Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Does God Hate Homosexuals?

     I heard the statement the other day: "God did not create homosexuals because God would not create something he hates", and it got me thinking (never takes much).  The assumption here is that God hates these people whom He created and to whom He refers to as homosexuals.  Did He create them?  Does He hate them?  My daughter suggested I try and make some sense of this for her.

     It seems that, in Christendom, like everywhere else in human discourse, there are statements like these which at first glance seem to have a ring-of-truth about them; particularly if we want them to. 

     Westboro Baptist Church, for one example, surely thinks so.  We've all heard of them by now.  They are the Baptist church in Topeka Kansas which concocted a, by now, familiar God-smearing media-campaign slogan that reads, "God hates fags".  A "fag", in this context is derogatory and refers to their concept of a homosexual.

     What is a homosexual?  A homosexual is a person who feels sexually oriented to another person of the same sex.  God takes responsibility for making all things.  God made me a fornicator, covetous, a liar, adulterer, yet, He made me able to manage and turn from the practice of those things.  Whil,e His approval was not, His love for me was there with me while I practiced those things, and it is with me now.  The difference is that while I was practicing them I was not welcome in His kingdom.  It is not merely the same-sex orientation that condemns the homosexual, it is the sexual practice solely for sexual gratification.  If it were a sin to merely lust after a given person of the same-sex, then heterosexuals would be equally condemned when they lust after a person of the opposite sex to whom they are not married to (i.e., fornication, adultery, etc.), or an alcoholic who lusts after a drink, yet abstains.  But no one is condemned here.  25% of adults in the U.S. acknowledge some same-sex attraction (Gates, 2011), but rather, like someone who lusts after someone of the same sex, as long as they exercise self-control and do not indulge or act on their flesh they are not condemned.  What condemns each - the heterosexual and the homosexual equally - is not who they are, but how they practice being who they are.  We can't always practice the things we like.  And this word 'practice' is the one God uses to distinguish between having a sinful nature (which we all have) and acting on it.  We all have base, fleshly desires that God has asked us to exercise control over and use only as He intended, or they will wreck things.  When we fail to follow His road map, it causes problems: unwanted children, broken families, or drunken dissipated lives, to name a few.  And He has let us know what those practices are in 1 Cor. 6:9, Gal. 5:19.  He asks us not to practice those things. To "not do the things we would like to do" when they are different than what He intended - vain, selfish things.  He is looking out for our own and His best interests.  His constant and enduring love for our best interest is the only power that will sustain our interest in putting the desires of His kingdom above our own.  One desire of His kingdom is that He and His spiritual blessing satisfy our desires here in this world.  He is looking for mere imperfect mortals to recognize and return His love for them.  No imperfection is too great. 

     We all have the natural tendency to smooth over our faults, even drink to much, and sometimes covet, lie, and steal, as it suits us (he says "these things we all once walked in", in one form or another), but in doing so we hurt ourselves or others. And later on in 1 Cor. 6:18 he even appears to distinguish sins at issue here as those being committed outside the body ("Flee immorality.  Every other sin a man commits is outside the body . . .". ) That is not to excuse immoral thoughts, but there is a difference between mere thoughts and those turned into actions - "deeds of the flesh". Those who are claiming "God hates fags" are putting words in Gods mouth.  He never said such a thing.

     We all have the wrong thoughts and orientations all day long, and we exercise self-control and turn away from them (many of us), and who we are is not dependent on if they are there or not, but what we do with them when they arise, because God says we are all cut from the same cloth - "none are good, no not one".  And God still doesn't hate any of us. The people from Westboro Baptist Church hate "fags" - whatever a fag is and whether there even is such a thing - not God.  God has never said such a thing; the people from Westboro Baptist Church are out there hating homosexuals all by themselves.  God is not in it. God has told us to be disposed to love all men, and through the best means available, and that is by example.

     So, if God loves all men, and expects us to do the same; and if I carry around the label of both heterosexual fornicator  and accepted child of the living God for my past words and deeds (and which I no longer practice), then what prevents a non-practicing homosexual from enjoying the same blessing?  How is it that a so-called homosexual is hopelessly condemned and hated by the Westboro Baptist Church and I am not?

     If you read about the six things God hates you find that he hates no men; He hates certain things they do and certain things they say, but He hates no individuals.  It's not about who you are, it's about what you do with who you are.  He has made us all of nothing good except the ability to listen to and follow after Him; unable to extricate ourselves from our sinful nature, yet able to manage it.  And doing so, or attempting to do so, with all of our heart, mind, and strength, we are made entirely good, useful, and acceptable to Him.

     God hates lying, and all men are liars - so He says.  So does He hate us all?  No, He doesn't hate any of us.  He so loved the world (all of His creation) that He gave His Son for all to behold (to see), and to hear, touch, believe in, be raised up with, and follow into His presence - all they must do is believe and follow.  He has told us that He is not a respecter of persons.  All have sinned and fallen short; none are good.  That's a part of how men (male and female) are created.  And He regards them from a position of love. He hates no one (there were groups of foreigners in the Old Testament whom He hated for a season, but He always tells us who and why).  There is no other indication that He hates anyone.  No one: the thief (the one on the cross), the liar (all of us), the covetous, the drunkard, the effeminate, nor the homosexual, heterosexual fornicator or adulterer, he doesn't hate any of them, but rather, the practice of such things, and instead is patient toward them all not willing to lose any of them and desiring only that they turn away from their own glory (perhaps even false teaching) and towards His Truth manifested and proven not only in Jesus, but by His own well-known presence from the beginning of recorded history.

     He doesn't hate me, or them, for being either heterosexuals or homosexuals but rather, He says he hates the "deeds" of those who practice such things - the deeds of the flesh, not the individuals themselves.  And fortunately so, because if I conclude that God hates homosexual individuals, or any individuals, then I have to also conclude that He hates me all the more.

     I am a heterosexual who has practiced these unfruitful deeds of the flesh - "deeds" that God hates. Such things as fornication, adultery, dishonesty, covetousness, and reviling (for a few).  By all reckoning (the reckoning of some) I must, then, be five times worse off than a mere so-called homosexual.  But instead, I no longer walk in darkness, I no longer do what I please.  Because of God's kindness, His presence, and because of God's patience, while I formerly walked in darkness and practiced whatever I wished, that is, while I was still a sinner - worse than a drunk, worse than merely a liar, worse than an adulterer or a homosexual, he still loved me.  And it paid off for both us us.  I turned and regained the delight of a Father, and He regained a loving son. Now I hate the things He hates - the useless unfruitful things, the destructive purposeless, vain words and deeds and things of this life that take the place of better things He has here for us.  But I don't hate "fags", and neither does He.

     Look in Ephesians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Galatians 5:19, or Proverbs 6:19, for examples of what practices will eliminate some from their inheritance in the kingdom (and there are many more examples).  These will be people like you and I who have decided to give in to the practice of such things. To engage in these things which are described as deeds of darkness, deeds of the flesh, that are unfruitful or even destructive to others, or the things of God, in some way or another.  These people possess an urge that, alone, does not defile them, but what proceeds from their heart in the form of action does.  He hates their deeds, and He waits for their hearts to turn in the direction of His upward call.  A fair proposal - a magnificent opportunity.  But I can be sure He does not hate them, because He has not said that He hates them.

     God tells us that he loves all men.  We can't impute His hate on anyone under that circumstance. And if we err, he brings comfort to and restores joy and comfort to our victims such as in the text below . . .

"Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word: 'Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name's sake, Have said, 'Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.' But they will be put to shame." (Is. 66.5) 
     Wouldn't it be wonderful if I would just end this thing right here? 

     Without wandering too deeply into 'how', then, some men and women wind up with a same-sex attraction in the first place (because I tried wandering into it and it gets really tedious in a real hurry), I think we have to simply recognize that same-sex attraction does exist in many individuals, and it is starkly absent in many others.  Around one-fourth of the adult U.S. population acknowledges some same-sex attraction, and around 3.5% of adults identify as LGBT (Gates, 2011).  The object of your arousal determines whether you are called a  heterosexual, homosexual. We are born with the urges we have, many different. By all indications, I was born a heterosexual; and with no choice to be otherwise.  As it were, with my lack of success at obtaining a female partner in this life, I should have perhaps arguably been driven to seek out a male life partner.  But the urge for a male partner is not even remotely in me.

     My sexuality was tested at a young age, even challenged, by some older friends.  Unlike towards the neighbor girl, the attraction for my male buddies was not there; the urge was not in me.  What was in me, it turns out, was much worse, if you are a mathematician, and produced a much longer list of sinful urges God hates, such as heterosexual adultery, fornication, and covetousness, which alone amounted to several times the condemnation than if I were merely a homosexual.  Even today, as a heterosexual, my flesh still obeys the law of sin (like Paul's), my heart is deceitful (lying) and wicked above all things (like yours), and there is nothing good in me (as the Lord has informed us all) - nothing, yet my mind obeys the spirit of God; and obediently, my flesh follows. Therefore, if God has reason to hate any anyone, homosexual or heterosexual, because of the abundant, sinful inborn urges of His flesh, then He would have had reason to hate the "heterosexual, me" more so.  But he hates none of us, if, in our  mind, we concur with His law of faith.

     I know I  am not alone in all this past sin, because He tells us all that, "in them you also once walked, when you were living in them".  He tells us we all once walked in the wrong things (big and small) until that time when we reached the point of accountability, beheld God the Son, and put our faith in what he has said and done.  The difference between me and many who might find offense in talking about past sin is that I now walk in the light - and therefore in truth, making right the errors of the past and now no longer looking back but forward.  Now all things are new in that we consider ourselves dead to our old ways (practices) and alive to new spiritual life and vigor of God's Spirit in us.  We can't change our mortal natures.  Each of us is ready to slip (backslide) into our unique, old urges at any time (ask many prone to alcoholism) - licentiousness, lying, adultury, homosexualism, drunkenness - if we say we do not sin, we fool ourselves, and the truth is not even in us. Hate no one; but perhaps hate your sinful nature.  It has died, now keep it dead. And now love the divine nature God shares with all who love Him.

     Can a person have heterosexual urges and still not be in an acceptable condition with God ("acceptable condition" is the definition of righteousness)?  Yes, as an adulterer, fornicator, molester,covetous, unfortunately the list is long, he can be in big trouble.  Can the same heterosexual be in good standing with God if he puts aside all of the ways he knows to be wrong? I would guess so. Not only that but he can  love another mans wife for her personality, her maturity in the Lord, even adore her beauty as a person without being a practicing heterosexually oriented adulterer or fornicator, even without coveting. In fact, he is commanded to.  He is commanded to love all men (male and female), with love authored and modeled by God.  A heterosexually oriented man or woman is able to love another man or woman without committing a sin, and thus so can all men, heterosexual, homosexual, adulterous, or fornicator, love each other - by the grace of God - while putting aside their respective worldly or sexual desires.

     Let's take this thing one painful step farther. What about a man or woman in mid-life who has never had a sexual relationship, never was able to find a marriage partner, is simply not sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex at all, and if anything, finds him or herself sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex?  What if this individual finds it unlikely that he or she will ever have an actual sexual encounter with anyone in this life, in fact never does, suspects she may indeed be a homosexually oriented, and in turn fears she may never be accepted by God (or man) - because she is being told as much by her church elders?  Her own urges persuade her that she is a so-called homosexual, yet, she has never had a sexual encounter with another individual, either sex, and perhaps never will.  Just the very description of her urges, to some, might condemn her as homosexual (perhaps even a more masculine appearance).  So, where does she stand?  Does she somehow have to develop a sexual attraction to a male before she can be accepted by God and not be condemned as a homosexual?  Does she need to develop a sexual attraction to men to be saved?  Yes, perhaps she can contrive one somehow if she must, but must she?  Does her sexual preference alone make her doomed as some are seen to interpret 1 Corinthians 6:9?  Or is she entitled, like the rest of us, to simply not practice such things and partake in the grace of God and follow Christ?

     Here is the most obvious problem with the proposition at the top of the page. What, as a Christian,  do you tell hermaphroditic people of their acceptance by God - if their church elders are not sure? They are individuals born here in God's creation who have both male and female parts on one body.   Do we tell ourselves (and them) that God did not create them that way? We have no other choice than to believe God created them, and that it pleased him to make them the way the were made.  But must medical science come to the rescue for them to be saved from their ambiguous bodies and assure their acceptance and salvation from God?  I would say not.  Flesh is flesh, and spirit is spirit. Their flesh is made of the dust of earth, which God, at one time, cursed for a time and withdrew his spirit from; but their hearts/minds/spirits, are still wondrously made, in His image, and designed by Him to seek Him.

     We can now trace our sexual behavior, by God's own design, to the elemental things of the world (which God calls good).  They are the chemical underpinnings of our physiological makings. God's physiology; God's chemistry; we are fashioned perfectly in accordance with how he saw fit to fashion each one of us individually.  It pleases Him to form men and women in almost every conceivable imperfect way; with a mind (and spirit), capable of joining with His (mind and Spirit) and walking with him through this world.  And if we are puzzled as to how some of those whom we perceive as being to mentally or physically compromised to rightly answer God's call to them, then we are comforted by knowing that he has a gracious, unique plan for each of them as well - He desires that none will parish - He has blessed you and me with sound minds, others He takes care of as it pleases Him - in His own way. Our job is to leave room for all others and be mindful of our own unworthiness for such a love.

     Alcoholics, just like homosexuals, are one of many groups of whom it is said that if they practice such things, will not find a place in God's eternal community.  Yet, Bill Wilson, well-known to those who struggle with a weakness for alcohol, even though he had given up drinking alcohol for many years leading up to his death, considered himself an alcoholic until the day he died.  As an alcoholic, didn't he know that alcoholics will find no welcome into the kingdom of heaven?  Didn't he fear God's rejection, God's hate?  No, he loved God, and that love likely caste out his fear.  He was not phased by the hysteria in Christendom over labels.  And by boldly admitting that he was an alcoholic, born with alcoholic tendencies greater than most other men, he was able to turn to God, and turn many others to God as well.  There, God did not take away his urge, but gave him the strength to turn away from it himself. Mr. Wilson was able to help tens of millions of other alcoholics all over the world discover the love of God. He is an alcoholic who was going to enjoy a place in God's eternal Kingdom, in spite of his label. 

     This urge that Bill Wilson struggled with promised him feelings like he could find nowhere else on this earth, except in the friendship with his God.  Today, through brain-imaging studies, we observe proof of how consuming alcohol physically and permanently alters control centers in specific areas of the brain.  It changes them from what they were prior to abusing alcohol and thus we describe it as a disease.  Bill experienced an overwhelming urge persistently lurking in his system long after he stopped drinking which was constantly threatening to either kill him, or send him back ultimately into detox in the psychiatric ward to force him to stop temporarily.  He could only make sense of this process as being "alcoholism".  He recognized that, in his case, the only thing stopping him from giving in to the urge was the Spirit of God, and his desire to please him.  So, he, an alcoholic, and God, went on together to start the self-help group called Alcoholics Anonymous.  He considers himself a "recovering alcoholic" - always recovering, always an alcoholic. He possessed an inner urge that almost killed him several times and which was always poised to do it again.  At every meeting for the rest of his life he introduced himself as "My name is Bill, and I'm an alcoholic", and encouraged others to be mindful of it as well.  He was an alcoholic whose love for God won out over his love for alcohol.

     I drank excessively at times when I was younger.  I thoroughly enjoy drinking alcohol, but, I can either take it or leave it. In my experience many Christians drink to the point of excessive drunkenness socially, particularly on holidays (especially Christmas), and unfortunately drunkenness is also on the list of practices that eventually, if not turned away from, will threaten to interfere with one's admission to God that he or she truly loves Him.  Fortunately, as with most life-draining urges, most of us can both drink to excess or easily manage to stop altogether, at will.  But not all are built alike.  We all have our own unique brain chemistry, and mine is different that Bill's.  The strong biological urge to drink is not in me.  I was not born with alcoholic tendencies, or homosexual tendencies; but, sadly, I was born equally troublesome urges mentioned earlier, which arguably, are worse than either alcoholism or homosexual urges.  And so were you.  Christ has mentioned them.  I no longer let mine rule over me, nor engage in practicing them. I am sure many homosexually oriented Christians are able to do the same. Christ never leaves us, but neither does our sinful flesh. "Hello, my name is Todd, and I'm a sinner", and I will see pennant sinners of every description, from every entry in this hated list of behaviors,  who have turned from their wicked ways and followed Christ Home.

     The list of long.  What about the areas of adultery?  Or, fornication?  There used to be 31 million accounts on AshleyMadison.com, a website dedicated to helping married Americans arrange secretive adulterous affairs.  It is a better thing for Christianity that we don't know, statistically, how many of them were so-called Christian men.  Many were (and still are). Many of those who still are likely consider themselves as having a one-way ticket to heaven on that glorious day to come when, after tiring of worldy pleasures, they will move on to greener pastures, and so-called homosexuals will not.  I say men, because it has been found that most of the women's accounts are fictitious, and that out of 31 million men and 5.5 million supposed women, fewer than 10,000 women responded to a message from a would-be cheating partner, and fewer than 1,500 women ever checked their inbox.  Many womens' accounts were set up for lack of women.  One of the 31 million men, Josh Duggar, surely must have thought he was OK in his Christian walk and looking forward to a warm welcome home in heaven.  However, as a practicing adulterer and covetous liar, technically he is on God's list of people who are not welcome in the Kingdom of heaven.  If the average homosexual is in jeopardy, then as an adulterer and a liar Josh Duggar is in double jeopardy.  Not to mention that he has made a mockery of the Family Research Council with which God entrusted him as a in fact, a representative of His. This man's uncovered adulterous sexual pass-time has done more to bring discredit to the Church than a whole nation full of homosexuals, in my opinion, yet in the opinion of many others, he is surely "in", and many homosexuals are surely not.  Surely, he can simply check-in to Christian rehab, repent excessively, and give up his urge toward sexual promiscuity?  Do we suppose one day we could ask a penitent Josh Duggar if he any longer covets extra-marital sex, or even sexual contact with small children, and that he will say, "No, I am now free of those urges".  Well then, the apostle Paul was not so lucky, and Mr. Duggar, if he continues to grow as a Christian, will not have grounds for that claim either.  The apostle Paul says he still has the urges to do the things that he hates, and that only by the grace of Christ's strength in him is he able to keep from doing them.  The old nature is still there with all of its original potential for evil - apart from Christ.  No need to be a homosexual to be in trouble.  By stating that the "urges to sin" never completely go away, Paul takes away our claim (as heterosexuals) that we are free from urges of those kinds which God hates, - the many that comprise the remainder of the long list more multitudinous, wicked, and destructive than those of the practicing homosexual.  And therefore, he gives those whom have such urges toward homosexual practice the right to claim that they, too, can acknowledge inherent, inextinguishable urges, not act upon them, and be in an acceptable condition with God.  And neither they nor anyone else gets to chose the unique, sinful urges he or she is born with, but rather only whether to engage in the practice of them or not. 

     We all have natural weaknesses (strong urges), some for alcohol, sensuality, to steal things, to covet, to fornicate; God does not remove an individual's fallen nature, He simply gives him or her knowledge and self-control to manage it.  Even greater than our self-control - He offers us to be partakers with Him of His divine nature, and to use it to bolster our own mortal self-control.  And that huge, gracious, Spiritual Gift leaves us without excuse if we do not avail ourselves of it.

     I have a friend at work.  I love him more and more all the time.  He is a 59-years-old fellow whose mannerisms are very feminine, and which for as long as he can remember, he says, have made him the subject of physical and emotional violence perpetrated by Christians and others.  He has often cursed homosexuality, who people say he is, and wishes he were not.  But, he cannot change his eye color or add muscle mass, any more than he can add testosterone to where instead he has perhaps been given estrogen, and as much as the violence and hatred has made him desire to, he cannot change how his body involuntarily responds, or doesn't respond, to men and women.  He refers to himself as someone society would describe as a gay man.  I know nothing about whether he is a practicing homosexual, nor did I ask him.  If he had asked me, I would have had to confess to him that I have practiced things in the past which would exclude me from Christian participation, and so, I spared him the wayward question.  He describes himself as an evangelical Christian, and, he is, he is  "in" (that is, in the Kingdom, in my opinion).  I know it.  Christ says we are able to see Him in others, and I see Him. And it is beautiful, as one would expect of Christ.  He testified faithfully about His knowledge and love for the Lord, and in my opinion, he's a shoo-in. But when I judge myself using the same criteria I use to know that he is accepted by God, I conclude that I may be in trouble.  I felt ashamed, and here's why. He, and I, and two other staff were talking 'shop' in the med room of the group home we all work in.  One of the young ladies was repeatedly adding the expletive "God damned" in the middle of just about every point she was making (I capitalize it because we all knew to which God she was referring).  The homosexual spoke up and said, "You know, I have a real problem with that." She said, "What?", and he said, "with using God's name like that", and I sat there.  The homosexual's idea of loving the Lord was to stand up in defense of His name, and mine was to . . . sit there.  Which one of us is "in", and which one of us . . . should be concerned?  This is a man whom, if many of us Christians met on the street, would be identified and labeled negatively as an effeminate man, probably, we would think, a homosexual.  Some of us might even warn him that if he doesn't change - it doesn't matter what he does (practices or doesn't practice), he's on his way to hell.  And some of us need to be concerned if we meet him, because, Christ is there, in Him, watching . . . us.  I work with this guy and love Him more and more as time goes on.  Christ makes it easy.  It is one of the few Christian relationships I have had thus far that have not faltered in disappointment.

     If Jesus were alive today, I would desire, if He would allow, to lay my head on his breast like John did.  But given much of what seems to be mainstream Christian mentality today, I would be reluctant to take such a chance due to the condemnation that would likely follow.

     I wrote this because I had to give an explanation for all of this hypocrisy to my daughter - poor, fortunate her.  If we must hate (and I do), then we are supposed to hate unjust gain, evil, doing violence, even our own lives if they don't include Him.  And without these directives, we (particularly, I) would find reason to hate everything different than myself.  Even science has exposed human nature as individuals having the tendency to show partiality to those similar to themselves, which, if unchecked by reason (that, both all are similar and all are different) has been shown to lead to a downward spiral into fear, prejudice,and hatred.  Just as God has found it necessary to instruct us to love one another, we need to be instructed not to hate - hate comes naturally if we let it.    We can't chose who we are, or how we were made - very few of us would have chosen to be like we are - but we can chose how we respong to how we were made.  If we are following God, the we can't chose who to love and who to hate.  Nor can we condemn anyone, but ourselves.

Take care

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hymn - O Come, All Ye Faithful

    Here is some fun I was having with O Come, All Ye Faithful, back in 12/19/2007.  I'm trying to get back to more piano playing, but the fiddle keeps getting in the way - and the guitar keeps interfering with that.  But school is the main culprit here getting in the way of them all.  School is over in 3 days.  I will have a diploma that will enable me to begin drug and alcohol counseling.  I think I'm going to begin a Master's degree in Community Mental Health in May with University of Southern New Hampshire, that way, ultimately, I can work on my own as a licensed professional counselor.  USNH is one of the universities recommended by the State of Wisconsin (which has some of the stiffest requirements in the country), and have a satellite location a half an hour away in Wausau.  I will attend remotely with one weekend of classes per month in Wausau.  An MS Degree will enable me to practice privately and help people in all areas of psychological need. 

     To find the hymn, open the page with the link below and scan down the list for O Come, All Ye Faithful.  This is a page I lost access to after a website software glitch 6 years ago which contains songs that need to be deleted or updated, but can't be.  Ignore those and enjoy the upcoming birthday celebration of God the Son, His visitation, and His deliverance of His tidings of great joy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Oh . . . , Those Preachers: A Good Opportunity to Emphasize Application and Practice (still editing)

     There was guest speaker at church today. Over all, I appreciated it.  At least he didn't use Ghandi (the anti-christ) as an example in how to spread the gospel, or lock God's grace away in a lock-box and preach having to "do" something to gain access to it (when it is available to all other men), as one guest speaker did a year or so ago.  But it is a big responsibility to preach. Here I offer some hopefully useful feedback.  Even if for nothing more than my own personal growth and understanding.

     The guest speaker about the opportunity we have to let the word of God dwell richly within us, as Jesus presents to us through Paul in his writing to the Colossians, chapter 3. Among several edifying things in all, the guest speaker this morning talked about the importance of being thankful and expressing it constantly to Christ.  This was much appreciated.  He also spoke on the five things we can do with the Word of God which are: we can hear it, read it, study it, memorize it, and meditate on it. I was waiting for two more: apply it and practice it.  I guess I would have liked if he would have taken it a step further - perhaps to the fruit bearing stage of practice and application. To me, sermon after sermon (in at least my own experience for decades now), the actual “applying” is the part that preachers often avoid; that is the tough part; the sometimes controversial part (especially in the wrong hands); yet, the call to do both - to "teach" and to "admonish", in the very same sentence, are included in the thought of 'letting it richly dwell within you'.  We must connect the dots: “teaching” would presumably come into play in the context of teaching how to apply God’s word, and “admonishing” would likely land in the context of making small corrections here and there in our practice.  Teaching and admonishing as well, to me, might include sharing and learning from each others experiences by the sharing our own successes and failures in applying and practicing things learned through reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word.  At any rate, thus far we have only prepared ourselves to do something.  Next we must figure out how to implement these ideas into "real-time" practice.  This is where your leadership comes in, preachers.  We know we can be forgetful hearers, but can we be encouraged and taught to be effectual doers?  Can we teach and encourage each other in ways that make Christ visible, or will He remain invisible in us, and simply be standing by? 

     Dealing with these instructions in the rich word of God together can be a difficult thing to do.  Instructing each other, and being instructed is hard.  But there is no other way (that I can think of). It is hard to be wise. Are there any wise?  Real wisdom seems to be a "no show" in the world today.  God says our wisdom is foolishness.  Again, He proves Himself correct.  All we can do is look to His instructions and try to discern our own wise path while being thankful for His willingness to help us follow it.  Everyone's wise path is different, but nonetheless, they all lead to the same place, which is His presence.  All we can hope for is to listen to Him and decide which one He would have be our wise path as we follow after Him.  And, unfortunately, it takes correction to stay on the wise path. It is well-known that a fool despises correction, and conversely that a wise man appreciates it. But even if we would be wise men and appreciate correction, but it's still no fun being corrected. 

     Being corrected makes one feel like a dummy - me anyway. And it is not only difficult to accept correction/instruction, but a responsibility to be careful in giving it. Being open to correction requires that we admit to ourselves that there is something we don't know, and, 'giving' correction requires that we know something about who and what we are correcting – and that is usually terribly inconvenient for us. 

     Giving correction, as well as teaching, takes preparation (such as, the aforementioned five things the guest speaker spoke of this morning). After preparation, what then? What next?  More reading, and hearing, and studying, memorizing and meditating?  No, doing.  Learning is not an end in itself.  “Effectual doing” has to begin eventually.  That requires that application and practice eventually happen.  Fruit is borne. This is the good stuff. We look at Christ's life and marvel at the details. How much more of that could fill our life?

     The guest speaker's message this morning was edifying, don't get the wrong impression, but, in my opinion, if the message does not include coming out of your bible and acting, doing, teaching and admonishing each other (simply communicating - and getting better at communicating), and growing not just as individuals but as a Body, then, unless you are speaking to a children's Sunday School class, your message is deficient.

      Finally (the following is optional reading), the following are some examples of  suggested "areas of need" not very often covered on Sunday mornings.  
     How does application and practice take shape in our daily interpersonal interactions, with believers and non-believers alike? How in the world do we give of ourselves to each other truly without expecting anything in return?  What might that look like?   

     Do we meet each other where we are in our lives, put ourselves in others shoes, as Christ did with us, to better understand and encourage each other in our infirmities?  How do we safely develop those communication skills?  Giving a little attention to this has been personally rewarding to myself and my family.  Much trial and error, diligence, and encouragement necessary.

      Men (women), have you taught your daughters about modesty and covetousness, and what is in men's (women’s) hearts? Or, have you been silent, setting them up to be victims, or even sat back and enjoyed the promiscuity yourself? 

     What is our speech like?  Is it constructive and productive, wholesome, measured, well-thought out?  Or is it full of aspersion, or perverting and mischaracterizing the ways of people who disagree with us, or full of complaining and grief? 

     What is our humor like? Is it course (course jesting) and cynical, or creative and clever toward an increase in understanding?   

     How do we appraise our other brothers and sisters in our minds, through a lens of building them up, or one of tearing them down to some level below ourselves?  

     Within all of these areas are opportunities to learn, apply, and  practice what God would offer us (feed us) in His word, to go along with what we feast on through satellite TV or internet in a larger confused and Godless world.   

     What does our immorality look like: do we obey every human institution, the speed limits, and the tax code?  Should we?  Does God mean it when he says that?  Are we taught (particularly young people) about the blessings and satisfaction He shares with us moment by moment when we include Him in everything we do? A hard to believe, but very beautiful reality. 

     Are we taught the difference between works and deeds of faith, and works and deeds of the Law?  Has the lack of this distinction left the church paralyzed in fear of being accused of doing something legalistic?  

     How can we participate in this gift of democratic society without letting it rip apart the Body of Christ?  There certainly is a way, let’s have some preaching that leads us closer to that goal, builds up the Body, rather than  opinionated, partisan preaching that favors one wicked, dysfunctional political party over the other, that fractures the Body even more.  Let's figure out how to enter into the Godless political arena and not be torn apart as a body. 

     These things are all what can lie ahead, beyond the reading, and hearing, and studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s word.  Preachers: let’s make sure we take every opportunity to not let it be only a book to just be read, heard, studied, memorized, treasured, and meditated on.  That is just barely the beginning. Emphasize that it is intended to be translated into action, richness, manifesting its life-giving presence by being applied and practiced in our words and doings; giving precious spiritual life to every part of our mortal bodies, and the actions that flow from them.  Don't end the message without finishing the sentence in Colossions 3:16.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, but not just dwell there, enjoy the satisfaction and blessing of using it every chance you get (. . . in whatever you do in word and deed).  That is where the fun is; that is where the joy is; because that is where Christ is.  That might be good preaching to aspire to as well.  Just my opinion.

     I have to include, in ending this post, saying that it was edifying and stimulating to have the guest speaker in church this morning; it made me think, and gave me opportunity to become more acquainted with my thoughts, and grow in the ability to instruct and be instructed.  And, to include that I am very happy with my regular preacher and look forward to his thoughtful messages every Sunday, as well as all of the guest speakers to come.

All joy. 

NAS  Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

 6 For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come,

 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.

 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,

 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him

 11 -- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

 12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

 14 And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.