Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Mortimer's First Garden

While some folks may focus in on the correct/rebuke others portion of this verse, I’m much more drawn to the idea of talking, sharing with people with “great patience.” With patience as the umbrella, even a correction would be done with utmost concern and gentleness. That makes sense.

II Timothy 4:2
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

I hate “sparring” about verses in the Bible. Face it, there are tons of people who know the scriptures a lot better than I do and they have committed themselves to memorizing hunks of useful phrases, ready to debunk (correct/rebuke) and possibly even “expose” me and my understanding or interpretation of the words. I don’t go there anymore.

But I’m thinking today that “preach the Word” may actually mean “preach Jesus” moreso than expound on scriptures. For me, that means to speak about Jesus and his life, to explain the concept of a Christ in this world, to share the impact of Jesus and His Holy Spirit within me, to give the gift of what I personally know. When I add the words from scripture to my personal story, when I share how those words helped me understand the truth of the Christ in my life, then it’s a package of love. I am not a leader/teacher/preacher. I am no Timothy. I am just a follower of that Way.

But, what is preaching? Is it part of my role at all? Is it just proclaiming, teaching, exhorting, advocating, and admonishing or can it be all of these things? When I purposefully add “patience” to any of these definitions, the tenor of the words is much softened. It’s more like explaining or story-telling to a child, spoken with patience and even love. It’s not self-edifying, it’s not deprecating or sanctimonious. It’s not screaming or challenging. It’s not clever. That other kind of preaching/teaching is incompatible with patience, or at least, in my mind, they are not easily partnered together.

Jesus is patient; has been and will be throughout time. God is patient. Love is patient.

The other day, I read a cute story to some kids at the library in which Mortimer the mouse planted a seed and was quite disgruntled the next day when there was nothing to show for it. We all know that seeds take time to sprout. Why aren’t we as loving and patient with the Word?

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Whether it’s speaking, writing, or teaching a class, it’s critical to do so authentically and to check in with the listeners, the readers, the students. Are they getting it? Are we having a conversation? It’s one reason I’ve grown tired of traditional church services: too lopsided. I need dialogue.

I Corinthians 14:11
If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.

I think it’s one of the reasons blogs, social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc. are so popular. People write/talk and someone responds or leaves a comment. It’s like saying, “I hear you. I’m listening.” In some churches, this is accomplished by listener responses: “Amen” and the like, but it’s a primitive exchange. People write books and yes, we assume they love the process, but the real joy is in knowing the books are being read.

Another element is intent. Why does anyone write about God or Christ or faith (or anything else for that matter)? Why do we speak or teach? I’ve always struggled a bit with this question? I mean, there has to be a certain confidence that I have something to say. What is the balance between humility and spunk?

Teaching requires a class. Performing requires an audience. Writing requires readers. We’re back to the old Zen question, “Does a tree make a sound when it falls in the woods if no one hears it?”

Paul writes in verse 6b, “. . . what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?” What we say, what we teach, what we write, are the answers, hopefully, to the burning questions in the hearts of the people with whom we want to connect.

Mike and I encountered our favorite pastor some twenty years ago. His sermons were generally compelling but the times we liked best were Sunday nights and Wednesday nights when we could ask our questions, lots and lots of questions. We challenged him and he challenged us. The dialogue was alive and vibrant and unassuming. This was our time of greatest growth and learning.

Was it only because we were younger in our faith or was it the conversation?

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What does this look like . . . working hard “in the Lord?” I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday. I’m thinking the essence lies in the word sacrifice – a sacrifice of time and energy.

Romans 16:12
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

Truthfully, there isn’t much we can “give” to God since everything we have is gift from God already. Except for time. Granted, time is also part of God’s creation, and yet, we have free will in our use of time. It cannot be repaid and it cannot be controlled. Time marches on. Time is the qualifier to all of our lives. Time is our ultimate measuring stick.

How do I use my time?

To work hard within the constraints of the time given to me is, according to Paul, worthy of acknowledgment. The time I give to the things of God has more value than the time I give to anything else.

To work hard in the Lord then means I use my time for God. There are no surprises here: prayer (in all of its forms); helping the poor, widows & orphans; practicing koinonia with other believers; sharing our story (our witness); studying; teaching; and loving the unlovely.

Working hard in the Lord is not setting up church programs or retreats, cooking and serving a ladies’ luncheon, practicing skits, or building a building.

Instead, working hard is going against the easy way. Working hard is the way of the seed in soil or the caterpillar in its chrysalis. Working hard is transformation.

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We have “faculties, talents and qualities” that contribute to our uniqueness. They are gifts. Some of these gifts travel through our family lines, some appear supernaturally, some are discovered after years of disuse, but all are from God and given in grace. Exercising those gifts is a choice.

Romans 12:6-8
Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy . . . practical service . . . teaching . . . encouraging . . . contributing to the needs of others . . . leadership . . . showing mercy . . . .
Amplified and NIV combined

Out of this list, I can manifest some of these attributes by sheer will. I can serve others or encourage, I can even contribute to the needs of others and I am working on showing mercy. These are all good things to have and employ. We would all do well to work on these areas of our lives.

Some people are simply gifted with these attributes and the expression of these gifts is instinctive. And yet, lots of the same folks don’t seem to realize they have the gifts and as a result, the gifts are under-used and the community suffers. Maybe it’s because people don’t even realize how important they are to the body of Christ . . . to the koinonia.

Paul specifically noted these gifts and although I’m sure the list is not necessarily exclusive, clearly these attributes are essential to any team or group (Christian or not, I’d say). There is always a need for visionaries (prophesying) while others handle the practicalities. Some must teach while those who struggle need to be encouraged by those who can see future success in anyone. There are those who understand and multiply resources for the good of all and there are those who can see the big picture and put the puzzle pieces together. And in a thriving group, there will be those whose mercy weaves compassion, gentleness, and forgiveness throughout.

What are your gifts? Do you have one or many? What is the gift of the one beside you? What is mine?

Remember, these gifts are given by grace. Whenever grace is involved, it means there is no “worthiness” involved. The gifts are undeserved and cannot be bought or earned. And yet, all are needed for a fully functioning koinonia.

If you are an encourager, then I exhort you to draw forth the natural gifts of those around you. It may be this role that is most essential to building a truly viable community.

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It’s one thing to have knowledge and a desire to share that knowledge with others but it’s another thing altogether if we don’t apply that knowledge to our own behaviors. Am I guilty?

Romans 2:19-21
. . . if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?

Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a way that God tempers rashness and bad choices. It’s like one of those dog leashes that releases for a long way, but eventually, the end is reached and the dog is pulled back into safety. I’m feeling some tugs today.

I love writing about the Word and what God shows me each day. But I think I need to be more careful about the voice I use. Sometimes, I read aloud what I have written and I must go back and change all the pronouns to first person, to acknowledge that the message is personal. It’s a reminder that I must teach myself. There are many things I have learned and and I have grown immeasurably, but the application of what I know continues to be a challenge. I assume, no more or less than it is for anyone.

I tend to be “results” oriented, but this Christian walk business is all “process.” I know and understand this in my mind, but the heart is slower to come around.

In my enthusiasm for the “message,” I forget to walk it. God forgive me. Let this day be a day of sensitivity to your counsel. Give me mindfulness. Keep me in prayer throughout the day.

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I do get some satisfaction knowing that Paul was flawed. And apparently, among his imperfections was his long-windedness. On this occasion, in Troas (part of modern day Turkey), the last day of his visit there, he talked and taught almost 24 hours!

Acts 20:7b, 9a, 11b
Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. … Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on…. [then] After talking until daylight, he [Paul] left.

Luke wrote that Paul talked “on and on” [NIV] indicates to me that this was a long session even for the devoted disciples.

I think it’s important to remember that Paul was not perfect. He was anointed by God and did marvelous works as a faithful apostle. He taught many. He changed the composition of the believers, opening hearts and doors to non-Jews. But he wasn’t perfect! In fact, he was on the extreme side of things. He had been a Pharisee before he accepted Christ as the Messiah. He already had a bent toward compulsiveness.

We must read Paul in this light. Besides, in a time when little was written down, how could anyone remember what Paul said in a 24 hour sermon? Unlike Jesus, Paul did not lean to parables and simplicity. He was a scholar… a theologian… an academician. Face it, to read the books and writings of scholars today can be daunting as well. It takes lots of energy and focus to capture the essence of what is written in these complex texts.

Each person brings his/her uniqueness to the kingdom story. The spirit of Jesus in me manifests differently than the spirit in you. Of course, there are common denominators, but there is that part of the story that only I can tell… that only I can live…. flaws and all.

Confession, I’m a big talker too. I think out loud and my listeners have to sort through the half-baked ideas to glom the big picture. I talk with such confidence and enthusiasm that people often miss my insecurities and fears. Sometimes I say things so fast that I manage to talk myself into trouble, putting my foot into my mouth, as they say, up to my thigh. And then, there’s the gossip factor. It’s all about talking… and talking… and talking.

And yet, in midst of the jabber, I also know there are truths. I love being a follower a Christ. I love that spiritual aspect of my life. Secret? I think I could talk about my faith, my God, and the Messiah for 24 hours too. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could guarantee to raise anyone from the dead who fell out a window.

In the end, I think I’m supposed to be quiet today. Let’s see how that goes.

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