From the Editor’s Notebook: The Changing Years

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

The Changing Years

ACROSS the threshold of the year
I dare not step without a guide,
Oh, let me feel Thy presence near,
And know Thee ever at my side.

So many foes on every hand,
So many snares laid for my feet,
Left to myself I cannot stand,
To trust in self, but courts defeat.

But with Thy strong hand clasping mine
The future I can calmly face;
Strong in the love that made me Thine,
And leaning wholly on Thy grace.

Thus shall my way still brighter grow,
Life’s trials tell me all Thou art,
Till with Thee I more fully know
The wealth of Thy great loving heart.


Lessons On Listening

Some time ago Dr. Lyman K. Steil, a professor in the department of rhetoric at the University of Minnesota, was interviewed by a representative of U.S. News & World Report. As part of the interview article, eight tips were given for better listening. Here they are:

    1. Resist distractions. Concentrate on what is being said.

    2. Be an opportunist. Find areas of interest between you and the speaker. Ask yourself: “What’s in this for me?”

    3. Stay alert. Don’t daydream if a speaker’s delivery is slow. If your thoughts run ahead of his words, use the time to evaluate, anticipate, review.

    4. Identify the speaker’s purpose and adapt to it. Is the aim to inform, to persuade or to entertain?

    5. Listen for central themes rather that for isolated facts.

    6. Plan to report the content of a message to someone within 8 hours.

    7. Develop notetaking skills.

    8. As a listener, take primary responsibility for the success of two-way communication. Don’t just depend upon the other person.

These are good points for us to ponder and to put into practice insofar as it is possible.

In the Christian context of things, we rightly expect preachers to be prepared to preach, but what about audiences? Shouldn’t a speaker, and more particularly a preacher, have a right to expect some preparation on the part of his listeners? Undoubtedly, there would be less unkind criticism of preachers if listeners prepared themselves to listen.

It was James who said, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). As has often been pointed out, since our Lord gave us two ears and one tongue, we should hear twice as much as we speak. Several times in the Synoptic Gospels the Lord Jesus exhorted, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (e.g., Matt. 11:15; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8). Also, either toward the close or at the very end of Christ’s messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, the Saviour exhorted, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17; etc.). Notice that the Lord Jesus does not say “ears” in these verses, but “ear.” His exhortation is that we might have at least one ear open to what the Holy Spirit has to say.

One of today’s chief problems is that few want to listen; virtually all want their say. At times we have gone dialogue-dippy, and as a result there is a grave imbalance in some types of meetings, the result being that some gatherings represent little more than sessions of pooled ignorance.

Perhaps today the most overworked expression falling freely from the lips of all but the most timid and fearful is, “I think …” If you don’t believe this, let me suggest that in the course of a normal day you try and keep track of the number of times you use this statement, or its equivalent (e.g., “It seems to me…”), and I can guarantee you’ll be in for a surprise.

Basically, what you or I think really doesn’t matter. What really matters is what GOD thinks and says. We need to listen to Him, and then heed His commands and precepts, depending on the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts to truly hear the Word of the Lord with a digged ear (see Deut. 15:17), and this, with a view to obeying the truth as He teaches us.

There are few better New Year’s resolutions we could make than to determine, with our Lord’s help and by His grace, to be better listeners and doers of His Word throughout 1982.

Marcus Aurelius

Somehow the formidable name, Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.), lives in my memory from early school days. He was both a Roman emperor (161-180 A.D.) and Stoic philosopher. In one of his writings entitled Meditations he expressed a high sense of duty toward mankind. Evidently, he was in measure kindly disposed toward Christianity, but he remained loyal to the old state religion, allowing his mentors —Cornelius Fronto and Junius Rusticus — to influence him away from Christianity. As a result, Aurelius allowed anti-Christian informers a veritable free hand, this in turn having issued in several outbreaks of severe local persecution, notably in Lyons in 177 A.D. Nevertheless, Christianity had a marked influence on Aurelius and it is of interest that he identified the following traits of a successful person:

    1. Consciousness of an honest purpose in life.

    2. A just estimate of himself and everyone else.

    3. Frequent self-examination.

    4. Steady obedience to what he knows to be right.

    5. Indifference to what others may think or say.

As I pondered this brief list of traits, I couldn’t help but think of various New Testament verses which clearly enunciate and underscore the solid truths they represent. For instance, regarding number one in the list, I couldn’t help but recall Philippians 1:21 and 3:14 & 15. As for number two, my thoughts turned to Romans 12:10 & 16, as well as Philippians 2:4. On point three I was reminded of the value of the Lord’s Supper and the exhortation of 1 Corinthians 11:28. With regard to number four, I recalled Christ’s words in John 13:17, and finally, as to Aurelius’ last point, I was reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

Today there are multitudes of people like Marcus Aurelius who have one way or another been influenced by the truth, and as a result both exemplify and proclaim high standards of morality. Yet, the tragedy is that the truth, having influenced them, has never been allowed to change them. Perhaps this is your present situation. If so, it is my prayer that the Spirit of God will convict you of your sins and lead you to confess, as your Saviour and Lord, Him who is the personification of all truth, the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6), even as God, our Saviour, desires “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).

Editor’s Note

These lines are being written on October 15th in Peterborough, Ontario, where I am teaching for the second year in a row a course on 1 CORINTHIANS at Kawartha Lakes Bible School. It was my fond hope in this issue to publish an up-to-date list of all our FOCUS committee members, but I still do not have this information available. Our Annual Committee Meeting is scheduled for November 7th in Toronto, so in the March-April issue I will plan to publish a complete, updated list of our members, as well as provide a brief report on the meeting itself.

It is with much praise and thanksgiving to our Lord that with this issue I begin my eighth year as editor of FOCUS magazine.