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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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.

Don’t rush learning how to follow Jesus

I’m not a patient person. I’m like the least patient person you’ll ever meet. That’s why I marathon television shows. That’s why I rarely read books series until they’re complete. I don’t like waiting for stories to resolve. I want to know what happens right away.

Unfortunately that lack of patience seeps into other areas of my life. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t do well in music lessons. My mom is a crazy accomplished classical musician, but she didn’t get there overnight. It took 45 years for her to get to that place. I wanted to pick up a musical instrument and be perfect right away. I didn’t want to work at it. I didn’t want to make mistakes and have to learn from them. I wanted the benefit of the skill without the drudgery of the discipline required to achieve it.

Sound familiar to anyone? We all have our sticking points when it comes to patience and discipline. Ironically, I had to learn that I had a lot to learn, regardless of what career path I chose. I settled on writing because I thought I was a great writer when I was little.

Yeah. Wow. Looking back, I knew nothing. And all I’ve learned in 25 years of writing (yes, I wrote my first story in kindergarten) is that I still know nothing, and that I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning. But learning isn’t about filling your head with information. I mean, that’s part of it. The greater part of learning is patience. It’s hard work to learn. It’s trying and difficult, but the more you work at it, the stronger you get.

S059QDGBOG_1549x1037Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:32-36.

Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Following Jesus takes discipline. Sorry to burst the bubbles of anyone who signed on expecting an easy ride. Think of following Jesus like two magnets with opposite poles being pressed together. On one side, you’re drawn to Him because you belong to Him, but on the other side you’re repelled because you still have a dark nature that wants your own way. You have to fight yourself every step of the way if you want to follow Jesus.

And then add in the trouble our enemy throws at us. We have an enemy who hates us because Jesus loves us, and our enemy will do everything in his power to distract us, stop us, hurt us, discourage us, and slow us down. But instead of seeing all those obstacles as barriers to following Jesus, try to see them as opportunities to grow.

Don’t rush following Jesus. Enjoy it. It takes time. It takes years. Learn to see the trouble as opportunities for God to show His power. Learn to see people as family members who just don’t know Jesus yet. But the more you seize opportunities to follow Jesus, the stronger you’ll become.

Jesus says to love your enemies. That’s not easy, but that’s part of following Him. You won’t want to do it, and Satan won’t want you to either. But Jesus says it, so we do it. Loving an enemy is an obstacle because they don’t want your love, but if you treat it as an opportunity, your faith will grow. Every time you extend love or kindness or forgiveness to someone who wants to hurt you (and you get nothing in return), it demonstrates to everyone around you and even to yourself that what Jesus says matters more to you than what is commonly or popularly accepted. And God blesses an attitude like that.

 

The tricky little bitty sign in my very strange hotel room, Las Vegas, NV

Hotel fridges and the tricks they play

My hotel room has waist-high black grass painted on the wallpaper and floor-to-ceiling mirrors at all corners of the room. This is one of the strangest hotels I’ve ever stayed in, and I’ll tell you what–these folks are sneaky.

As is normal for hotels of this caliber, there’s a fridge, and it’s full of alcohol, along with some juices and other things. I went ahead and picked up a bottle of water and a bottle of pop for dinner last night, intending to drink half for dinner and half when I woke up…. because there’s no coffee pot in the room (this place is weird). So I pulled out a bottle of juice and a can of Red Bull and set them on the counter, replacing them with my own drinks.

Didn’t even think about it. A little while later, I spotted a sign that said the fridge is full of sensors. And anything you move will be charged to your room. Of course, the sign is tiny and not on the fridge at all.

So, I replaced the drinks and drank my own stuff last night, and I’m going to talk to the desk people today and see if they will make an exception for a Kansas farm kid who missed their teeny tiny sign.

What really irks me, though, is that I’m pretty sure the girl who checked me in told me that taking anything out of the fridge will be charged to my room. I just wasn’t really paying attention.

The sign that says not to move stuff (if the word "sexy" bothers you, please ignore it; it's a label for marketing; this is Las Vegas, and you can't get away from it)

The sign that says not to move stuff (if the word “sexy” bothers you, please ignore it; it’s a label for marketing; this is Las Vegas, and you can’t get away from it)

Today’s verse is Proverbs 9:9.

Instruct the wise,
    and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous,
    and they will learn even more.

If you’ve ever tried to teach anyone anything, you know that wise people learn easily and foolish people don’t learn at all. That’s a principal you’ll see over and over again in the Bible.

When God is trying to teach us something, people who are wise will listen, and people who aren’t will just do their own thing. What’s nice about being wise and being foolish, though, is that you can choose which one you’ll be.

Yes, you have a choice whether to be wise or foolish. It’s not just something that happens. You aren’t born one way or the other. You are wise or foolish based on what choices you make in your life.

The verse right after this one says: Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. So if you want to be wise, you need to start fearing the Lord. Not the kind of fear that keeps you cowering under your covers at night. That’s not what this fear means.

Fearing the Lord is reverence. It’s recognizing His authority and His sovereignty, which is basically His right to do whatever He wants with the universe. You understand, don’t you, that God doesn’t have to explain Himself to us? He made us. He made everything. And if He wanted to start over, He’d be within His rights (even as we understand them) to wipe everything out and begin again. We do it with our own creations all the time.

We need to recognize that God can do that if He wants to. But He doesn’t. And He even chooses to tell us about His plan and teach us how to live. It’s up to us whether to accept it or not.

If you fear God, you will learn how to be wise, and if you are wise, you will grow wiser every day. If you don’t, you’ll be foolish, and you’ll keep making the same mistakes over and over again. And that’s how you end up with a sky-high hotel room bill, because you move the things in your fridge after the girl at the desk told you not to.

So don’t be foolish. God has showed us how to be wise, and it’s so much better (and much less expensive) to be wise.