15Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Tim 2:)
I was reading a page from the web where the writer said: "In this lesson...." It occurred to me how this is what lessons are usually called: Lessons. In school we are given lessons; in Sunday School we are given lessons. In books we are often given lessons. And what are we to do with these lessons? Study them.
Lessons and studies are not the same thing. Lessons are divisions of an educational process (my own interpretation). Study is what we do with the lessons. Lessons are what other people have set up for us as "facts." Study is the action we take to make those facts a part of our knowledge base, that is, our thinking.
As I read the lesson on the web page, it caused me to wonder if I should be calling my pages "lessons." It took but a moment to realize that I don't have lessons that anyone should study. I present information that could be studied as if they were lessons. For instance, my pages on the Holy Spirit or the Articles of Faith could be regarded as "lessons."
But I wouldn't like to think that anyone is reading what I write as if it were "facts" that needed to be "learned," that is, incorporated into their own beliefs or way of thinking.
Being a teacher, or a preacher, or an "expert" in any given field - especially in the study of the Word of God carries with it tremendous responsibilities that I would not like to place on myself. If I set myself up as the one "in the know," then I am saying that others should follow my example or advise.
No one should follow my example or advise. Neither my life nor my words possess anything that will benefit anyone but myself. To be sure I am always ready and willing to share my thoughts, and even my life at times, with anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. But I would not like to think anyone ever followed any of my advise.
This is particularly so when it comes to the Bible.
When I taught art, or fencing, or bicycle repair I expected my students to listen to what I said and follow my instructions to the letter. I placed myself in the position of "expert," and people paid their money to receive what I had to offer. Was what I was teaching correct? Absolutely. I did a lot of homework and did a lot of practicing to hone my skills and my knowledge of the subject I was teaching.
Was my lesson plan and my teaching ability the best available? I would like to think so, and I worked toward that end. But I am sure there were many people far more knowledgeable and skilled at teaching than I was.
And more to the point, even if I were the very best instructor, and had the very best lesson plan - I would not expect my students to absorb what I said as "truth" and not look elsewhere for added information that would benefit them. I would also expect them to add to what I was teaching them and strive to become far more knowledgeable and skilled than I was. In fact, I took much pleasure from my students surpassing me in knowledge or skill. I attributed it to my ability as a teacher (an ego thing), but the fact often was that the student had a native ability that I lacked.
In the area of art, or bicycling etc there is not a great deal that can go wrong if the instruction is poor or inaccurate. Of course if I taught that a person should ride a bicycle zigzag down the middle of the street and never stop for stop signs then dreadful consequences could result. But I doubt that anyone would pay attention to any thing I said if this is what I taught.
The erroneous teachings of most people are not so far off that it can be easily detected. Yet even obviously distorted teachings are listened to and obeyed; for instance the teachings of Jim Jones, Charles Manson and Satan himself. But most teachings are just far enough off track to keep a person from finding the Truth, or the Best Way of doing a thing, not far enough off to lead them to disaster.
God's Word is not one of those subjects that do not lead to disaster. Minor errors in understanding can lead to major problems. Using the analogies above, a small thing like not tightening the axle nuts on a bicycle wheel can cause death or serious injury. So too can leaving out an element of Salvation result in the loss of a person's Eternal Life.
Last Sunday in church a lady told the Pastor: "I don't read anything or listen to anything unless I talk to you first." The Pastor did not respond. Besides, how could he respond? The lady was doing what she should do according to the Bible (Heb 13:17). But what an awesome responsibility that places on the Pastor who must "give account" for that which he teaches those "sheep" he has been intrusted with. What if the Pastor's understanding of the Word is a little off kilter, or comes short of God's expectations?
I would not want to be a Pastor, or a Sunday School teacher, or be deemed a Theologian unless I truly had a calling by God to do so, and knew for certain that God was doing the instruction and the guiding of His sheep through me, and that I was not left to my own devises.
When I made up my lessons plan for the classes I taught, I analyzed what others had to say, how they taught, and created my own lessons adding to that which others had done.
I suspect that is just what those who teach or preach the Word do as well; and that is why there are so many denominations and interpretations of the Bible. The Bible is not up for personal interpretations. We are not allowed to teach it in whatever way we will. And as I said above, I have not been called to either teach the Bible, nor to Preach the Word, nor to clarify God's Word as do the Theologians.
Yet, I firmly believe I have been given a calling by God. It's not to teach, nor to preach - but to announce.
I announce that you (and everyone else) had better not just sit back and trust that your Pastor has the Truth for you.
I announce that you had better not count on some rituals or some words or some good activities Saving you.
I announce that God demands complete submission of those who call themselves "Christians," thereby "Children of God." That He demands we shed this Adamic flesh and take on the Holy Spirit.
And first and foremost, I announce that without the guidance of the Holy Spirit we are not God's Children; and the only way to receive the Holy Spirit is to honestly, from the heart abandon our own will and desires and turn to God in full submission.
And even though I am certain of these announcements, I want nobody to respond to them because I announced them. I don't want that responsibility. Nor can I take any credit if someone is Saved because of these announcements. To take credit for "success," I must also take responsibility for failures. Besides this, what I present I have not figured out on my own (at least I hope my own observations are left out, though I'm sure all are not).
Anything else I write, which is a great deal, is nothing but observation, something to consider - hopefully through the eyes of the Holy Spirit.
So, why don't I call my web pages 'lessons'? Because when I write them, I am learning as I write, often having very little to no idea what will become of them. In other words, I study the Word as it is presented to me. It may look like lessons. And I might sound very dogmatic in my opinion, but they are really nothing but thoughts for you to consider and research on your own.
But without the aid and guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will never know the Truth.
OH, GO AHEAD, NOBODY'S LOOKING
"Go ahead, take that candy bar, nobody's looking."
"Oh, go ahead, take a drag of this cigarette, nobody will know."
"Don't be a chump, take the car if you want it, it ain't locked."
"Go ahead, try a little dope, it won't hurt you."
From a child I have heard such things. And the people I usually heard them from were those my Momma told me to stay away from. I'm sure I'm not the only one to do so, as you have most likely heard these voices of temptation yourself, and probably from those who called themselves your "friends."
As adults, and as Christians, we know where these temptations came from. Though they came through the mouth of someone we knew, the words were supplied from that old tempter himself, Satan.
While your ears heard these words of temptation, your mind was probably recalling the words of your parents (and teachers and the media in the olden days) telling you to not fall for the seduction of sin.
Whether you heeded those words of advice or not, they had been supplied to you.
Things have changed a great deal over the years; what was considered "right and proper" is now regarded as merely a matter of opinion. It's a "do your own thing" world, and getting ever more so. I know the Media and advertising harp the words of Satan. And I know the governments are leaning more and more in Satan's direction. And I know the schools have kicked Jesus out and invited Satan in. How about families? Are parents trying at all to keep their children on the sunny side of the street and out of back alleys?
As I watched the world fall into Satan's clutches, I always held on to the knowledge that there was one bastion of righteousness that would always be there. One foothold on reality that would never give way.
But I was wrong. That firm foothold has lost its footing and is sinking into the same pit the World has fallen into.
PLAYING THE GAME
"Let's play a game. I'll be a captain."
"Ok. And I'll be the other captain. Now we got to choose up sides."
"Right. I'll go first. I choose you, and you, and you."
"And I'll choose you, and you, and you."
"Hey! What about me? I want to play too and I wasn't chosen!"
"Yeah, me too!" "And me!" "And me too also!"
"Ok, whoever wants to play, raise your hands."
"Ok now, half of you that raised your hand go on that team, and the other half come here on this team."
"Now, we got the teams, what'll we play?"
"I know, let's play dodgeball."
"Nuhn ungh, let's play King of the Hill."
"I got a better idea. Let's do like the grownups do. Let's play church!"
Kids play for the fun of it.
Grownups play for keeps.
Kids may play "keepsies" for the marbles;
But grownups play "keepsies" for the Eternal Souls of those who chose to play. You would think the grownups would take their game a little more seriously, wouldn't you?
But they don't.
People who "play the game" choose which "side" they want to play on, then fight to prove their chosen side the right one. And winning means getting a member of the other team to agree with you, much like a game of checkers "capturing" the other man's men.
But who is the real winner of this game? Nobody. Everybody loses.
God is not looking for winners, or for the favorite denomination. God is not going to wait and see who has the most influence, or the most "evidence" to see who He is going to take with Him to Heaven. And all our fighting and squabbling down here is just more evidence that we are yet carnal, and therefore not fit for Heaven and to be in the presence of God.
God is not either, or. God has not divided His Scriptures into competing sections where they can be chopped up and divided into yes and no's. Yet we treat the Bible as if He had done just that. We decide what fits our stance, use them for billy clubs to beat the competition over the head, and claim the Scriptures that say the opposite of what we believe is a mystery, or like some do, say they are corrupted or added by some wayward scribe.
And those denominations who try to stand on a compromise, or a middle road between the two extremes, end up getting beat over the head by both of the extremes.
Is the Bible True? Did God mean just what He said? Can we trust the Bible, every "jot and tittle" to be what God intends us to know, believe and incorporate into our life? I am assuming you are nodding your head in agreement with that statement. Then why don't we all act as if God did mean what He said, instead of making the Scriptures say what we say He meant?
If we read the Bible, and find conflicting verses, it does not mean the verses conflict. It means we do not yet understand what they mean, and therefore must set them aside (as far as conclusions are concerned) until the Holy Spirit reveals the meaning to us. And once we have that full meaning revealed to us, we will know it because we won't find conflicts - except when we try to tell anyone else what has been revealed.
Let's not play church anymore and get on with being the Church, the Body of Christ fully led by the Head of Christ, Jesus, through His Holy Spirit. If you like games, go start a nice game of marbles.
LAW OF LIBERTY
Three, even four children are playing in a field. They are all brothers, with the same parents, yet they are not being raised alike.
The oldest of the children is being raised as Child of the World. He is given very little supervision, though he is watched, and allowed to do whatever he wants to do. The parents hope, that by so doing, the child's natural instinct will lead him to do the right thing. They have been taught that mankind is good at heart, and if allowed the freedom to display that goodness, he will do so. And since this child was the firstborn, his parents named him Adam.
Times change. The parents of these three children began to read that freedom was not the way to raise a child, but rather strict discipline was the right and proper way. They learned that if a child is watched constantly, given very strict regulations, and disciplined harshly when he falters, that he or she will grow into a secure and obedient citizen. So following this advice, this second child was given a list of tightly regulated rules, severely punished when he broke the slightest of the rules, and promised great rewards when he grew up if he kept all the rules. This second child, because he was so restricted, was given the name of Law.
As time went on, the parents of these children decided to disregard all advise, and just let the third child grow under his own convictions. Unlike their first child, Adam, this third child was taught very carefully all that was required of him. He was given rewards when he did well, and disciplined when he went astray. After a period of learning what was right and what was wrong, this third child was given total liberty, although watched carefully.
This third child was unique in yet another way. Although he was regarded as one, and raised as one, he was in fact twins. This third child, because he was given instructed freedom, was named Liberty, and his twin was given the name Freedom.
These children were very fortunate as their parents were quite wealthy. They lived on a lovely farm with many trees and animals, and a beautiful lake filled with fish and visited often by birds of every kind.
Their parents, as parents are prone to do, especially if their entire purpose is the raising of their family, watched over the children diligently,
Adam, the firstborn, was an independent sort of a boy. He loved most to venture by himself into the woods, returning late in the day. He was rather a secretive child, not too prone to share what he had done, or what his interests were. However, it was often reported that where Adam had been, there was damage, to the trees, and to the animals.
When Adam was around the other children, he was quite abusive and rude, taking what ever he wanted and sharing nothing of his own. And his parents found that Adam behaved poorly toward them as well, as if he assumed he was the only one of any importance at all.
Law was very different from his brother Adam. Law was careful to do all that was expected of him. He did not venture off much, but rather stayed in sight of his parents, as if afraid of making a mistake, therefore having to endure punishment. Law was also a very rigid and driven child, attempting nothing that did not bring him praise and reward. His parents found that it was difficult to relate to Law because of the fear that their son had of them. They also found that, should they turn their backs for any period of time, Law would drift toward behaving as did their firstborn, Adam.
Liberty and Freedom, though twins, were very different in nature from one another. Freedom enjoyed the world in which he lived. He took advantage of everything it had to offer. Unlike his older brother, Adam, Freedom was not abusive. In fact, Freedom was a very kindhearted sort of a child, willing to give of himself in order that others may prosper. Freedom was a likeable child, rarely doing anything that went against his upbringing. On the rare occasions that Freedom broke the rules, though he did not deny doing so when caught, neither did he refrain from hiding what he had done if at all possible.
And though Freedom was pleasant and likable, he was not prone to spend time with his parents, preferring to enjoy the world in which he lived.
Liberty was not as sociable as his twin, nor was he so apt to do that which he was instructed to do. Liberty found it difficult to obey all the rules, or to get along with others as he knew he should. But he tried. When Liberty was caught breaking a rule he had forgotten, he took his punishment well. And if he discovered he had offended, but was not caught, he readily confessed to his parents, expecting the forthcoming punishment.
Liberty was not as pleasant a child to be around as was his twin brother. But Liberty loved nothing more than to be in the company of his parents. Liberty enjoyed sitting with them, walking with them, listening to their stories, and being instructed by them. To Liberty, his parents were his life, just as he, and all the children were to his parents.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones were quite elderly. They were also quite alone since their children had all grown up and moved to far places as is normal for children today.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones realized that time was drawing to a close for them, and that one or the other was very likely to pass on to meet the Lord in the near future.
Being very close to one another, and dependent on the emotional support and company of one another, Mr. and Mrs. Jones knew that the departure of either of them would be quite devastating to the one who remained.
In order that the one left behind would not be overly alone, Mr. and Mrs. Jones decided to visit the local Animal Shelter and adopt a dog as a companion for them. However, so insure their choosing just the right pet, they took home four young pups, all from the same litter, with the understanding that three of the pups would be returned after a period of time.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Jones found all three pups to be adorable, each having their own individual personalities. They knew they would grow very fond of all four pups, but they knew also that shortly three would have to be returned to the pound because they could not care for four pets.
To prevent becoming too attached to the pups they decided to name them after their personality, which was an easy task since the four were all so different from one another.
The first pup to receive a name was Rascal. Rascal was an impudent pup who never sat still. He was into everything, and always into mischief. Though a lovable pup, he was also a handful.
The second pup to be named was Rebellion. Rebellion found the word "No" a challenge that must be met, and he did so with fervor. Rebellion was adorable, but difficult.
The third pup to receive a name was Rapture. Rapture was interested in everything. Wherever Mr. and Mrs. Jones went, Rapture was right at their feet. Mr. and Mrs. Jones were enraptured with Rapture.
The forth pup was a poor little thing that sit off by himself, alone and afraid. Being the smallest and the weakest of the four, Mr. and Mrs. Jones decided to call him Runt. Runt was one pup easy to feel sorry for, but difficult to adore.
To begin with Mr. and Mrs. Jones gave all four pups the most diligent of attention and supplied the pups with anything a pup could wish for. All the pups responded happily to this attention except one. Runt was unresponsive and refused to be happy no matter what Mr. and Mrs. Jones did for him.
It's easy to be kindly and loving to someone who is supplying all your desires; but how do you respond when the fulfilling of your desires cease? This is the true test of our nature. Do we behave as we should even without rewards? Or do we only react favorably when given that which we want? This is a question Mr. and Mrs. Jones needed answered.
In order to obtain the answer to the question of loyalty, Mr. and Mrs. Jones removed all the toys and non- essential goodies they had provided for the pups. Food and attention the pups still had in abundance, but fun they now had to provide for themselves. This was not easy for Mr. and Mrs. Jones to do because they dearly loved to make others happy. It was in their nature.
Rascal and Rapture remained the rascally and enraptured pups they had been. They provided their own entertainment: Rascal in his mischievous endeavors, and Rapture remaining at the feet of Mr. and Mrs. Jones.
Rebellion, on the other hand, became more rebellious than even normal for him. He became not only rebellious, but resentful and angry as well. Much to Mr. and Mrs. Jones' regret, they knew they had to return Rebellion to the Animal Shelter where he must await whatever fate would befall him.
Runt took an unexpected turn. Rather than remain the same standoffish pup he had been, he began to warm up, just a bit, to his brother and sister, and Mr. and Mrs. Jones as well.
Three pups remained, which was yet two more than Mr. and Mrs. Jones could handle.
To further test the pups, Mr. and Mrs. Jones cut their daily rations of food to just enough to keep the three pups healthy. And though the food was nutritious, it was no longer the fancy food they had been providing in the past.
Rapture was unaffected by her change in diet, she remained just as she had always been: at the heels of Mr. and Mrs. Jones.
Rascal, however, did not take so well to his reduction of rations. He began to withdraw himself from any sign of affection directed toward him, and, not satisfied with his own share of provisions, he would take from his sister's share.
Runt was unaffected by the change in diet, consuming that which was provided; and less. Because of Rascal's taking of his sister's share, Runt would leave portions of his share so Rapture would not go without.
Again, Mr. and Mrs. Jones knew they must make another trip to the Animal Shelter with yet another pup unsuitable for the needs of the family.
Now there remained but two pups: Rapture and Runt.
Rapture was easy to love because she was so lovable and loving; both giving and receiving love as well.
Runt was not so loving, nor as lovable as his sister. But Runt had shown charity toward his sister. Certainly this was a favorable sign.
Companionship and loyalty had been exhibited by both of the remaining pups. But how would the pups respond if Mr. and Mrs. Jones were unable to provide all the attention and affection? Suppose they were ill, or had to leave the pups somewhere while they took care of important business? Does love go two ways?
In order to find the depths of loyalty both Rapture and Runt possessed, Mr. and Mrs. Jones began to turn from the pups, exhibiting signs of sadness and sorrow. Again, this was very difficult for them to do because it went contrary to their nature.
Rapture was just as fervent in her attention as ever, following behind her masters wherever they would go. However, Mr. and Mrs. Jones did not go anywhere, nor did they pick up Rapture and return her attention she had become accustomed to. Then, as one would expect from such a loving pup, Rapture began to shy away from Mr. and Mrs. Jones in apparent rejection.
Runt did not respond as one would expect of such a pup. Runt, after a short time seemed to recognize the sadness of his masters, and the dismay of his sister. Runt no longer sat in a corner as he had always done. Little by little Runt would move closer and closer to Mr. and Mrs. Jones, until he was laying next to them, his head laid over the foot of either Mr. or Mrs. Jones. When not at the feet of his masters, Runt was nudging or lightly pawing at his sister in an effort to bring her out of her sadness.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones then knew what they must do. As much as it pained them, and as in love with Rapture as they had become, they had to take her back to the Animal Shelter. Though they knew Rapture was a wonderful pup, they knew also that they were not getting the pet for the pet's sake, but for their own sake.
And though it hurt them to do so, especially knowing the probable end of the pups that had to be returned, three had to be taken back to the pound, and the other left to live with his masters.
Several years ago I was experiencing a very difficult and lonely time. I very much needed companionship. And although there were many people around, there was no one who had time for me. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has ever felt this way, so I'm just as sure there are those of you who understand what I was going through.
One day I stepped out of my trailer, and there, right at my step was this big duck. (If you've heard this story before, please bear with me, it ties the rest of the stories together). This was not just any sort of duck, it was a big, male Muscovy duck. And if any of you have ever seen a male Muscovy duck, you know they are ugly things with a big, ugly growth on their nose.
I found it interesting that a duck would be at my door, as if waiting for me to come outside. I also found it interesting that such a duck as this should be at my door. That day I spent a lot of time at the book store, the farm store and on the web trying to figure out what kind of duck I had just encountered.
The next morning, bright and early, as I stepped out of my trailer, that same duck flew from the peak of the family's house and stood at my feet. All day that duck followed me around wherever I went. That evening the duck flew back to the peak of the house where it spent the night.
The next day the very same thing happened.
And the next week the very same thing happened.
In fact, for the next month and a half the very same thing happened. That duck had become so much a part of my life that people called him my "shadow." And if it wasn't that so many people had seen Daffy with me, and if I hadn't taken so many pictures of him, I would have reckoned that he was just a figment of my imagination.
Every day, and every hour Daffy was right at my heels. When I spoke to him, he would respond with a "Peep." (Muscovy ducks don't quack, they make a barely audible peep sound.) I became very attached to that ugly duckling, and in time, I could only see his beauty, and could no longer see his ugly nose. (I know Daffy was young when he first came to my door because he grew from a big duck to a huge duck in that month and a half. Almost the size of a small goose.)
Daffy was there with me because he wanted to be there with me. And one of the reasons I wanted him to be with Daffy is because he wanted to be with me.
One morning Daffy wasn't there to meet me at the door. Then again the next day. All day I thought about that silly duck, and cried for missing him (which I am beginning to do again). And the third day I knew Daffy was gone for ever. Daffy had fulfilled his purpose. He was an Angel that the Lord had sent to see me through a hard time, and to let me know I wasn't alone. He was my little miracle. I was over the hump and things began to improve for me, and has continued to do so.
Of course this story is not about a duck: No more than the stories before were about dogs and children. This story is about caring. It's about the joy that comes from being with someone who wants nothing more than to be with you beyond anything else. It's about loving someone because they first loved us. It's about someone wanting to meet our needs more than they want to have their own needs met. And it's about others doing to us as we know we ought to be doing for others.
We are made in God's image. Certainly that is the case with Christians who have received the Holy Spirit and thereby God Himself. If we understand what we want from others, and what pleases us in others - then we also know what God wants from us, and what pleases Him.
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