A Heart for Learning

Here’s an interesting verse I came across today:

Proverbs 17:16 NLT  It is senseless to pay tuition to educate a fool, since he has no heart for learning.

When you have no heart to learn things, that is an indication of foolishness. The book of Proverbs was originally written in Hebrew and translated into English for us today. The Hebrew word for fool literally means: one who is destitute of reason or the common powers of understanding. Simply put, it’s someone who acts contrary to wisdom.

Now I have been in the “people business” (ministry) for over 30 years and one thing I have seen a lot of  is foolishness. There are many people who choose to act without wisdom. I’ve seen “wise deficient” people from all walks of life, all age groups, many nationalities and income levels. You don’t have to have a psychological (mental) or physiological (physical) problem to act foolish. You can have a healthy brain and be totally destitute of reason. Some people don’t take time to think things through, some people never learned how to do that, and some people choose not to  because of laziness, distractions, or habit. Those are all typical symptoms of foolishness but the root cause of these behaviors is a heart problem. One who acts this way has no heart for learning.  It’s just not in him. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t want to learn.

When you don’t want something, chances are you won’t exert any effort to try and get it. Learning is like that. You have to want it to truly get it. My wife will verify that. She has been a school teacher for over 25 years. She can teach the children thoroughly in her class day after day, month after month, but if they don’t have a heart to learn, they won’t! I have experienced the same thing working with people in the church. Some people just won’t absorb truth and act wisely on it because their heart does not really want it.

Learning is a lifelong necessity. Our world is changing rapidly because of incredible, continuous, mind numbing advances in technology. If you want to stay relevant you have to keep learning new things. If you don’t, you will find yourself  seriously disadvantaged in many ways. You will be unable to adequately compete in the job market or even keep the job you have. You will be socially disconnected because most people relate in so many high tech ways now. You will be unable to connect to the unlimited information resources that are available in this, the information age. You will probably even come up short in your relationship with your children or grandchildren because you won’t be able to understand or participate in a lot of the things they enjoy.

I continue to force myself to keep learning all the new technology, even when I don’t really want to. I’m looking at the end of my fifth decade and I am slowing down, forgetting some things, and struggling to stay current. I have to learn new software and develop new skills all the time so I can keep the computers running and fulfill the mission God has given me which, right now, revolves around the internet. Last night I even posted on my Facebook status (a necessary tool for this ministry) “Why do I have to work so hard to be a geek  when it comes so easy for others????” It’s hard work. It’s a challenge. I learn some things very slowly. I make a lot of mistakes. I have no one to help me, I’m using my own resources and sometimes I want to quit.  But that heart for learning is still deep inside me so I press on  and trust God for the results.

When it comes to spiritual things, the need to learn never stops either. There are always new levels of understanding to achieve, new dimensions of relationship with God, new insights on how to become all that God has called you to be. That’s what got me interested in God in the first place! In 1970 I was a just a bored high school graduate who struggled with periods of depression and emptiness. I didn’t know why I was on planet earth or why I was sucking up the oxygen somebody else could be using. I actually thought I was going to die at the age of 21. I don’t know why. I wasn’t living a risky lifestyle, I just had no sense of purpose. There was nothing meaningful to live for. I thought about death a lot.

Then I began to wonder if any of the “God stuff” I learned as a child was real or not so I started looking to church for answers. A new minister had come in recent years that was younger and much easier to relate to. I started taking some adult classes and things began happening inside me. As I developed a heart to learn the truth about God and His Word (the Bible) I began to understand it. That understanding caused me to abandon some of my foolish behaviors and I started to walk in truth and wisdom.

I also discovered something really cool as the months went by. The more I learned the more I realized how much more there is to learn. You can never get it all.  Truth is like God, it’s limitless. So all I needed to tap into that was a heart for learning. God, in His love and awesome grace, even gave that to me. He changed my heart.

This formerly bored kid found himself addicted to learning. I was visiting churches all around the Kansas City area. I went to every Christian conference I could find. I moved to Minnesota and went to school to learn all I could about God and how to serve Him. That school didn’t offer enough so I went to a school near St. Louis to learn some more. I bought Christian books and tapes of messages from some of the greatest teachers of that era. I got married and my wife and I spent the first week of our life together at an abundant living seminar in Kansas City learning new things about  the life Jesus wanted us to live. I wasn’t bored anymore. I had purpose and a reason to live.

This love for learning has been resident in me since those early days. But there have been periods in my life when I pushed His Word aside and got distracted.   Jesus warned us about this in one of His parables (Mark 4:19).  He said that the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. So yes, I have messed up from time to time. There have been seasons of temporary unfruitfulness,  but eventually I learned that  there is a way to get out of that mess and back to Jesus.   Jesus shared the solution, which is recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, and I love the way the Message Bible translation presents it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  (29)  Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  (30)  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

He showed me that the answer is to come to Him. When I do, I will recover my life and He will show me how to take a real rest. My responsibility is to walk with Him, watch how He does things, and learn from Him. He promises not to lay anything too heavy on me as I hang out with Him, I will learn to live free and light. That is so totally amazing and it really does work. It will work for you, too! Come to Him, learn, rest and be free.

So ask God to give you a heart for learning and you will find yourself growing in your relationship with Him. Foolishness will fall away and you find yourself making wise decisions, wise choices and wise responses in your daily life. It’s a great way to live!

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Getting Clean

Jesus Christ is absolutely, positively loving, kind, and full of grace. He extends those qualities to everyone. However, He also speaks truth. Sometimes the truth is difficult to receive. It doesn’t always sound nice to our ears, make us smile and give us warm fuzzies all over.

In Matthew 23, Jesus was rebuking the religious leaders who were listening to Him as He spoke to the people who had gathered. I want to share with you some of that conversation.

Matthew 23:25-26 NLT  “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!  (26)  You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

Here we see the loving Savior telling the religious leaders they are dirty on the inside. He spoke of how nice they look externally, but he said inside they are filthy, full of greed and self-indulgence. He called them hypocrites, which means actors, like those in a performance, or one who pretends to be someone else. I can assure you, those remarks did not sit well with these highly respected church leaders. It was because of comments like this that they were always discussing amongst themselves how they could kill Him. (Matthew 26:4, Mark 11:18; 14:1)

What I want us to understand clearly today is that it is possible to look so good on the outside and be so incredibly filthy on the inside. You can  spend hundreds of dollars on an extreme “external” makeover, including the best hair style, tan, great clothes, nail job, and spa treatment and still be in desperate need of an “internal” cleaning. You can even be a religious person, or yes, a religious leader, and give the appearance that you have your life all together spiritually and still be a mess within.

What was it Jesus pointed to as evidence of their need for inward cleaning? Their attitudes and actions.He said they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Now  check this out! These guys knew the Word of God. They memorized it, they taught it. They were highly educated.  They  and their ancestors even invented hundreds of additional religious rules and regulations (beyond what was in the Word of God) and attempted to obey them and force others to do the same. They were respected by the people because of their position. But what were they full of? Greed and self-indulgence.

Just how greedy were they?  They had a lot and wanted more. They wanted the best of everything. They exploited and oppressed the people to get even more out of them. They took spiritual advantage of them to fatten their wallets. They used the threat of God withholding His blessings from them if they didn’t give more to the temple, which would then benefit them financially as the  religious leaders.

Their self-indulgence was obvious! Everything was all about them. They were the center of the religious universe and the community. They were important. They were the leaders. They were impressed with themselves and expected everyone else to be, too. They didn’t want to be inconvenienced, they wanted to be pampered. They weren’t servants, they were little tyrants, wanting to be served. They always put themselves first.

I’ve seen these behaviors in leaders and non-leaders alike. It’s rampant in society and politics. It runs freely in the Church of Jesus, too. So many people I encounter in my life  have these issues, some more than others. And so many in the younger generation are deeply stained with this filthiness. It’s time to get clean personally. It’s time to clean up the church. It’s time to clean up our nation. We don’t look as good as we think we do.

1 Samuel 16:7 NLT  ……The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Let’s get honest and start to see things the way God sees them. When sin is exposed, we need to repent and do what Jesus said, “First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.” We need a heart makeover. We need a heart cleansing. Only Jesus can do that, so we have to go to Him, ask Him to clean us, and then receive our internal scrubbing from Him by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT  ……you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Go, ask, receive! Get clean, but then stay clean so you can live clean. Go back and get some more if you need to. Behavior matters to God. Jesus criticized the leaders for their actions and attitudes.  That’s what revealed them to be actors, looking good outside, but filthy on the inside.

Philippians 2:15 NLT  Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

We should shine like a bright light in the world, not be dim or even dark like the people in the world. People notice light when they are in darkness. People notice honorable, good behavior when they are living in sin. Live right. Eyes are on you.

1 Peter 2:12 NLT  Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when He judges the world.

Your good behavior will even give people cause to honor God. They might even want to come to Jesus when they see how you live because of your relationship with Him. A lot of people want something real, something that works. If you have it inside and show it outside through your deeds, people will notice and think about wanting what you have. You can change the world by the way you live in your relationship with Jesus. It’s not what you say, but what you do that makes the biggest impact on people.

So let’s say “Good-bye” to acting (hypocrisy) and save that for Hollywood. Get connected to Jesus and get cleaned up inside so that greed and self-indulgence are not part of your life. Let’s be different. Let’s serve, give, put others first. That’s what Jesus did when He walked the earth. Let us become more like Him. Then you will really look good on the outside!

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Jesus Prays for YOU

One of the things I have come to rely on is the fact that Jesus prays for me. He’s not just sitting in heaven waiting around for me to get there someday. He is actively involved in managing creation (Colossians 1:17), preparing a place for me in the Father’s Kingdom (John 14:2), and He is praying for me (Hebrews 7:25).

I find strength and comfort in that. Why? Because I know that He knows what I need. He knows what is best for me. He is asking the Father on my behalf for those things I don’t even think of asking for myself. My mind can be distracted by the circumstances and responsibilities of life, but Jesus is right there, taking care of me by talking to the Father about me. That is so cool!!

As I pondered that, I ended up looking at John 17 in the Bible. In that chapter is the text of a prayer Jesus prayed for us just before He was arrested and executed on the cross. I had originally posted my insights in this blog, but decided to move it to my website, because it really is a short teaching on an important topic. So if you click here you will be taken directly to that page and you can read what I have learned about this awesome prayer and how it applies to us today.

Remember, He loves you and He is praying for you!!

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