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.