeemed sinners, we can expect disagreements, disputes and somebody having a bad day around here. This means that conflicts are coming to First Presbyterian Church of Moorestown.
 
A member of a former church of mine is an attorney. He has no problem with conflict. He deals with it every day. He might even love conflict. I don’t, and I’m not alone. I don’t know where God falls on the love-hate continuum with conflict; I do know that God uses conflict and often redeems us by helping us grow up in the thick of it. That’s why this Way is critical in building up our congregation. Way #2 encourages us to “pay early” by speaking “honestly and directly in way that clearly reflects love and support for one another.” When someone speaks to me this way, and a few of you have, I’ll always welcome your words. I’d rather hear from you than see you disappear because you’d prefer to avoid the tough conversation. Hard conversations only getting harder, not easier, as time passes. You pay me later than you will earlier. Just listen to the car mechanic.
 
Stuart Spencer, Pastor

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“Creating an Atmosphere Thick With Love”

As a prisoner of the Lord, I urge you: Live a life that is worthy of the calling He has graciously
extended to you. Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love. – Ephesians 4: 1 – 2, The Voice

IN MAY OF 2018 when I began my ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Moorestown I had three words in mind: Ready, Aim, Fire. “Ready” refers to culture. I wanted to understand the atmosphere of this church to help shape a strong and healthy culture. “Aim” means the work of creating strategy and vision. “Fire” is when we take action on our strategy. Just as we wisely aim before we fire, or implement our strategy; we ready ourselves before aiming.
There is a proverb from the business world and attributed to Peter Drucker that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Whatever plans you may have and no matter how gifted your leaders may be, the culture of an organization both dominates what is done and dictates the future.
 
Not long after I started my ministry I met a Moorestown resident and businessman named David Friedman, president of High Performing Culture and author of Culture by Design. David now works with corporations and non-profits to help create healthy cultures. He has kindly and generously offered his services, free of charge, to our church.
To me, the work of culture-creating is deeply rooted in the teachings of the New Testament. There are some 60 commands that include the words “one another” found throughout the New Testament. These are commands to form a culture that honors the Lord Jesus Christ and creates an atmosphere where fellowship and mission can flourish.
Throughout this fall, I have been working closely with our staff and Session and received input from our Deacons and Trustees on this matter of our culture. We’ve created 25 culture statements or “ways” that identify and describe the kind of church we want to be.
 
Here’s the first “way” with some scriptural references:
 
BE THIRD. God is first, others are second, and you’re third. Don’t just think about your own interests, but be interested in others.  Don’t think less of yourself; just think of yourself less and others more.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (Philippians 2: 4)  “And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.  I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”
(John 13: 14, 15)
 
Be sure to be in worship on Sunday, January 13th. At both services, we will share our 25 culture or way statements. I will preach on the biblical and theological basis for this exciting work. You will receive a copy of all our FPCM ways with information about how to learn more as we start to live these principles together.

May the Holy Spirit create an atmosphere thick with love here.
Stuart Spencer, Pastor


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