I love it when God nails something on the head. The thrill of truth biting into willing wood is absolutely intoxicating.
I’ve been gobbling up a captivating book this summer called Unfolding the Napkin, a guidebook for solving problems and sharing solutions using simple pictures. It caught my eye at a Borders funeral (closing sale), mostly because I’ve been drawing diagrams for vision-casting for years now, and using my iPad to draw simple pictures during my sermons for a month or two. “Napkin” is brilliant and helped me improve my visual intelligence a few notches as I worked through it. I’m excited to put what I’ve learned into practice with my preaching and leading.
So… imagine my surprise yesterday when I read Paul asserting, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching” (II Timothy 1:13).
You don’t get it yet. Let me explain, cause something got lost in translation. I’m not Paul’s protege, but God reveals things to me—by his Spirit, through his word, his people, you name it. When I hear God speak, I’m supposed to keep it. Treasure it. Guard it.
“As the pattern of sound teaching.”
Pattern literally means “draft, sketch.” Yes, I’m serious.
Sound means “healthy, good.”
Teaching means “sayings.”
Let’s put this together. Paul is using “sketch” more symbolically for Timothy, but when you put it together with “healthy sayings” what emerges is this:
As we study God’s word, we interpret it. This invariably means putting things into our own words. Often preachers and teachers come up with sayings, slogans, acronyms, and one liners to “capture the essence” of a concept. This is the mental “sketch” or “thumbnail” of the theological point we are trying to make. Paul’s first point is, when you do that, when you summarize, make sure the summary is sound. Make sure it works, that it’s healthy and lines up with the word of God.
But DO that, he says. Meditate on truth so much that patterns emerge. That simplicity bubbles to the top. Be on the lookout for accurate pictures, and when you’ve got them, draw them. Lock them in. Memorize them and hold on to them. They can change your life.
I, of course, take this somewhat more literally. What I hear from God—the bulls-eye, for instance—I’m to hold on to that, to use that as a helpful template to tweak and adjust and guide and inspire people. Our goal at DCC is “to help people live on target with Jesus Christ.”
I love the idea that truth can be sketched—captured, in part, in a visual way that people will remember.