In 1989 Stephen Covey wrote a national bestseller titled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ® which continues to be a popular seller today. In the book, Dr. Covey listed 7 basic self-help principles which would help persons achieve business success, personal success, etc. in life. Here are those principles:
As you may know, 7 is an interesting number related to short term and working memory, first popularized in a paper published back in 1956 in Psychological Review by George A. Miller. For example, phone numbers have 7 digits, automobile tags have a maximum of 7 digits, a point needs to be heard 7 times before it sticks, the Bible used the number 7 frequently—the 7 Churches of Asia, etc. Why 7? Because the human mind has an amazing capacity to remember and retain up to 7 items but beyond that, it becomes a challenge.
I have used the number “7 Learning Tool” to write this lesson on becoming a DOER OF GOD’S WORD which is commanded in James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” The English word “DOER” is a translation of the Greek word POIETES, from which we get our word “Poet.” It means “A maker, performer, etc.” A Poietes is a creative person, a maker, and demonstrator of something. I look at the alphabet and all I see are letters, a poet looks at letters and sees words which can be produced and performed as poetry, etc.
James is making it clear that each Christian must be a “PERFORMER” of the word, a MAKER of applications. We tend to wait on a preacher or teacher to spell out suggested applications of the word, which is okay, BUT whether the preacher or teacher gives us a list of steps or rules, we must use our hearts and heads to be CREATIVE DOERS of the words. For example, when I read Love your enemy (Matthew 5:44), I must figure out creative ways to DO this command.
What follows are 7 habits I personally believe will help every Christian become a committed and effective doer of God’s word:
There are basically 59 “One another Scriptures” in the New Testament, which means obviously God wants us to practice his word in our relationships with one another in the body of Christ.
Here are 7 “one another” passages for you to begin your practice of DOING them by applying the 7 habits listed above:
While it is essential that we read, study, and memorize Scripture, the ultimate challenge is DOING the word. Remember, you can teach a parrot to speak Bible verses but the bird can’t do them. Remember these words spoken by Jesus, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Brother Turner has a new book Lord, You Can Count On Me (amazon.com)
Have you ever wondered, as I have, what happened in the life of the Ethiopian eunuch, who was baptized by Philip (Acts 8:26-39), when he arrived back home in Ethiopia? Was there a congregation there with which he became identified with? Did he, as some think, start a new congregation? Regardless of what the answer might be, one thing is certain as a new Christian he had to make some attitude adjustments.
Revisiting the Day of Pentecost when 3000 were baptized, we have the account of how, under the teaching and leadership of the Apostles, they began to adjust their attitudes and actions. We read: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers … So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:42, 46).
Then there is the Gentile convert, Cornelius, a military soldier who was baptized. (Acts 10). After hearing the Gospel he was baptized (Acts 10:47, 48). Have you ever wondered how he must have felt when the Jewish Christians rejected him? It took a major conference of the leaders to accept the Gentile Christians into complete fellowship (Acts 15).
People obey the Gospel from various habits, attitudes, and places in life. Some are converted on the “road between Jerusalem and Gaza” (Acts 8:26). Some are converted in a “crowd where a meeting is occurring” (Acts 2:1-47). Some are converted because of being taught in a home (Acts 16:31-34). Some are converted because of some event in their lives (Acts 9:1-6; 22:16).
Today in the 21st Century people also obey the Gospel from various habits, attitude, and places in life. Some from having grown up attending church services. There are those who heard the Gospel in a meeting or by watching a TV program or listening to a radio program. Some were motivated to be baptized by studying a Bible correspondence course or reading a tract. Some were converted in a home Bible study conducted by a neighbor or friend. I know of several cases where a person was picked up hitch-hiking and taught the Gospel and obeyed it. Some have gotten permission to leave their jail cells to be baptized. I could go on and on. The point is people obey the Gospel from “101” places in life. There is no right or specific place a person must be in before he or she can obey the Gospel.
The point of this article is to reflect on the various attitude adjustments a new convert has to make as he or she “grows into the fullness of the measure of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-17); adjustments they must make in order to develop spiritual habits and practices which contribute to the 5-E mission of the church. It is not uncommon for a person to be baptized and not show up for congregational meetings, causing us to wonder why. There may be numerous answers but one may be we haven’t helped them or taught them how to make the attitude and action adjustments the Lord wants them to have (Cf. Philippians 2:8-10).
With the exception of those who may have grown up attending congregational assemblies, most new converts have to go through a whole series of attitude adjustments (Even those who have been observers have to adjust their attitudes).
Let’s take a few minutes and note some of the attitude adjustments a new convert may have to make in order to please the Lord and grow spiritually:
Obviously, this list of attitude adjustment could go on and on. How about you, what was the biggest attitude adjustment you have had to make after being baptized into Christ? Why does the lack of fruit in these areas, by some new converts as well as old, say about obeying Jesus’ command “to teach them to observe all the things I have taught you”?
Through the years I have heard Christians reply, when asked why they weren’t doing a certain thing in the congregation, “I didn’t know I had to do that or be there.” Sadly, some leave the congregation when they discover teachings and emphasis they had not known. Why does this happen? It may be a failure to teach what Jesus taught about “denial of self, cross-bearing, and following Him” (Matthew 16:24). Perhaps repentance (“A change of mind or having another mind) didn’t occur prior to baptism (Luke 3:3, 5; Acts 2:38).
Sometimes there seems to be an anxiousness just to baptize a person, but a failure to teach the counting of the cost and requirement of changes in attitudes and actions. One person said, “It was like signing a loan application without reading the small print or having it explained to me. Later I discovered some new demands that I hadn’t been taught before being baptized at about midnight. I resent that.”
It was prophesied by Jeremiah (31:33-37) and later quoted and applied by the Hebrews writer. Under the New Covenant a person would no longer be a covenant member, like in the case of a male at the time of circumcision and then having to learn what it meant, his requirements, and obligations as a member of the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant. The Hebrews writer makes it clear that in order to become a member of the New Covenant he must first be taught:
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their MIND and write them on their HEARTS, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for ALL SHALL know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Hebrews 8:10, 11).
Regardless of a persons’ place or station in life he or she is a sinner separated from God (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23; 6:23). Therefore, all need to hear the Gospel (Romans 10:17); believe the Gospel (Mark 16:15, 16); confess their unbelief in Christ (Matthew 10:32); repent (change their mind or have another mind) of sin and unbelief in Christ; die to sin and be buried with Christ in baptism and be raised to “walk n newness of life” (Romans 6:1-12); and to “grow into the fullness on Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-17). ALL OF THIS REQUIRES AN ADJUSTMENT OR CHANGE IN ATTITUDE.
If you’ve ever been in one Cracker Barrel restaurant, which is especially popular in the south, you have been in them all. Why? Because basically, they are all the same. For example, as you walk outside to the entrance door you pass a line of rocking chairs, a barrel table with a checkerboard, and some advertisements. Depending on the weather one or more of the rockers will be occupied, not by teenagers, young adults etc. but by older persons. Why the presentation of rocking chairs? I think I’ve figured it out. The majority of customers, at least when I’ve visited are in the retirement age zone. What “old man” hasn’t dreamed of one day hanging up his gloves and work boots and rocking into the sunset?
In the last 50 years, our country has enjoyed the increase in life expectancy. I once read that when the U.S. Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, the average life expectancy in our country was 35. This no doubt contributed to the minimum age required to be a president or vice president was 35 (And still is today). It is estimated that the average life expectancy today is 79.
While aging is taking on new features and blessings, it is also taking on a whole new set of physical health issues. It is beyond the scope of this writing to delve into all the physical and mental health issues; especially which come after 80. I want to note one point which I have observed through the years and especially in recent years. It’s what I call the “Rocking Chair Trap.” I was first made aware of it in my twenties as a young preacher in St. Petersburg, Florida. Our attendance would swell in the winter, sometimes doubling, as the “Snow Birds” would come south for the winter to escape the cold and snow in the north.
As a young and somewhat naïve preacher, I was excited in my first winter as the brethren from up north started to arrive. To me, it meant new “part-time” workers and helpers. But I soon learned as I had conversations with our visitors, most of them made it known they had been active for years back home but now they were “taking a break” or retiring. And during the passing years, I have seen what I call the “Rocking Chair Trap” all across the brotherhood. Christians who were once involved, and many of them in leadership roles, “retire to their rocking chairs”—it’s the “Now let George do it” attitude.
I have only been able to find one passage in the Bible which refers to what we call “retirement.” It is an Old Testament reference to the Levites who were in charge if the Tabernacle. “This is what pertains to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and above one may enter to perform service in the work of the tabernacle of meeting; and at the age of years they must cease performing this work, and shall work no more.” (Numbers 8:23-26). While we may wish we could retire at 50, the Scriptures, especially under the New Covenant, do not command or sanction our stopping our service in the Body of Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote in his old age and last days of his life. “For I already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
The Bible contains numerous accounts of people used by God in their older years; people past 50, 60, etc. There are also many references to aging and old age:
Junior: “Grandpa, how old is God?”
Grandpa: “Old enough to tell us what to do.”
It is obvious from Scripture that God is telling us about old age. Telling us about the challenges, blessings, and responsibilities. It’s the principles of “to whom much is given much is required” (Luke 12:48). There is no doubt that with age comes numerous challenges. Our physical strength and mental alertness slow down; aches and pains seek to control our attitudes and activities. We tend to try and hide in the shadows or retreat to a rocking chair. We need to transpose Jobs’ words from “Though He slays me, yet will I trust Him,” to “though He allows old age to take hold of me, yet will I serve Him” (Job 13:15).
There are many things a Christian can do in the sunset years to contribute to the ministry of the local congregation, community, and mission field. I still remember her. Sister Kate Cash. She was in her late 60s confined to her bed for most of the 24 hours. The first time I visited her was in the summer. Her front door was open and covered by a screen door. I knocked and told her who I was; she invited me to her bedroom where she was surrounded by cards, bulletins, several Bibles, a devotional book, and her phone. She smiled and ask “How are you doing Bub?” I replied with the same questions. She replied that she and the Lord were taking care of kingdom business. She was sending cards of various kinds, making phones calls, and praying for a large number of people. I have never forgotten the sight of her “pulpit.” It wasn’t a rocking chair but a place of faithful activity, love, and outreach.
God being our Helper we must never fall into the rocking chair trap; remembering physically it may keep us busy but it will take us nowhere. We have more tools now to reach out than ever before. How about YOU? If you are reading this it is proof that you can do something, one thing today to reach out to someone. Why not pray right now….
I have been asked more times than I can remember why do Churches of Christ spend so much time on congregational singing? My answer includes, we sing because there are approximately 400 references to sing, singing, and singer in the Bible as well as 50 commands related to singing. Here are several biblical reasons WHY our congregation chooses to sing:
In addition to congregational singing in all services, our congregation spends the second Sunday evening each month in singing. As I was reflecting on singing, which I participate in by carrying a tune “in a bucket” and “making a joyful noise to the Lord,” I asked myself, “Why do I sing?” More specifically why do I sing in and out of the assemblies, and yes, even in the shower, driving, walking, working, etc? I quickly jotted down these answers without research or studying how others may answer. Here’s my list of biblical and personal reasons WHY I sing:
In recent years I have noticed a continual reduction in singing opportunities. In most areas there used to be a gathering of congregations for 5th Sunday Singings. Singing schools were conducted on an annual or semi-annual schedule. Most congregations held special classes to train boys and men how to sing. Today, It is not unusual to hear brethren talking about how “bad” the singing is or why there aren’t many qualified or good song leaders today.
A study of church history from the last years of the first century and forward reveals that congregations gave a lot of time to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Far more time than was given to preaching. Today singing is locked into a 10 to the 15-minute slot; the Supper to 15 minutes, sermons to 20, and the rest of the sacred hour is given to announcements and praying. Most congregations have songbooks which contain 900-plus songs. One brother recently remarked, “We don’t need to spend all that money on songbooks; we only sing about 20 or 25 songs over-and-over, year in and year out. We can run off copies for those who haven’t memorized them.” (I’m not touching that brother’s remark).
Ella Fitzgerald, one of America’s late singing icons, said, “The only thing better than singing is more singing.”
The Psalmist said, “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95:1, 2). “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6). “Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in the firmament of His power” (Psalm 150:1).
WHY DO YOU SING?
HOW CAN WE DO WHAT WE ARE DOING—SINGING—BETTER?
Well, thanks be to my heavenly Father, I have made it to another New Year. In fact, today is the second day of 2019. This year marks 55 years since I preached, or tried to preach, my first sermon back in 1964. (Yes, I’m still trying). During these years I have witnessed more challenges and changes, in and out of the church, than I care to remember. Many of these challenges and changes have been viewed from afar or learned about in papers, books, or seminars.
The avalanche started with the Supreme Court’s ruling on legalizing abortion, then prayer and Bible readings were removed from public schools and places. In the past twenty years, the avalanche has turned into a Tsunami. Same-sex marriages, transgender identity, sexual immorality of every description, from bestiality to acceptable pedophile, the escalation of killing babies in the womb, etc.
On the back jacket of Leonard Sweet’s 1999 book SoulTsunami, there is an eye-opening statement: Sweeping in from the cultural sea, a mountainous wave of change threatens to wash the church away. It’s a postmodern flood of mind-boggling techno-culture, problems your grandparents couldn’t have imagined, and religious pluralism that embraces everything except spiritual absolutes. Leonard Sweet calls it ‘SoulTsunami(sohl-Isoo-NAH-mee), and there’s no outrunning it. We Christians can only choose one of three ways to respond to it. We can deny its existence—and drown. We can fight it—and lose. Or we can recognize the unprecedented opportunities it presents—and chart a course across the waters toward reformation” (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mich.). NOTE: I would change reformation to restoration.
While we are surprised at these evident signs of the USA descending into a modern Sodom and Gomorra pit, the Bible makes it clear that “all have sinned” and the “whole world lies in darkness.” Years ago I heard a preacher say, “If God doesn’t bring judgment on America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorra.”
The pace of decline in society is more and more being matched by the church. It is common news today to be reminded that overall, across the brotherhood, the church is in a decline in conversions, membership attendance, participation in programs, and positive financial support be every member. In many congregations, the majority of members have voted, by their absence, that Bible classes, Sunday evening and Wednesday night services are no longer needed. The litmus test for faithfulness is attendance at one service on Sunday morning.
In recent weeks I have been caught in a “crossfire” relative to the challenge the church is facing as we move into 2019. A Christian couple who was visiting our services to determine if they would place their membership with us, said in a discussion, “We will be placing our membership here because we like and believe in old school preaching.” Not soon after that, I was visiting with a Christian family who had visited a few times but didn’t seem to be interested in placing membership. The brother said, “Brother Turner, no disrespect to you or the congregation but we are not looking for old school preaching or a traditional congregation.”
More and more we are hearing the words “old school” being used in various segments of society. Contrary to the thinking of some the phrase “old school” wasn’t launched into our popular word usage back in 2003 from the movie “Old School.” According to Merriam-Webster the words first occurred back in 1749. According to Webster, the term “Old School” is an application of an earlier way or style of doing things common to the past…using or supporting traditional practice. It has evolved into an expression of pride when a person states he is doing something because it was the way it was done in the past, which they believe it was better back then. Criminals use it to brag about they are like the “old mob members” in the past.
While most sins have been given new names, titles, and authority; the practice didn’t originate in the 20th or 21st Centuries. Ironically, God’s people have been tempted many times and sadly succumbed to departing from the old school of what God demanded. Here are some examples:
“That this is a rebellious people lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceit. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Isaiah 30:9-11).
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:1-4). Paul makes it clear to Timothy that his mission as an evangelist was to “preach the word.” Not about, around, under, or related to the word—THE WORD.
Regardless of the time periods, we examined there were always those people who desired to depart from the “old school” approach of following the Scriptures; getting away from a “Thus saith the Lord.”
In an out of print book, The Empty Pulpit, by Clyde Reid, I used to use as one of my textbooks in teaching Homiletics, the author discusses seven criticism (Pages 25-32) against preaching back in 1967 (Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, N.Y.):
Charge # 1: Preachers tend to use complex, archaic language which the average person does not understand.
Charge # 2: Most sermons today are boring, dull, and uninteresting.
Charge # 3: Most preaching today is irrelevant.
Charge # 4: Preaching today is not courageous preaching.
Charge # 5: Preaching does not communicate.
Charge # 6: Preaching does not lead to changes in people.
Charge # 7: Preaching has been overemphasized.
It is obvious that many of Reid’s observations are truer today than they were back when he wrote them. Every preacher would do himself a favor if he’d analyze these 7 charges relative to his own preaching. Likewise, those who listen to sermons week after week need to study these charges. Together, preacher and hearers, they could take preaching in 2019 to the level God intends.
The preacher who seriously faces the challenge of preaching the word today realizes he is being compared to TV stars such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, etc. No one knows how many cable channels are filling homes and phones with sermons with an emphasis on feel-good, health, wealth, and prosperity messages. The internet is overflowing with offers from “successful” preachers and ministries offering their quick shortcuts to growing a congregation. The key word today is ENTERTAINMENT. We are not without our pitches, gimmicks, and sure-fire approaches to saving the world and growing the church. Somehow along the way, some seem to have lost the difference between communication styles and techniques and the correct contextual interpretation of a Scripture.
Pop psychological and current events are being substituted for the drawing power of Christ and the cross (John 12:32) and the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:14-16). When we think we can do a better job in presenting the Gospel in rambling books, personal testimonies, lengthy blogs, and videos than Peter did in his less than a 400-word sermon on the day of Pentecost, something may be wrong.
Perhaps we’ve had enough finesse and humor in the pulpit and need more fire in our bones (Jeremiah 20:8, 9), and boldness (Acts 4:11-13) to dare and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We need to get to the power point of the Word, not creativity on a screen.
Jesus, Peter, and Paul are our models for returning to the old school way of preaching. And the prophets can teach us something too.
If a preacher was a trial being charged with being an old-school preacher would there be enough evidence to convict him? If you are a preacher, how about YOU? ME?