Know Your Bible

VOL. 14                                                                                                                         November 6, 2016                                                                                                                            NO. 34



Ever get sleepy during the sermon? Truth is, any one of us may find our attention wandering now and then. Long attention spans are difficult under the best of circumstances. The preacher bears a heavy responsibility here, for subject matter, style of presentation, relevance, and many other factors which contribute to a "live" wide-awake audience. But the speaker cannot do it all. Nor is it enough to prove by the Scriptures that we should be vitally interested. We know that -- and yet we may need motivation. Perhaps we could even learn how to become better listeners.

Jesus said, "Take heed . . . how ye hear" (Lk. 8:18). Not with dulled hearing and closed eyes, shunning the truth (Matt. 13:15-16); nor with preconceived notions that prevent our receiving truth (Matt. 16:21-23). The people I now have in mind do not belong in these categories. But there are "good" people whose minds wander, or are easily distracted; and this article is bold to make some suggestions for getting more out of the sermon and of worship as a whole.

Sit toward the front of the auditorium; close enough to feel the speaker is talking to you. Do this not just to better hear the speaker, but to improve the "oneness" of feeling essential to good communication. It puts fewer distractions between you and the speaker, allows you to better "read" his expressions, gestures, etc. It also makes for better singing and a "closer" feeling for the Lord's supper and other worship. Yes, there are mothers with babies who need to sit closer to the nursery; sick and elderly who need easier access to the rest rooms; and always a certain number who "couldn't care less" about the worship, but come (now and then) for unknown reasons. Leave the back seats for them.

Become a participant, not an observer. In Christianity all saints are priests in a holy, royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5,9). Each is a worshiper; praying and singing with the leader, remembering Christ in the communion, giving freely with the Lord's work in mind, and learning -- repeating in your own mind -- that which is being taught. Being a true learner is not a passive process, but requires distinct participation with the teacher.

Take notes, learn to outline the message. Some are content to jot down the Scriptures used -- and that is good. But this can be done without much thinking with the speaker. If we would make an effort to jot down his main points (in our own brief wording) and note their relation to one another and to the subject, we would find ourselves much more of a participant -- and certainly a much better listener.

Question what you hear. Is that a valid point, proven by the Scripture used? You will not be able to think the matter through during the sermon, but a question mark beside the point will remind you to "check it out" when you are home. This word of caution: one can be a "noble Berean" (Acts 17:11) without becoming an habitual critic of the work of others. Learn constructive criticism, and apply it to your own work.

Listen with the intention of making this your message, when you have time to think it through. How would you tell this to others? How could you improve on it, to fit some-one you need to teach? This point of view can have an amazing effect on your attention span.

Make self-application of the lesson. How can this improve my life for Christ? How does it fit my personal needs? Listen with a tender conscience, ready to learn and adjust your life accordingly.

You can have the blessings of Jesus Christ if you will learn to be a good listener. The Savior said, "Blessed are . . . your ears, for they hear." He also said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matt. 13:16; 5:6). With a little practice on the above, and this kind of incentive, you may not notice the preacher ran overtime. 

—Robert Turner

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The difference between a reason and an excuse should be obvious. If a person has a reason for his conduct or behavior, he will certainly use it, and legitimately. A person who gives a “reason” that is actually not a reason but an excuse, has a problem. I can find little difference–if any–between an excuse and a lie.

In fact, if a thing is presented as a “reason” when it’s not actually a reason, how else would you describe it? A reason is the ground, motive, or cause for which a thing is done. It gives an answer that actually justifies some action, belief, or event. On the other hand, an excuse, given ostensibly to explain the facts in a case, in reality hides the truth and so is merely a pretext or subterfuge.

If folks who are constantly giving excuses for their lack of participation knew how utterly foolish are some of their “reasons,” they would likely desist from their usage right away. Let me illustrate. These are a few of the more common excuses for people’s lack of involvement and particularly for their lack of attendance at the services of the church.

“I’ve just not felt very well lot lately.” This “reason” is one of the most commonly used. Actually this “reason” is given by some who are not very interested in the work of the church, but just don’t want to openly admit it. The person who uses this “reason” never uses it in regard to his work, or the Friday night lights, or his presence at the golf course. Shame! Do you not know the difference between a reason and an excuse? If the person who constantly uses this “reason” were sick every Thursday in the same way they are every Sunday, they would go see the doctor about it. Or if they felt bad every Tuesday evening they would want to know why. Now it is certainly so that some people–some older folks, some who are chronically ill, can’t be out. But to them–don’t you see?–the statement is a reason, not an excuse. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

“I’ve been real busy with my job lately.” I’ve seldom known a person who makes this excuse who didn’t have time to take off from his business for his golf, for his fishing, for a football game, the kids baseball game, or some other interest. We all have the same amount of time. It’s with its management that we encounter the difficulty. Let me say something to those who give business “reasons” for not attending or being otherwise involved in the work of the church. If you’re too busy to engage yourself in serving God– you’re too busy! If you’re too busy to attend the worship services–you’re too busy! You need to back off and take a look at where you’re headed. You’re not having trouble with your job, you’re having trouble with the world and it’s about time got your time-priorities straightened out. (Matthew 6:33; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 4:5)

“I have to take care of my family.” This is tantamount to saying, “I love my family so much that I don’t have time to serve God.” Listen to this: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38). Hear me carefully–the worst kind of child abuse is to bring a child into this world and give him little or no spiritual guidance. If you want to genuinely care for your family, what better thing than to take them to worship God? I don’t care what your child becomes, how popular he becomes, or how much money he makes, without God he has failed, miserably failed. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

“People there just aren’t friendly to us.” It’s one of the most oft used “reasons” for not attending. ‘Tis a foolish excuse. Don’t you see that in order to expect friendliness, you must yourself be friendly? Folks who give this “reason” very often run toward the door when the last “amen” is said, hit the parking lot, and speed off home or to the restaurant. Consider this: it’s hard to be friendly to folks who are running for the door. What do you expect? That they should trip you, run you down, and hug your neck? Let’s be serious. What kind of “reason” is that? (I John 4:7-12; Romans 12:19)

We better be careful that we don’t try to excuse ourselves with some “reason” that’s not really a real reason. Think it over.

—Dee Bowman

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Know Your Bible" is e-mailed weekly by the church of Christ which meets at 112 Roberts Avenue in Wise, Virginia. If you know of others who might benefit from the articles contained in this bulletin, we would be glad to have you submit their e-mail addresses and we will include them in next week's mailing. If you are receiving this bulletin and do not wish to continue to do so, please e-mail us with your desire to be removed from the mailing list and we will remove your address promptly. Continue to the bottom of this page and further instructions will be given as to how you may contact us.

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