Are You Really Listening?

You would most likely agree with me that we live in a very noisy, disruptive world. Groups and individuals are clamoring to express their positions and perspectives. Many times it seems that rather than pursuing healthy and constructive dialogue, the goal is to see who can shout the loudest and longest.

Something seems to be missing in this tsunamic cacophony: the art of listening with discernment. Several years ago, I came across this helpful illustration that emphasizes the importance of attentive listening.

Back in the days when the telegraph was the fastest method of long distance communication, a young man applied for a job as a Morse Code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the office that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, busy office filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background.

A sign on the receptionist’s counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office. The young man filled out his form and sat down with the seven other anxious applicants in the waiting area.

After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. They muttered among themselves that they hadn’t heard any summons yet. They assumed that the young man who went into the office made a mistake and would be disqualified.

Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, “Gentlemen, thank you for coming, but the job has just been filled.” The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and one spoke up saying, “Wait a minute, I don’t understand. He was the last to come in, and we never got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair!”

The employer said, “I’m sorry, but the last several minutes while you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out a in Morse Code. The message stated, ‘If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. Therefore, the job is his.”

The newly employed young man’s situation illustrates how important it is to listen carefully for the right message. The external noise of the current cultural and political environment regularly emits mixed signals and conflicting messages. Amidst this noisy background, God shares His loving, truthful guidance. Jesus declared, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

Often in His Word, God discusses with His children their need to listen to Him. In one short paragraph in Psalm 81, God challenges the people of Israel regarding their easy distractability: “O, if you would listen to Me (81:8) … But my people would not heed my voice (81:11) … Oh, that My people would listen to Me”(81:13).

James comments on this critical spiritual need in James 1:19-25, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Three times in the Book of Hebrews (3:7; 3:15; 4:7), God warns believers who are tempted to turn from God and His voice through His Word, “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Christ reaffirms this in His message to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:19-20, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

In a noisy, tumultuous world, it is critically important for the children of God to continually cultivate the good discipline of prayerfully listening to God’s voice through His Word. The Biblical antidote to daily discord and controversy is to “be still, and know that I am God,”( Psalm 46:10).

You have His Word on it!
KEF 04 2017

Fragrance in a Foul Smelling Environment

I recently had the privilege to minister in the Flint area. While there, I passed billboards and viewed commercials that advertised the arrival of a display of Titanic artifacts at the Sloan Museum in Flint. It has been over a century since it’s tragic collision with an iceberg, causing over 1,5000 people to perish. Yet, the display of the ship’s remnants continues to draw large crowds wherever they are exhibited.

When deep-sea divers were searching the wreckage of the ocean liner Titanic several years ago, among the items recovered was a leather case containing 40 small vials of perfume oil. The little bottles, which probably would have been sold in New York as the ingredients for cologne, belonged to a businessman from Manchester, England. When they pulled the case from the water, the fragrance of the oils filled the air, even after being submerged for almost a century.

“To smell something that smells the same as it did on the Titanic before it went down is simply incredible,” said Graham Jessop, an expert in the retrieval of such artifacts. That must have been a high quality perfume. The quality of that perfume allowed for an undeniable and unavoidable aroma of wonderful fragrance.

One time a woman slipped into the dining room after dinner, carrying a small vial. She broke it open and poured it on the head of the honored guest. The room was filled with the smell of very expensive perfume. “What a waste,” some of the guests said. “We could have sold that and helped the poor.” (The perfume cost almost a year’s pay.) But, the man she anointed cut their complaints short. “She’s done a beautiful thing. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” And indeed it has!

The woman in the story was Mary of the village of Bethany and her story is shared in John 12:1-8. The world in which she lived reeked with the stench of political oppression, warring ideological factions, and blatant immorality. Survival involved keeping a low profile and avoiding controversy. Because of her love for Jesus, Mary risked rebuke from the crowd and gave the very best she had. Her motives were as pure as the oil she offered. Even now, two thousand years later, her sacrifice is still remembered. And the aroma of her sacrifice is as sweet now as it was then.

The current culture blows putrid winds across the landscape of humanity, leaving in its wake an angry wave of intimidation. This intimidation is especially directed towards those who embrace Biblical values. Like Mary of Bethany, the church of Jesus Christ has the opportunity to step forward and humbly offer the oil of sacrifice.

It is essential in a world steeped in the stench of sin that the church effuse a gospel-centric aroma. 2 Corinthians 2:15 shares, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” Christians are further admonished in Ephesians 5:2 to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

Christ calls us to give our best – our best love, our best service, our best offering. Our service is a sweet-smelling sacrifice to Him. “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) And because it is offered to Him, it will always be remembered. He deserves it. And He will notice!

You have His word on it!
Ken Floyd
February 2017

A New Year’s Proposal

The start of a new year has often been described by phrases such as, “a fresh start,” “a new lease on life,” “turning over a new leaf or page,” “beginning a new chapter,” and “starting with a clean slate.” Perhaps in this highly technological age we can use updated phrases to mark this occasion, such as, “getting a reboot,” “proceeding with a clean hard drive,” “upgrading your software,” or “downloading a new app!”

I suggest that a good phrase to adopt as a new year’s motivation is “godly imprint.” The following parable, penned by an unknown author, provides a wise illustration to motivate us towards achieving this goal.

The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting it into the box. “There are 5 things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be.”
o You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand.
o You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.
o You have an eraser. You will be able to correct mistakes you will make.
o The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.
o On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.
The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart.

Now, imagine yourself as the pencil and God as the Pencil Maker. What kind of a story could God write using you as His instrument to make a godly imprint in the coming year?
o You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in God’s hand. And allow other human beings to access you for the many gifts you possess.
o You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, by going through various problems, but you’ll need it to become a stronger person.
o You will be able to make corrections to the mistakes you might make through forgiveness. You can also grow as a result of them through God’s sanctifying work.
o The most important part of you will always be what’s on the inside.
o On every surface you walk, you must leave your mark. No matter what the situation, you must continue to serve God in everything.

A properly used pencil can make a lasting imprint

The principle of the godly imprint that one single life used by God can make was dynamically on display as Sharon and I recently participated in the “celebration/memorial service” for a dear sister saint who went to be with her Lord. She was a charter member of a church where I formerly served as pastor. She had faithfully served as a deacon’s wife, Sunday School teacher, Daily Vacation Bible School worker, nursery worker, and, along with her husband, a compassionate servant for over a half century.

She was a spiritual “Pied Piper” of every person who was blessed by God to intersect her path of godly influence. One can only imagine how many sets of little ears listened to this master Bible story-teller share with enthusiasm about the wonders of God or heard her pray for them by name. Whether it was her creative way of teaching Bible stories, her godly character, or responding with genuine excitement as a child showed her a craft they had handmade, every child left feeling valued and closer to God.

As many stood to share testimonies about her godly example and loving influence in their lives I couldn’t help but wonder how many people’s lives this faithful servant of God had impacted by her consistent ministry of teaching children. Hundreds of children received effective teaching by this dear lady over her five decades of service, including our own daughter. New generations continue to be spiritually impacted because of her influence upon those who now mentor them.

A godly life can leave indelible imprints upon multiple generations

I noticed that those who shared testimonies came from at least four different generations. They each shared thoughtful and, sometimes, humorous reflections. But each testimony contained a common denominator: they were impacted because this humble servant simply let God use her to make a “mark” on others by sharing His Word faithfully in week after week and year after year in the laboratory of life. Her Spirit filled enthusiasm contagiously left a godly imprint on every person who had the wonderful blessing of entering into in her sphere of spiritual influence.

All of us who attended that that unique gathering left feeling encouraged, blessed, and challenged to be used of God to leave our mark in a similar way. I noted that there were no press reporters waiting outside to get exclusive “insider” interviews. Nor were there paparazzi gathered in order to capture pictures of the event. But I thought as we filed out that day the Lord had already taken note of this dear sister’s daily commitment to be God’s instrument and had declared, “Well done,” as she entered into His presence.

Driving back home following this special time gathering, Sharon and I paused to thank God for the honor of serving alongside such a godly influencer. We also reflected upon the dozens of similar godly servants that we have had the privilege of ministering with over the years. Some of them may even be reading this column!

The testimony of this type of humble servant’s life was similar to that of Paul the Apostle as he shared with the Corinthian believers, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Events like the one we experienced a few weeks ago help to bring things back into perspective. Perhaps facing the prospect of entering a new year and “another tour of duty,” whether it be as a Sunday School teacher, AWANA worker, nursery worker, usher, deacon, musician, pastor, or ___________ (you fill in the blank), leaves you feeling frustrated or weary.

A properly invested life can leave a lasting imprint

Why not work your way down the hallway of the building where you worship and listen to a faithful servant who is ministering to captivated audience as if she or he were ministering to a King? In fact, that is exactly what they are doing. And in the process they are being used by their Royal Master to indelibly and eternally imprint His Word in the heart of every young life they serve.

As you and I remember the importance of making an imprint in the year ahead, let us proceed each day having a meaningful purpose in our heart and a close relationship daily with God. God will not only use us especially when we yield ourselves to be His instrument, but others will be eternally impacted and blessed.

You have His Word on it!
Ken Floyd
January 2017

The Baptist Testimony – Volume 59 Number 3 Third Quarter 2013

The Baptist Testimony - Volume 59 Number 3 Third Quarter 2013 You can also download a PDF of The Baptist Testimony – Volume 59 Number 3 Third Quarter 2013 (PC: Right click / MAC: Control click on the link and choose “Save As”)

From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 59 Number 3 Third Quarter 2013Also see: News & Notes and Ken’s Road Report

“Together”

Togetherness is a regularly developed concept in the New Testament regarding the church. Often the New Testament describes the relationship between believers and churches through words such as “one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24; 5:12; 8:6; 15:25; Philippians 2:2), “partnership” (Philippians 1:5), and “together” (Acts 4:31; 14:27; Romans 1:12; 8:17; 15:32; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 5:4; Ephesians 2:21-22; 4:16; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 2:2, 19; Hebrews 10:25). The actions involved in these depictions include prayer, fellowship, unity in purpose, and gospel endeavors.

[Read more…]

The Baptist Testimony – Volume 59 Number 2 Second Quarter 2013

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From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 59 Number 2 Second Quarter 2013

“Renew”

Summertime in Michigan is typically a time identified by phrases such as “change of pace,” “vacation get-away,” “cabins and cottages,” “weekend camping,” and “heading up north.” Who hasn’t heard Tim Allen’s narration along with the background of soothing music and stopped to see which wonderful scenic views from around Michigan will be shown in the next segment of the tourism advertisements titled “Pure Michigan?” The emphasis of the campaign seems to focus upon opportunities for refreshment and renewal. [Read more…]

The Baptist Testimony – Volume 59 Number 1 First Quarter 2013

You can also download a PDF of the Volume 59 Number 1 First Quarter 2013 (PC: Right click / MAC: Control click on the link and choose “Save As”)

From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 59 Number 1 First Quarter 2013

“Fellowship”

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” Philippians 1:3-7

Dear Friends of the Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches,

We extend heartfelt greetings to you from the MARBC Council of 16. The purpose of my letter is to give thanks for God’s blessings upon our association during our seventy-year partnership as a fellowship of churches and then to share a critical need with you on the back of this page. [Read more…]

The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 6 November/December 2012

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From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 6 November/December 2012

The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28
Ken Floyd
MARBC Executive Director

“Rich”

Like the beautiful and colorful contrasts of the autumn leaves we have enjoyed this spectacular fall season and the sunrays that will glisten off new fallen snow this winter, we are blessed to observe the multi-colored aspects of God’s grace in the lives of MARBC churches and servants. Paul describes God’s handiwork in the lives of His children as being “according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8). [Read more…]

The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 5 September/October 2012

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From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 5 September/October 2012

The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28
Ken Floyd
MARBC Executive Director

Generations

The word “generation” can imply different things, both positive and negative, depending upon the context in which the word is used. [Read more…]

The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 4 July/August 2012

You can also download a PDF of the Volume 58 Number 4 July/August 2012 (PC: Right click / MAC: Control click on the link and choose “Save As”)

From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 4 July/August 2012

The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28
Ken Floyd
MARBC Executive Director

“Faith”

“The just shall live by faith.” Hebrews 10:38

The New Testament letter of Hebrews places a great emphasis upon the importance of faith in Jesus Christ as the only acceptable way to salvation. It also places a great emphasis upon how a Christian’s faith is to be demonstrated in daily living. Hebrews 11 is popularly known as “The Hall of Faith” because it notes the characteristics of those who have walked by faith. [Read more…]

The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 3 May/June 2012

You can also download a PDF of the Volume 58 Number 3 May/June 2012 (PC: Right click / MAC: Control click on the link and choose “Save As”)

From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 3 May/June 2012

The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28
Ken Floyd
MARBC Executive Director

“Destination”

We are entering the time of year when many people are beginning to anticipate and plan their summer vacation activities. Besides setting aside the dates, saving the funds, and considering the activities, part of the planning involves the actual vacation destination. [Read more…]