Posts Tagged ‘learning’

When I set out to blog, I made the commitment to be transparent in my writings and never sugar-coat the stories of my faith journey.  It is easy to write about the good things that God does in our lives.  Yet when we slip or when things aren’t working out quite as nicely as we would like, we can easily gloss over or ignore a significant part of life that likely carry’s meaning to many, simply for the sake of putting up a good front.  Today I am compelled to share a recent chastisement from the Lord.  Partly this is to highlight an aspect of God’s nature that is often mis-characterized.  Also, it is because the trap I fell into is very easy to slip into even if it is hidden in plain view.

In my last post, ALL, I wrote about Jesus’ declaration of the greatest commandment and what our love of God with all that we are looks like.  What you don’t know is that I wrote that a week ago under what I sensed was the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  But I hadn’t quite finished it.  While we have had a lot transpire in our family over the past week, there is no reason why I didn’t finish the post sooner.  I had clear nudges to do so, but I kept busy and I kept putting it off.

For much of my life I have risen early to spend 1 – 2 hours in bible study, prayer, and occasionally blogging.  But for the last week I would wake up very early, usually before my alarm would go off, with a strong sense of needing to spend quiet time with the Lord.  But I would reason that I could pray just fine snuggled in my warm bed.  Somehow one or two sentences in prayer would occur and the next thing I knew it was an hour or more later.  By the time I would arise, it was time to start the day’s activities.  Needless to say, my attempts at a quiet time were rushed, stilted, and not really a time of connection.  It was more like a child rushing through the kitchen late for school, snatching at whatever they can for breakfast before sprinting out the door.  It might have the appearance of eating breakfast, but nutrition it was not.  My quiet times had become like that – an appearance of the right thing, but connection with God and edification, it was not.

Tuesday of this week I did respond to the nudge.  I was up early and I got into the Word.  Afterward I slipped outside where a light rain was falling.  With an awareness of my lack of direction lately I whispered a prayer, “Lord, please steer me.”  Immediately the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “The boat has to be moving for the rudder to work.”  Oh my!  I am used to God’s encouragement and gentle correction, usually when I turn in repentance after I realize I have made a mistake.  In this case, I had been a little lazy for several days, but I assumed that getting up early was a good sign on my part.  The rebuke was firm, clear, and thankfully cut through my self-satisfaction.

Since our relationship is with the omniscient God, there is no hiding our true thoughts, feelings, and motivations.  If we are not careful, we can slip into self-deception and “think” we are fine.  But, getting into the Word, spending real connected time with the Father is the antidote we all need.  When we do, He will guide us into the way of truth and life.  And if we need more than a little nudge, He can provide that too.  The important thing on our end is to embrace His loving nudges and His firmer chastisement and follow Him diligently.  It ties into the last post.  When we are giving Him only part of our attention, part of our heart or soul or mind or strength, we are falling short of His high calling upon us.  It is not God who is lessened when we are not fully devoted to Him, but us.

Friends, I pray that your walk will be marked with consistent progress and Godly joy and peace.  But, when you do begin to veer off course, I encourage you to readily accept and embrace the Lord’s loving correction, however He may give it.  He loves you with an everlasting love.  He knows you intimately and His desire is always for your good.  Jeremiah 29:11 affirms this.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,  “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Be blessed my friend.  And be God’s blessing to someone today.

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I saw a very familiar scripture in an entirely new way the other day.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say I saw it with an entirely new emphasis.  Matthew 11:28-30 is one of my favorites.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Whenever I read this previously my focus had been on gaining rest or help with the challenges and burdens of life.  I had always skimmed over the “take my yoke” part, accepting that this meant to be a believer.

Well, that changed last Friday.  I was worshipping the Lord and seeking His guidance for a word of exhortation I was to give.  As I sensed the Lord calling me to a place of holy listening, I became aware of a song playing that simply repeated this scripture.  Somehow it seemed like the volume increased whenever the yoke was mentioned.  As I prayed and pondered several thoughts came together which I share with you today.

First off, what is a yoke?  For many today the agrarian imagery that Jesus used may not be as familiar as it was to His 1st century listeners.  A yoke is a type of harness used to hitch a beast of burden to a load of some sort.  The burden could be a cart, something with wheels, or it might be a plow or harrow – devices used in breaking up ground.  In addition to connecting to a load the yoke connected a pair or team of oxen or similar to one another so they would pull as a team.  Finally the yoke provided a means for a driver to guide and direct the beast or team of beasts.

This scripture has a progression to it.  It begins with coming to Jesus.  For most of us this occurs when we get to the end of ourselves, a condition usually resulting in being weary and burdened.  When we come to Jesus He immediately gives us a measure of tangible rest and peace.  I remember this well and it was such a wonderful place to be, standing in stark contrast to the turmoil and difficulties of striving to do life in my own strength.  Today, I can look back and say that this was merely an initial deposit.  God has so much more in mind for each of His children if we but dive deeper into Him.  Hence the progression continues.

The next step is a big one – Take My Yoke upon you.  This is an invitation into the deepest, most amazing, most fulfilling journey this life offers.  However Jesus leaves the decision up to us whether to slip ourselves into the yoke.  As the description of a yoke above mentions this yoke will harness us to the work Jesus has planned for us.  In some instances it will connect us with others pulling in the same direction, lifting the same load.  It also provides a means for Jesus to lead and direct us.  All of these things play out in taking Jesus’ yoke upon us.

One of the greatest benefits of wearing Jesus’ yoke is that we become pupils of the Master.  Jesus says, “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…”  There are many, many things He will teach us and I am convinced that for each one of us He knows us well enough to teach us in exactly the manner we need for exactly the work He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).  But this scripture points to a universal “learning” when Jesus alludes to two of His character traits that we are to emulate – gentle and humble in heart.  Being fitted into Jesus’ harness will cultivate gentleness and humility that blesses those the Lord sends us to and opens doors to being Jesus’ hands and feet.

As we willingly wear the yoke we will find the character of Jesus being created in us.  By His Holy Spirit we are transformed into the faith-filled followers we were created to be.  And the rest we were given when we first came to Him becomes a soul-satisfying, deep and abiding “rest for your souls”.  It is as different in scale as a spring rain is from a raging hurricane.

It is at this point that we realize the Lord has given us work which we have accomplished without fanfare and seemingly without extraordinary effort on our part.  Yet these things are well beyond what we could have envisioned from the outset.  Following the Lord, doing the work He gives us – making disciples, caring for the hurting and sorrowful, meeting the needs of those in want, encouraging the fainthearted, preaching the Word, living a life that rejects sin, but embraces the sinner with Christ’s love – these tasks, these burdens become lightly carried, yet effectively accomplished.

This scripture offers us rest, but it offers so much more.  Life as a Jesus-follower is a life of growth and constant transformation.  Where He will take us is beyond our comprehension, but it is also good beyond comparison.

Be blessed today and allow the Lord to bless through you as you take on His yoke and live.

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John, the beloved disciple, concludes his gospel with an interesting sentence.  John 21:25 says “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”  While many of us have a few noteworthy accomplishments and amusing anecdotes from our life, Jesus’ life is the life above all lives to be studied.  Although He lived for a relatively brief period, He is the central figure of history.  The book that describes His life is the all time best-seller.  It is printed in more languages than any other book.  And despite repeated attempts to blot out His story and crush His people, the church continues to grow.  As believers in Jesus we have a responsibility to become followers of Him.  In Matthew 7:21 Jesus said, Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  How do we do this?  In reality this is a simple, impossible task.  We simply read the book that tells us about Jesus and God’s work in the believers, the bible, and then we do what it says.  It is impossible for us to do this perfectly in our own strength.  That is why Jesus to sent the Holy Spirit to all who would follow Him.

As a young believer I heard someone explain the difference between being intelligence and wisdom.  Intelligence is the ability to grasp and understand large amounts of information.  Wisdom is the ability to apply the information one possesses in the right manner.  I witness this in my work with plant managers and leaders in manufacturing.  The truly special leader is one who possesses a good intelligence and exercises excellent wisdom.  Many are the leaders who are intelligent, but do not walk in the most wise fashion.  In Matthew 10 Jesus gave directions to His disciples as they were being sent out on a brief training mission.  In verse 16 we read  “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  Jesus does not want us ignorant of His work.  He admonishes us to become as knowledgeable as practically possible, yet walk in humble innocence. 

Our church is a good example of what God can do through a group of committed believers who seek to follow Jesus every way we can.  We are a bunch of imperfect people seeking to know and serve a perfect God.  One of our Pastor’s tag lines is a simple phrase, “Read the Word.  Do what it says.”  By doing that we see people come to faith by the dozens and even hundreds.  We do not have a final count, but as of 9 am on Sunday morning we had already seen over 200 people come to faith in Jesus.  And at the 9:15 service at our campus I saw dozens more come forward and make a profession of faith.  This is a wonderful thing to see.

This is the first vital step into the abundant life Jesus calls His followers into.  Being the first step carries the certainty that there are many steps to follow, too many and too varied to be addressed in a short post.  However the Holy Spirit, who seals every believer at conversion, is able to lead and guide each believer into the life God calls them to.  The Holy Spirit knows what is needed, what is not, where we must go, what we must do.  In short, the Holy Spirit is God living in us to guide us into all that we need to know and do.  The caveat here is that the Holy Spirit is still subject to the will of the believer.  Jesus desires to work in concert with us.  Our willful obedience, not our coerced obedience, is God’s desire.

Today, I encourage you to do a few things that may be new.  First, ask the Lord to instill a fresh desire in you to know Him better.  Second, ask the Lord to show you anything inside of you that is hindering your taking your next step in faith.  Third, read the Word and ask the Lord to help you do what it says.  Fourth, listen and respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  He will always lead you in accordance with the Word of God.  In fact the bible and the Holy Spirit are always perfectly in synch.

The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the bible to put down the words we read.  It is the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer who gives us the ability to read, understand, and follow what it says.  If you feel lead to do something that is contrary to the bible, then stop and seek the Lord’s clarification.  I have had the Lord prompt me to do things that I thought were odd, things that definitely took me out of my comfort zone, things that I normally wouldn’t have thought to do, but I have never had the Holy Spirit prompt me to do something that is against the scripture.  Let this be a safeguard for you.

In the post-resurrection days, the Church literally exploded into life.  People recognized that God had done the most amazing thing the world would ever know.  It remains the pivotal point in all of history.  And people were moved to live in a radically new way, following the teaching of the One who had conquered death and called them to this new life.  We have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.  Jesus calls us to Himself and then into the unique life He has equipped us for.  Immerse yourself into learning about and following the One who loved you so much He went to the cross on your behalf.

Be blessed today my friend.  And be a Spirit led blessing to others.


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