Monday, February 27, 2017

Sunday's Sermon - A Good Scout Listens

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, February 26, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can find a podcast of this sermon on the Cove Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

I’ll tell you, having some of the Cub and Weeblos and Boy Scouts with us this morning, man, I think it’s great. And when you consider the number of years Cove has supported scouting, I’ll tell you, we’ve been together longer than Red and Bonnie have been married, at least I think that’s the case. And I feel that I’ve really been fortunate to be a small part of that relationship for almost ten years. And during that time, I’ve had the chance to observe a lot of scouts, because my office is right across the hall from the pop machine, usually the most important spot on Monday nights.

And so based on what I’ve seen, and having been a scout when I was a teenager about twenty years ago, I think I can say that, even though the Scout Law says that “a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent,” the one characteristic about a good scout that’s not in the law, and I’m talking about a really good scout, in my opinion, is that a good scout listens.

A good scout listens. He listens to the camp director when he says, “Even though they may look cute, don’t try to cuddle with a bear.” And he listens to his fellow scout when he says, “I really don’t think it’s a good idea to whittle blind folded.” And he listens to his Scout Master when he says, “You’ll never make it to Gettysburg if you haven’t ridden your bike since you took off the training wheels.” You see, a good scout listens.

But that shouldn’t really be a surprise; I mean, this listening stuff really applies to everybody, right? I mean, let’s get real, life is certainly easier and better when you listen. And if you have any doubt, ask any girl who’s texting her boyfriend while her teacher is reviewing for the final exam or any boy
who’s thinking about the game as his girlfriend tells him exactly what she wants for her birthday. I’ll tell you, listening is the foundation of every good relationship, it certainly is of any solid marriage, am I not right Red?

As a matter of fact, it’s something we all really need to do if we’re serious about things like getting a diploma or staying employed or keeping a spouse. And it’s certainly important in the Bible. Just listen to what it says in Proverbs, and if you don’t know about Proverbs, for the most part, it’s a collection of common sense sayings. For example, in one place, it says, “Fools think they know what is best, but a sensible person listens to advice.” And a little bit later on, this is what it says: “It makes a lot of sense to be a person of few words and to stay calm. Even fools seem smart when they are quiet.” And in the New Testament, the Letter of James: “My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry. If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things that God wants done. You must stop doing anything immoral or evil.  Instead be humble and accept the message that is planted in you to save you.” And so, I think I’m safe in saying that listening is pretty important.

And that’s why I think it’s such a shame that a lot of folks, maybe a lot of us really aren’t very good at it. I mean, let’s get real, often we don’t listen very well. And as Debbie will tell you in a heartbeat, I definitely include myself. And you know, I think there are two primary reasons why it’s a problem. I mean, on one hand, I think often we just don’t care what the other person is saying, and so we don’t listen. And more often than not, we feel that way, because we think we already know what he’s is about to say, you know, like this guy.

You see, sometimes we don’t listen, because we don’t care. On the other hand, sometimes we’re afraid of what we might hear. My gosh, what if I’m all excited, because I think it’s a great idea or it’s the perfect job or it’s exactly what God has called me to do, what’s the worse thing that can happen? I’ll tell you what it is; to have a wise guy question the decision I’ve already made. Man, it makes you feel like a deflated balloon. And so sometimes we don’t listen out of fear.

But you know, whether it’s not caring or being afraid, the results of self-imposed deafness, man, they’re always bad. For example, it may keep us in the dark about things we could understand. Or it may put a strain on our relationships, including the one we have with God. Or it may result in this. something even worst, like this.

Let’s just say, not listening ain’t good. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s even worst when you’re not listening to God.

But right now, I’ve got some good news for you, and here it is: not unlike the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, we can turn it around. In other words, right now, we can decide to be better listeners, better listeners with one another and better listeners to God. And we can accomplish this by doing two very simple things.

You see, we can listen better, first, by simply closing our mouths. It’s like Judge Judy loves to say, “There’s a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth.” Or as Abe Lincoln said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” And I’ll tell you, I think it’s something that would cause James to say, “Amen,” because remember in the passage we read from his letter a little while ago, he wrote, “My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak...”  If we’re serious about listening, we really need to stop talking, even though I recognize that stopping may be a challenge. I mean, we may think, just like the guy in the video, that we really know what’s about to be said; therefore, it’s a waste of time waiting. And we might honestly believe that, even if we don’t know, we’re just plain smarter and what we have to say has to be a whole lot more interesting anyway. Therefore, why listen, when they could be benefitting from what we have to say. We’ve got to stop talking, and that also includes thinking about what we’re going to say later, you know, when the other person finally shuts up. To listen, first, we need to close our mouths.

And second, we better focus our minds, you know, so we can take in what’s being said. Do y’all remember those old commercials for the Negro College Fund? Their slogan was “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Well, I think we’re really wasting it, if we choose not to focus it. In other words, when we’re in a conversation, we might need to focus our attention on those who are speaking. And when we’re supposed to be listening to some instructions or advice, we might need to focus our concentration on the one who may just know more than us. And when we’re reading our Bibles or discussing Scripture or listening to something like, oh maybe a sermon, we might need to focus our minds intentionally, and not think about what we’re going to order at Bob Evans later. You see, for those who are serious about listening, the closing of the mouth and the focusing of the mind, man, both are really important.

And even though doing these two things may also be pretty difficult, I just want you to consider what we might receive as a result. You see, for one, when we listen, it’s got to increase our understanding. It’s got to make us smarter. Dah. Of course, we don’t have to buy everything that everyone is selling; that would be stupid. I mean, the more we listen, the more dumb stuff we’re going to hear. But I’ll tell you, among all the junk, there’s also a lot of gems, a lot of nuggets of information we just might miss, a lot of treasures hidden in fields and pearls of great value that we’ll never know about, if we’ve decided to close ourselves down and off. You see, it’s like a professor told me a long time ago. He said that he saw his mind as these two rooms. In the outer room, he took in everything but only a few ideas, a few principles, a few beliefs made it into that inner room, the one that defined who he really was and that guided what he actually did. If we decide to go through our lives with blinders, we can only blame ourselves if we miss some powerful, maybe even life-changing truth God has put it little bit to the side. When we listen, we’re going to learn. And when we learn, we’ll also going to understand. And that’s one reason why listening is important.

But that’s not the only positive thing that’s going to happen. You see, second, when we close our mouths and focus our minds, I think we’ll also see our relationships strengthen. Let me explain. Now you’ve got to trust me on this, there are few things that people enjoy more than having someone think they’re important enough to be heard. And that goes for parents and children, for teachers and students, for bosses and employees. Man, it even goes for preachers and Scout leaders. We’ll have better relationship with others when we listen to them. I think the same thing happens with God. Now, let me be clear about this. I believe God couldn’t love us more than he does right this minute. And since God is eternal, his love for us was the same yesterday just like it will be the same tomorrow. And so listening to God isn’t going to make him love us more; that would be impossible. But I do believe our decision to listen will move us closer to him, because not only will we understand more and more the incredible future he’s already prepared for us, we’ll also have a much better idea what he’d like us to do and how he’d like us to live in the meantime. And along with increasing our understanding, listening will strengthen our relationships, and that’s the second reason it’s important.

Now I doubt that the Scout Law is going to be changed anytime soon, but still, I believe that a good scout is also a good listener. And so is a good student and a good employee and a good spouse and a good Christian. And even though it’s not something that a lot folks do very well, our ability to listen can certainly improve, because starting today, we can be better listeners by closing our mouths and focusing our minds. And I’ll tell you, when we do, our understanding will increase and our relationships will strengthen. And so I think you can say, when we listen, we all become pretty good scouts.

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