Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Application....Do We Own the Results?

I struggle with people applying the Bible to my life.  I've heard preachers, workshop leaders and event speakers be very adamant about how God's Word "should" apply to my life.  I'm not against the application process; I hope, pray, wish, believe, etc., that God will apply His Word to my life and grow in me thereby.  However, the application process in the modern church, as well as modern Bible study, has taken a disturbing turn toward a humanistic trend.

The bottom line is this:  God will apply His Own Word to my life in His Own way.  We, as teachers of the Word of God, cannot own the results our students have.

Case in point:  I once attended a scrapbook and crafting retreat on a weekend in which I was under extreme stress in my personal life.  The things on my plate were so overwhelming that I had spent quite a bit of time in prayer, thanking God for the opportunity for me to go to the retreat and praising Him for all the details that had fallen into place to allow me to go.  I love to scrapbook and the fact that this was a Christian retreat where the Word of God would be focused on was just bonus to me.  Before the first teaching session, I recall sitting at my table, looking out the window and breathing a sigh of relief over the beauty of the lake outside and my opportunity to be there.

Then came the first teaching session.  The speaker had chosen to speak about remembering God's Word and His great works in the lives of His children, and the Israelites' reaction of murmuring and being ungrateful. Very little of God's actual Word was used, other than to read the account of the murmurings, then the speaker spent the next 20 minutes telling us how ungrateful we are and how grateful we should be and how we should not be like the Israelite people and that we are not grateful enough in our lives and God is not happy.

Hmmm.  Ok.  I fully believe the speaker had the best of intentions.  You might be thinking, "Hey!  Maybe some ungrateful lady in that audience needed to hear that!  It's not all about you, Tricia."  But, I would disagree that anyone needed to hear that.  I would agree that it's not all about me.  No one needed to hear this speaker's opinion, but we ALL needed to hear more of God's Word and more about God, Himself.

The speaker made a grave mistake in her presentation:  She "owned" the results.  She had decided ahead of time what we ladies should learn from her - and from God's Word - and that's what she presented.  She fueled her talk on the expected results - results that were extremely humanistic and filled with anti-Biblical concepts.  I was incredibly discouraged as we went back to our work tables and I was quiet, which is rare for me.  I didn't get peace until I spent time in God's Word back in my room, focusing on His attributes.  But, I was still disturbed because of all the other ladies who had just been put through that.

I fully understand the lean toward results.  Our schools are built on results. I approach my home school with a results-oriented focus.  I approached Kindergarten with the expected result that my children would learn to read and I tailored their studies to that goal.  As they get older, I approach each year with results in mind.  But, that is academic and academic goals are necessary to academic success.

God's Word cannot be approached purely academically.  There are times when we can teach it from an academic standpoint.  For example, memorizing the books of the Bible is an academic goal, reading through the Bible in a year is an academic goal, most word studies are academic goals.  But, preaching and teaching the Word of God to an audience is different. It's not academic.

God, Himself, describes His Word using food examples.  He calls His Word the "sincere milk of the Word, " (Hebrews) and "meat," (Hebrews).   Now, just think about that for a minute.  When we consume milk and/or meat, we do not have a talk with that milk or meat and tell it what to do. Nor do we talk to a body part and tell it how to absorb that milk or meat.  We do not say, as we eat our meat, "Meat, my arms are feeling especially tired today, would you please direct yourself to them?"  or "I'm having a bad hair day, milk, so would you please direct yourself to my hair?"  Nor do we say, "Hair, I'm going to drink some milk, so take this milk and shine up with it!  Stop being so dull and difficult to manage!"  or "Arms!  Get stronger as I eat this meat!  Take this meat and apply it to yourselves and strengthen yourself with it!"

How ridiculous!  We do not do that!  We cannot even do that!  But, that is exactly what someone is trying to do when they attempt to apply God's Word to another person's life.  The result does not pan out as they expect, frustration ensues and the person whom the expectations is thrust onto is left feeling worse than before, and much like a failure.

The great thing about the Word of God is that we do not have to direct It in any way.  God knows the hearts of the listeners, hearers, readers of His Word and He will see to it that His Word accomplishes what he sends It to accomplish!  What a relief for any Bible teacher or preacher!  The results are not ours to own.

So, how do we present God's Word without a results-oriented plan?  Just give the Word. Just like a mom gives her baby milk. She knows the milk will cause her baby to grow without her directing it and telling it what to do.  It will fuel that baby and the baby will grow.  The same is true for God's Word.  Give the Word, not your opinions of the Word.  Give the Word, not what you think the person listening should do, think, say or feel.  Just give the Word. It is enough all by Itself.  God owns the results and they will always astound!

More on this to come.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's Been a While

I haven't blogged in over a month!  Well, at least not on here.  Summer is a busy time for all of us. As the fall schedule approaches, things tend to settle down into a more predictable routine.  This fall, I'll be teaching in 2 different school districts' community education programs, working part-time in our church office, home schooling my 2 youngest sons and working my direct sales business, Thirty One Gifts.  Not to mention my continued work in free-lance writing.  But, I will find time to blog!  After all, I teach my writing students the importance of blogging, so I must set a good example.

This summer, I was introduced to yet another "Bible Study Book" put out by a popular author of women's Bible Studies.  The problem with these "Bible Study Books" is that they really aren't true Bible studies.  They really are commentaries.  Bible study involves the Bible and a study tool or two such as a concordance or a lexicon.  Bible dictionaries are also useful and important.  I may have to start a movement away from "Bible study books" as they are frustrating me more and more.  I don't buy them; they are usually given to me as a gift. I don't like to re-gift them and pass them on simply because I don't approve of them and don't consider them something I could give someone in good conscience.

Women need to be grounded in the Word. Period.  We don't need someone's ideals, suggestions for easy Christian living or ways to organize our lives.  We need to be grounded in the Word.  Priscilla (of Aquilla & Priscilla, the Book of Acts) was grounded in the Word.  She was able to minister right beside her husband and be a huge help because she was grounded in the Word.

I've made a few observations about women's Bible studies that I'd like to share with you:

1. Women's Bible study books are generally focused on people, not God.
2. Women's Bible study books are generally result-oriented rather than God-oriented.  A certain response is sought and the author feels good when that response is given. The response does not represent the heart, it represents the emotion of the moment.
3. Women's Bible study books often build on one another, making the reader feel that she has to buy the next one, or "must have" the previous one.

This blog writing is not complete on this subject, but I'm tired and it's late so I'm going to stop before I say something stupid in my exhaustion.  However, I will be coming back to this topic more and more because women need to be grounded in the Word, not fed fluff and stuff.