Who's Teaching You?

everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. "--Jesus (Luke 6:40 )

We all had those teachers we loved. They may have been tough, but we learned from them. Something about the way they presented the material lit a spark of interest. We discovered a talent or passion within ourselves that we did not know was there until that teacher brought it out. As we developed that skill, we may have subconsciously patterned after that teacher.

We have other teachers as well. Our five senses receive information continuously and our brains process this information in ways that may surprise us. Advertisers know this and pay huge amounts to subtly interject their brand names into movies, TV shows, music, and print medium. Fads, pop culture, and the heroes we choose all contribute to the way we see the world and ourselves. 
It is important that we recognize who and what is teaching us because Jesus warned that we will be like our teachers. When we notice character flaws, sin strongholds, and harmful thinking patterns, it could be that we have some teachers we did not know about. A wise person learns to identify and eliminate those “teachers.”

 Who are your teachers? Who or what are you allowing to speak into your life? You can evaluate the quality of a teacher by asking yourself: “Does this draw me closer to who God wants me to be or push me away?”


Does God Negotiate?

Imagine that you had been out of work for months. The bills were piling up, stress was mounting, and desperation setting in. Then, out of the blue, you get a call. A Fortune 500 company offers you a job! Not just any job. A great job with a fat salary, benefits, and good retirement. When you show up for work your first day, the boss is there to greet you with a big smile and a handshake. You joyfully express your gratitude at this opportunity and then say, "I was looking at the job description and I wanted to discuss with you the things I will do and the things I won't be doing. On some of it, you can be in charge, but for certain areas, I'll be doing it my way." 

How long would you keep that job?

As ridiculous as that scenario sounds, many people approach God's offer of salvation the same way. They recognize their desperate situation and spiritual poverty. They gratefully accept God's free gift of forgiveness and new life through Jesus. Then they proceed to tell God in which areas of life they are willing to obey Him. "Sure, Lord, I'll go to church and try to be better. But as far as_________, I'm still gonna make my own decisions. Yeah, I know it's sin, but...."

Why do we think that attitude works any better with God than it does with a human superior? In fact, it's worse. In the business world, at least we bring something to the table. We were hired because we had a skill needed by the employer. But with God, we bring nothing. We have nothing that He needs. We come to Him empty-handed, invited only by His pure grace. It is the utmost arrogance to think for a moment that we have the right to negotiate anything. Only a fool would try it.

What Is Good?

Trust in the LORD and do good… Psalm 37:3

The whole meaning of life is summed up in that short verse: Trust in the Lord and do good. In fact, those two commands are intertwined to such an extent that we cannot have one without the other. 

If we really trust in the Lord—with all that implies---then He controls us. Trust results in setting aside our selfish will and allowing the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit, His character, and His deeds in us (Gal. 5:22). When we trust in the Lord, we will do good things. However, when we try to do good without trusting in the Lord, our good deeds are like filthy rags to God (Is.64:6). What may look good on the outside is motivated by how it makes us feel and what others think of us. Sometimes our good deeds are attempts to appease God.

So what does it mean to do good? The Lord told King Saul that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). So the kind of “good” God desires is our obedience to His commands. Often we try to substitute a good deed in place of simple obedience to His word. We imagine that God is pacified with our helping a neighbor or serving in the soup kitchen and won’t notice that we are living in sexual immorality, drunkenness, or deceit. But to truly trust in the Lord is to desire is to please Him in everything. Only when we obey Him from a heart of love can we offer good deeds that are acceptable to Him. Only when we trust in the Lord can we truly do good.

Have you tried to substitute your ideas of good for simple obedience to God’s word? Only God can define goodness, and it starts with obeying what He has already told us to do.

Time to Turn Around

“Repent” is a Bible word meaning a change of mind that results in a change of action. Imagine that you are driving west and halfway to your destination, you remember that you left your wallet at home. You must have it for what you are about to do. So as soon as possible, you find a turnaround and head in the opposite direction. You were heading west, thinking everything was fine. But something changed. You gained sudden understanding that caused you to make an abrupt change and head east. There may be detours and flat tires, but you are still headed in the right direction. 

That is a picture of repentance. 

When we come to the understanding that God is holy and we are not, we realize we have a big problem. We cannot keep going the way we are going and end up where we want to be. We must repent. We must have a change of mind about who is right and who should run our lives. It used to be Self. But when we repent, we agree with God about our sin and His right to be in charge of our lives. That change of mind results in a change of action. We cannot repent and continue to follow the same sin path we were on before, just as you cannot go east and west at the same time. Repentance changes our direction.

God offers a full pardon to everyone who comes to Him in repentance (Luke 5:32). Have you repented of your sin and allowed God to change your direction?

Stop Looking at the Ground

Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. Mark 16:2 

The best day of their lives began as the worst day of their lives. Imagine the sleepless night Jesus’ friends and family had! They had just witnessed the bloodiest, most unjust murder in history. When their friend, son, and Master died, He took their dreams with Him. When they started toward the tomb that morning to anoint Jesus’ body, the women could only look at the ground, agonizing over problems. How would they roll away the huge stone? How would they access Jesus’ body with all those guards there? And then they looked up. Their questions were human-sized; the answers were God-sized.

When we wake each morning, we are often greeted with pounding questions: How will I…? What will happen…? What if…? As we move toward our day, we are usually looking at the ground, limited by our own understanding. But when we choose to look up and focus on God’s unlimited resources, no situation is hopeless. When we begin the day on our knees, God can show us our life from His perspective. Problems have purpose. Our questions are human-sized; the answers are God-sized.

Are you looking at the ground? What if you started looking up and expecting God-sized answers?

Hope Behind a Rock

Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mark 15:46

Boom! Finished. The End. A giant boulder sealing a tomb symbolized the finality of death. To the Roman executioners, it meant that no zealous disciple could tamper with the body. To Jesus’ watching friends and family, it meant the end of a beautiful dream. The end of hope. Staring at that stone, they had no choice but to accept that their Master, Teacher, and Friend was gone. They had waited and prayed, silently pleading that He might come off the cross, call down some angels, or vindicate Himself. But He hadn’t, and now it was too late. The future He had inspired them to pursue was shattered. Hope had been defeated and now lay dead, hidden behind a gigantic rock.

Have you heard the clunk of a giant boulder sealing off your hope? You thought you understood your life, where it was going, what God was doing, and then boom! You get a diagnosis. Divorce papers are filed. You flunk out of school or don’t get accepted in the first place. It feels so final. You see no way out, no future. The empty tomb is a reminder that God’s way does not include dead ends, only turns. When our faith is in Him, no boulder is big enough to keep us from His plan.

Boulders that appear to seal off hope
 are merely pebbles to God  
(Isaiah 46:9-11).