Even masters never stop learning

Have you ever seen the work of a master artist? I don’t know a lot about art, and I know even less about painting, but it’s one of the arts that takes my breath away. I would watch the Joy of Painting for hours, just marveling at how Bob Ross could take a paint brush and some colors and transform a blank canvas into a gorgeous landscape (happy little trees and all their friends included).

What’s really amazing to me is that the masters I know understand that they don’t know everything. The true masters realize that they always have something new to learn. Since we’re talking art, let’s talk about Michelangelo. No, not the Ninja Turtle. The artist. He’s known for a few minor, insignificant things like the statue of David (the one missing the arms) and the Sistine Chapel. No, he’s not really well known.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Michelangelo is one of the greatest artists of all time. Yet, one of the sketches he was working on late in his 80s had a phrase written on it: “I am still learning.” Imagine. Michelangelo, one of the greatest, most accomplished, most recognized artists in all history, and as far as he was concerned, he was still a student.

Chapelle_sixtine_plafondToday’s verses are Proverbs 9:8-9.

So don’t bother correcting mockers;
they will only hate you.
But correct the wise,
and they will love you.
Instruct the wise,
and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous,
and they will learn even more.

I do believe there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, but if your search for either of them is grounded in God’s Word, you can’t go wrong. And it’s good to have both, because the Bible often says having both is best. But the best indication of a wise person is that they’re teachable.

Being teachable can be tough. Face it, learning stuff is hard work, and for independent thinkers who like to do things their own way, following class instructions or a teacher’s syllabus can be very frustrating. But for many things in life, there really is only one way, and you have to learn it somewhere.

For a minute, just put yourself in Michelangelo’s shoes (or sandals or whatever people back then wore). This man had painted detailed imagery across the walls and ceilings of a giant cathedral. He’d carved incredible statues and sculptures that retain their priceless value even today. If anyone could have pushed back his chair and declared himself all-knowing on a subject, it was him. But did he do that? No! He declared that he was still learning.

So if a master painter like Michelangelo could be okay with still learning, why can’t we be okay with it too? Is there some great looming deadline hanging over our heads where we need to reach omniscience–or at least subject matter expert status? If there is, it’s a bad idea. You can know a lot about a lot of things, but you’ll never know everything.

Sorry. That’s just the way it works. You will never stop finding things you don’t know, but you can stop learning.

You don’t have to keep learning. You are perfectly free to shut your brain off and glide through life on the accumulated knowledge you built up in high school and college. It’s your choice whether or not to learn. But let’s make one fact very clear: Just because you decide to stop learning doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have all the answers. In fact, you’ll probably find that you have fewer answers than before.

And I’m not talking about being a professional student. There is such a thing as too much education. But don’t ever get it in your head that you know it all, because the moment you do, God will send a lesson your way to bring that ego down a few notches.

Embrace the fact that you don’t know everything. Then look for lessons to learn everywhere you go. You can choose to stop learning if you want, but why would you?

Want to be wise? Want to have knowledge? Be willing to keep learning long after you think you’ve already got the answers. You’ll be surprised by what you don’t know and by how much more you still have to learn. That’s what it means to be a master.

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Don’t know where to go next? Ask.

Sometimes I get stuck. I don’t know what step to take next, and when that happens, I tend to lean toward not doing anything at all. I have a tendency toward being like that lazy servant who buried the money he was supposed to invest because he was afraid of failing.

I think we all end up there at some point in our lives. Sometimes we just run out of map. When that happens, what do you do? It sounds obvious to ask for directions, even though that’s the wise thing to do. But it’s one thing to ask for directions. It’s another thing to actually follow them. But what happens if you don’t get the directions you expect? That’s a completely different story.

The Bible is full of examples of God issuing commands or orders to His people. All throughout the Old Testament, and even in parts of the New Testament, it wasn’t unusual for God to tell people exactly what He wanted them to do. But there are other times throughout Scripture where people didn’t know what to do. Those are the points I’m interested in. Because God isn’t going to magically appear in front of me and tell me what to go do with myself.

Basketball hoop on the garage at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Basketball hoop on the garage at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 30:8.

Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?” And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

 

When we don’t know what we’re supposed to do next, we’re supposed to ask. Many biblical heroes like David and Joshua looked to God for guidance and instructed others to do the same. Most of the time in the Bible you’ll see it referred to as “inquiring of the Lord,” and that sounds fancy and scary and impressive like you have to have a special ceremony to make it work. But you don’t. In the Old Testament you might have needed a ceremony, but we’re in the Church Age now. Jesus died to give us open, free access to God. So all we have to do is ask in Jesus’ name.

Over and over in Scripture, people who ask for God’s direction end up where they need to be, and the people who don’t ask and try to fumble their way through life without Him, end up in trouble.

So ask. Ask if God wants you to take a job. Ask if God wants you to date that person. Ask if you should go or stay. Just ask. But remember something:God will tell you what you’re supposed to do in the Bible. He isn’t going to answer you through prayer in a way that contradicts His Word. Can’t happen. He will always be consistent. So if the Bible says your course of action is wrong, God won’t condone it when you’re talking to Him. Keep that in mind.

Also be willing to accept a No. God may say no. He’s not wishy-washy or weak-willed. He’ll tell His children no, if that’s what we need to hear, and it’s up to us to obey and trust that He’s got something better in mind than what we want.  He also may tell you to wait. And that’s almost harder to hear than a no.

Ask for direction. Be willing to hear God’s answer. Be willing to do what He says.

It may not be the answer you want, but it will be the answer you need. It will be direction you need to get you where God wants you to be.

It’s not up to us to find a way to provide for our future

The momma cat here at Safe Haven Farm caught a big, fat mouse for her remaining kittens the other day. She brought it up into the yard so that her kittens could chase it around and learn how to hunt. The kittens are getting pretty big now, but they still rely on their mom to provide a lot of what they eat. I couldn’t help but think about how that compares to my life following Jesus.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we have and what we don’t have in our lives. In a culture like ours that is constantly focused on having the latest and greatest material possessions, it can be difficult to remember that the best things in our lives were given to us, entrusted to us for safekeeping. We don’t really own anything of real value. You know that, right?

I mean, you can work for your paycheck. You can earn a living. You can buy a house and so on and so forth, but you didn’t make any of that. God made it before you did, and He chose to give it to you for safekeeping. Your life, your family, your home, your savings–all of it belongs to Him, whether you admit it or not. So if He’s been good enough to give you everything He’s already given you, why do you doubt that He’ll continue to give you good things in the future?

Amelia Pond bringing a captured mouse to feed her kittens, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Amelia Pond bringing a captured mouse to feed her kittens, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 84:10-12.

A single day in your courts
is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
from those who do what is right.
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
what joy for those who trust in you.

I guess for me it’s not that I doubt God will give me good things. It’s that I doubt His definition of good. No, I don’t really doubt it. Just sometimes it scares me. What God says is good is absolutely good, yes, but living Good according to God in this world is hard work. It’s not easy.

God is good. Period. So everything He does is good. We can all believe that 100%. But being good and doing good doesn’t happen automatically, not in our broken, sinful states. It’s a choice we have to make every day, and we can only accomplish it with God’s help.

The world show us all these things that will make us happy. We’re exposed every day to the temporary highs of living for self, and we get to see how much fun it looks like–but we also get to see the consequences. And they’re not nearly as much fun.

There are no shortcuts to following Jesus. You want to follow Him, you go His way. You do what He does. You says what He says. And if you live that life, you’ll be blessed. See what it says? God won’t hold back anything that’s good for those who do what’s right. That’s a promise, and God always keeps His promises.

So it’s not up to us to find a way to provide for ourselves. No, we shouldn’t be lazy. God’s given each of us a job to do, so we ought to get out there and do it. But the results aren’t our problem. When we try to control the results of our choices, that’s us trying to play God, and we’re not strong enough to do that.

We are supposed to do what we’re here to do. Live the way God says is right to the best of your ability. Trust Him. And God will provide what you need.

He really will. It may not be the amount of money you’re hoping for. It may not be the house you dreamed of or the car you really wanted. It may not even be the job that you think fits your skill set. But that doesn’t matter. If God gives it to you, take it. Run with it. Do your best.

In the end, do we really even know what we need? We can’t even make up our minds what we want!

So do what’s right and be on the lookout for God’s provision. He will always always provide. It may not be what you’re expecting or who you’re expecting, but you’ll get what you need right when you need it.

I dare you to keep your mouth shut

I have a bad habit of rambling when I get on certain topics. There are just some things I love talking about. My family. My church. Writing and telling stories. Missions. A particularly beautiful and brilliant little girl with crazy curly blond hair.

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to stop talking about someone or something you love? It’s not easy. When you’re passionate about something, you can’t shut up about it. When your life revolves around a person or a purpose, you just can’t help yourself.

How many of us can say that the person or purpose in our lives that we can’t shut up about is Jesus Christ, though?

FA746BB4CDToday’s verses are Acts 4:16-20.

“What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

I think Acts gets overlooked sometimes because it’s such a detailed book focused on so much history, but the Book of Acts (or the Acts of the Apostles) is an active book, full of excitement and new beginnings and extraordinary events. It’s the start of the Church. It’s the story of how a handful of men turned the entire world on its head in the name of Jesus Christ.

Acts is a big deal.

What amazes me is to see the transformation in the disciples. They went from these timid, frightened cowards to these bold, powerful heroes who were willing to lay down their lives without question for what they believed. That doesn’t just happen. These men saw something, experienced something. And when they shared what they believed with the rest of the world, the world itself changed.

And the keepers of the old guard? The old religious elite? Well, they weren’t happy, as usual (some things never change). And they told the apostles that they needed to be quiet. They needed to stop being so loud. They were upsetting people. But I love what Peter and John said in return. They just couldn’t help themselves.

I want to love Jesus like that. I want to be the person who is so in love with Jesus that I can’t stop talking about Him even when people get tired of hearing it. I’m such a people pleaser that I tend to back off if I upset someone, and, I mean, of course I don’t want to be rude. But my goodness, do you know what Jesus has done for me?

When you see Jesus everywhere, of course, He’s going to pop up in every conversation. And that may make some people uncomfortable. Heck, it will make people uncomfortable. There’s no may about it. But if we’re following Jesus the way we should, He’ll be in every conversation we’ll have. And even if we try to stop talking about Him, we won’t be able to.

Believe me, I dislike obnoxious people as much as the next person. And I never ever want to be like that. I don’t ever want to turn people off because I’m rude about what I believe. But by that same token, my Jesus has done so much for me. He’s forgiven me. He’s given me a new life. He gave me breath this morning, and He answered my prayers yesterday. He never leaves me. He never fails me. And He gives me a reason to keep pressing onward.

If anyone else had done that much for me, you’d understand if I wanted to be loud about it. So why is it any different with Jesus?

Let’s get loud about what Jesus has done for us today. And you don’t even have to do anything different than you normally would. Just take a moment and think about everything He’s given you, everything He’s done, the mercy He’s extended, the grace He’s offered so freely, and the joy and purpose your life has since you accepted Him.

Spend a little time thinking about that and what it really means, and I dare you to keep your mouth shut.

Demanding God’s power to do your own thing

Jesus was a rebel. The culture of His time was to revere the religious elite, and Jesus openly opposed them. In our current culture, the expectation is to defy authority, to live for yourself, to do what feels right, so following Jesus in our present-day culture is a form of rebellion.

So I guess the line we need to draw is who you’re rebelling against, because when you rebel against God, you’re asking for trouble. But what does rebelling against God even look like?

C3DC4DAA3EToday’s verse is Isaiah 53:6.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

Each one of us has walked away from God’s best in our lives at least once. Some of us more than once. Some of us have made a lifestyle of abandoning the roads God says are the ones to travel on, and we’ve had to live with our consequences.

But what about the Christians who don’t want to walk away? What about those of us to seek God with everything we have and everything we are? Surely if we’re willing to sacrifice our comfort and our easy lifestyles, we couldn’t ever be rebellious, right?

The spirit of rebellion is tricky, because it stems from pride. And pride can be hard to recognize sometimes.

I like doing things my own way. I don’t like to wait for God to show me which path I’m supposed to take. Instead, I prefer to just rush ahead and deal with the consequences as they come. So many times in my life, if I had just waited for God to work, maybe things would have been different. But no. I’m not good at waiting. So I have to rush forward and do everything in my power to provide for myself.

I’m independent. I’m strong. I’m capable. That’s the way God made me, so if I don’t act independently, capably, and strongly then I’m not living up to my potential as a Christ-follower. Right? That’s what my brain tells me. But is that the truth?

Rebellion isn’t just doing the things God says are wrong. And it isn’t just not doing the things God says are right. Rebellion is a heart attitude that says it’s my way or the highway. Rebellion is demanding God’s resources so that you can do what you want. It’s issuing an ultimatum to the Lord so that you can accomplish your goals instead of His.

Just because you read your Bible every day doesn’t mean you’re on the same page as God. Just because you can quote Scripture and know the Bible forwards and backwards and can spout random trivia about left-handed judges and mysterious priests with unpronounceable names doesn’t mean that your goals and dreams are instantly God’s will for your life.

No. You have to ask.

Have you taken your dreams and goals to God? Have you asked Him about doing what you want to do? Have you taken the time to wait and listen for His answer to make sure that the path you’re on is the right one? If you haven’t, if you’re just blundering through life doing what you want, how do you know you’re not doing more harm than good?

We’ve all wandered away. Every last one of us. But if you know Jesus, you don’t have to pay the price for that foolish choice. Jesus already did. You just have to accept it. But that doesn’t mean you can keep wandering off without consequence.

God will save you if you ask. Freely. Just as you are. No strings attached.

But don’t expect that you can demand His power and His resources and His strength and then just run off and do whatever you want. No, friends, it doesn’t work that way. If you want God’s power in your life, you’ve got to live your life on His terms. That means you do what He says. That means you take the positions He provides. That means you treat people the way He treats people. That means you see yourself the way He sees you.

If you’re living life on God’s terms, I can guarantee that your life won’t look like what you expect it should. But you’ll have everything you need. God will provide it. And if you make Him the center of your life, one day you’ll wake up and find that all your dreams have come true.

Knowledge is learning, but wisdom is using it

The other night, I was out late and hadn’t eaten dinner. So I swung by McDonald’s for a chicken sandwich, and I got a kick out of the Schwann’s truck in the parking lot. Ironic. A Schwann’s truck full of food, and the driver is stopping to eat a Big Mac or something. But of course the poor guy had to stop. It’s not like he could eat any of the food in his truck. It’s all frozen.

Sometimes my life is like that. I’ve got a great big brain full of lots of information and random bits of nonsense, but I can’t use it for anything. I mean, some of what I know is useful. Some of what I know can be used to help others, and I do my best to live that way. But do we ever stop to think about education and learning from that perspective? It’s not bad to learn. It’s not bad to be educated. But I do believe there’s a place in life where you can be too educated.

S059QDGBOG (1)Today’s verses are James 1:22-25.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Knowledge and Wisdom are two important parts of following Jesus, and both of them are gifts. But knowledge, in my mind, is theoretical. Knowledge is knowing every Bible verse, being able to quote Scripture cover to cover, knowing every reference. And that’s not bad. Good grief, if you have that knowledge, that’s amazing.

But there’s a massive difference between having knowledge and acting on it.

You can know that a piece of cheese is rotten before you eat it, but just knowing it’s rotten won’t make any difference in your life unless you make a choice whether or not to eat it. Maybe that’s a bad example, but think about the Scwann’s man. The dude (or dudette) had a whole truck full of tasty entrees and desserts, just ready to be eaten, but they would just continue to sit in the back of the truck because he didn’t what he needed to actually use them. Schwann’s food has to be thawed or baked before you can eat it (unless you got fudge bars). But you get the point.

So many Christians are just walking encyclopedias. We’re full of information. We’re full of the Bible. We’re full of Church language. But all we do is carry it around, and it’s not changing our lives or the lives of people around us because we don’t use it. We have to stop at the McDonald’s for a meal because what we’re carrying around with us isn’t nourishing.

You can read, learn, understand, and accept every verse in the entire Bible, but until you DO it, it means nothing. There’s a big step between mentally accepting that the Bible is true and believing it strongly enough that you change the way you live because of it. You can say you believe the Bible, but that won’t do anything. That won’t make any chance in your life or in the lives of people around you.

But if you pay attention, if you do what the Bible says, if you listen to what you’ve heard and obey, your life will turn inside out. God will show up in ways you can’t ignore. And you’ll be so full of blessings you can’t contain them. But that first step is yours to take.

So learn, yes. Learn all you can. But don’t learn just because you’re afraid of what comes after learning. That’s the point of going to school, to move on to the next step. Don’t let fear hold you back. Learn all you can, and move on. Learn all you can, and let God use what you’ve learned to do what He wants you to do.

Getting knowledge is a great idea, but turning your knowledge into something that gives God glory? That’s wisdom. And you really ought to go after both of them.

Planning for a tomorrow that won’t happen

Yesterday was a historic day in geekdom. If you’re familiar with the Back to the Future movies, you might remember that yesterday marked the day that Doc Brown and Marty McFly visited in the future–October 21, 2015. If you go back and watch Back to the Future II, it’s really hilarious where people in the 1980s thought we’d be.

Flying cars. Hover boards. Self-adjusting clothing. Rehydration machines. And a whole host of other technological advancements. Granted, many of those things exist, but they aren’t available for common usage yet.

I’m a big fan of science fiction, because I like to imagine the possibilities. It’s fun to think about what could be tomorrow or what might be next year. But nobody knows what the future actually holds, so we really shouldn’t be too surprised if our plans don’t always work out.

road-street-desert-industryToday’s verse is Matthew 6:34.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

This is a good verse for me at this stage in my life. I’m in a place where I’m not guaranteed a paycheck, so I’m tempted to worry about where my provision will come from. I’m working in an industry that is solely dependent on opinion. Working as a creative writer (novelist, copywriting, etc.) is a subjective field. That means people don’t have to even have a reason why they don’t like your work; they just might not like it. But that’s scary.

Movies like the Back to the Future trilogy envisioned a world where all these impossible things were suddenly made possible through technology. And we’re well on our way to achieving those things in the actual 2015, but most of their predictions were wrong. I mean, granted, they got a few things right … like Star Wars VII and the Cubs in the playoffs. 😉

But the point is that tomorrow is unknown. We can guess. We can plan. We can schedule. But in the end, we have no power over tomorrow. It’s not something that we can control or predict. That’s why it’s so important to trust God.

God knows tomorrow. He knows the day after tomorrow too. And the day after that and the day after that. Everything that’s coming, He already knows about. So when we go through tough stuff in our lives today, it’s a fair chance that He’s simply helping us get ready for what’s happening tomorrow.

It’s okay to plan. It’s okay to be ready. But don’t live for tomorrow. If you do, you’ll miss out on what God has for you today. It’s tempting. Believe me. I want to look ahead. I want to spend all my time planning and figuring out the best way to do stuff, but my plans rarely work out. And that means I’ve spent all my time and energy today planning for a tomorrow that won’t actually happen.

So the next time you feel yourself tumbling down the rabbit hole of attempting to predict the future, put the brakes on. That’s a pit you don’t want to dig. So make a few notes if you must, and then focus your attention on what you can do today. You only get one today, and then it’s gone. So don’t waste it.

Only God knows the future. And He’ll let us know what we need to know about it when we need to know, but not before.