Always Learning?

Paul once wrote to Timothy about those who were always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Jesus said it this way, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). They were searching and studying and learning, but never arrived at truth. Why? Because they were unwilling to come to Jesus.

There are places that the road of truth will take us, and we at times will find ourselves very uncomfortable with the conclusions we have to make. On that pathway, the light of truth will expose us and show us the actions we must take in order to be consistent with the truth. So the choice is there, accept, believe and obey the truth before us, or another option is to keep learning. We can fill our brains with all kinds of Bible facts, and never get one bit closer to Jesus.

Another example comes from the book of Mark. The people in Jesus’ hometown were asking some great questions, which if they had the right heart they would have come to believe in Jesus. Read the following passage.

Mark 6:1-6
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

If they would have really thought about these questions in sincerity they would have come to the right conclusion about Jesus. Nicodemus, a ruler among the Pharisees, knew that Jesus could not do these mighty works unless He came from God (John 3). Others like the woman with the blood issue (Mark 5) and the Roman centurion (Matthew 8) also came to the right conclusions about Jesus. They all had limited information, but it was enough to produce a strong conviction about the identity and authority of Jesus.

So, what about us? Are we filling ourselves full of Bible facts, but failing to reach the obvious conclusions or take the steps necessary to be pleasing with Him? What are we doing with all of the Bible information and teaching that passes through our eyes and ears?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:22)

 

people really did ask some great questions about Jesus.

God Laid It On My Heart

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.
(Isaiah 30:21)

There are times when someone will preface what he or she is about to say or do with, “God laid it on my heart.” If I really feel passionate about saying something or going a certain direction, I might feel like God is leading me and is behind these words or actions. It may be that God approves of what you and I are about to say and do, but how will you confirm that?

Let’s take some time to ponder the concept of God laying things on our heart. Here are some thoughts from Scripture:

Within Scripture I know for sure what God has laid upon my heart. We know that Jesus promised the apostles before He left this earth that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:5-15). Having that truth, the apostles then wrote it down, and we have in the pages of the God-breathed Scripture the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9-16; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). As Paul said, when we read we learn the revealed mind of God (Ephesians 3:4).

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
(Hebrews 1:1-2)

Not everything going on inside of me is from God. We are in a spiritual war between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17), so not all leadings and impulses I have within are from God. Paul tells us that we have to bring all thoughts into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), so that tells you not every thought we have is a prompting of the Holy Spirit. There are those Paul said who had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).

Several different opinions, interpretations and directions arise from people claiming that God laid something on their heart. A problem arises when you and I choose our words and pathway based upon what we believe God is laying on our heart. The problem is that so many are saying that but are going in completely different directions spiritually. Remember that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). We can know for sure that God is not laying contradictory things on different hearts. Let’s be careful of crediting God with something that He may have had no part in (Jeremiah 23:32).

We are to test all things by the standard of God’s word, and that includes any promptings or thoughts I may have within. “Test all things; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Bereans were praised by God because they tested what Paul said by comparing it with Scripture (Acts 17:11). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). In the same way the hearts of men are misread and misinterpreted, the word of God is also misread and misinterpreted. Knowing that, Peter warns us to be very careful not to twist the Scriptures to fit with our own desires and interpretations (2 Peter 3:14-18).

My conscience is there to help me as a guide, but it must be trained and conditioned by the word of God. Go back to the verse from Isaiah at the beginning of the article. This passage says that people will hear a word behind them telling them which way to go, to the right or to the left. I’ve often hear this passage quoted to go along with the concept that God lays things on your heart. Yes, God is speaking today and yes, He is telling us which way to go, but how does He do that? The voice of God is clearly speaking today in His word, and the apostle John wrote that if we follow His commandments, our hearts can be assured that we are one with God.

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
(1 John 3:18-22)

So, if I end up by the providence of God in a situation where He wants me to be, what do I say? Do I let my heart lead me? Have I prayed for wisdom to speak the truth from God’s word that this person needs to hear? Have I diligently studied God’s word so that I can be approved of God when I step up to speak for Him (2 Timothy 2:15)?

If I feel prompted to go a certain direction in life, have I tested that with the word of God to make sure this is the way God wants me to go? Have I sat down with wise, godly Christians to seek their counsel as to which way I should go (Titus 2:1-5; Proverbs 1:5; 24:6)? Yes, God may be leading you that direction, but He is calling you to check His word first, pray about it, and seek godly counsel. If that impulse or thought you have is not in line with God’s word, then you know it wasn’t from God.

 

When God Sent a Famine

NOTE: Sorry that some of you received the draft of this email yesterday. Oops!


What happens when God brings a famine of His word? Take some time to meditate upon the following passages that contrast the attitude of Israel toward God’s word before and after their captivity.

Their attitudes toward God’s word BEFORE captivity:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
(2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

Their descendants’ attitudes toward God’s word AFTER captivity:

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
(Nehemiah 8:5-12)

What happened in between? God brought a famine!

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. “People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. “In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.
(Amos 8:11-13)

It’s the old “Don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” teaching. God basically told them, since you don’t want My Word, I’ll take it away from you. This was a hard lesson, but Israel needed to learn it.

Here are a few final passages about hunger for God’s word:

  • I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments (Psalms 119:131, also vs. 20,40,162,174,).
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
  • I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).
  • Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1-3).

God’s Word Can Make You Wiser

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.
(Psalms 119:97-100)

What power did the word of God have upon David? According to these verses, God’s word:

  • Made David wiser than his enemies.
  • Gave him more insight than all his teachers.
  • He was able to understand more than the aged.

I do not believe David was being arrogant and cocky when he said this. You can say these words out of a prideful heart thinking you are the cat’s meow of Christianity. And if we have that attitude, God will have to teach us some very difficult lessons in humility (Phil. 3:15)!

What I believe David is saying is that because of God’s word he was able to deal effectively with his enemies. We all have enemies, whether or not we follow God’s word. But when we listen carefully to the instruction of Scripture, we have an understanding and perspective that is foreign to the people of the world. It will truly stand out and shine.

God’s word did not make David the “smartest man on campus.” He was not more intelligent than his teachers. David wasn’t the man with his hand always up because he knew all the answers. This didn’t mean that David was condescending to his teachers and argued constantly with them because he knew better. You can look to Jesus at 12 years old as an example (see Luke 2). The teachers of the Word in the temple were just amazed at his understanding and answers. That is the power of the Word in a person’s heart. There is such growth and insight that comes from it.

Finally, the word of God made an old man out of David real quick. The Bible and its wisdom will make a young man or woman sound like they are decades older. Why? That’s the power of the Holy Spirit producing His wisdom within you through the word. How often do you see that young man or young woman at church who simply blows you away with their understanding? They may be 10, but they sound like they’re 40!

God’s word is just awesome and powerful, isn’t it?

Lucky Charm Marshmallows

This morning, as I was sitting on the front porch, the cats were eating (now, ignore the title of this blog, they were not eating Lucky Charms). We recently bought the El-Cheapo barn cat food and decided to feed it to the cats. They revolted. So, then we mixed the El-Cheapo with our regular cat food. Again the cats revolted, but in a different way.

Watching them this morning, I observed that they picked out the cat food they liked, and left the El-Cheapo stuff in the bowl. By the way, just so you know, El-Cheapo is not an official brand.

You know, this is just like how kids (and adults) are with Lucky Charms. They pick out the yummy colorful marshmallows and leave the boring brown stuff.

It seems like a theme…it is how folks sometimes approach studying the Word of God. Are we only looking for the yummy colorful marshmallows, while ignoring the things that make us uncomfortable, or are “too hard”?

Consider this and compare it to the heart of David toward “all” of God’s word, especially as he wrote about it in Psalm 119. “All of your commandments are faithful” (vs. 86), and “all your commandments are righteousness” (vs. 172). David didn’t just pick out the pink hearts and blue moons, he wanted all of God’s word.

Another point to consider is this: the cats do come back later and finish the El-Cheapo stuff. Why? Because they are hungry.

If you are hungry, you will eat. If you are hungry for God’s word, you will take in more than just the stuff that tastes yummy. In fact, your spiritual palette and taste buds will change to where you actually like the “boring brown stuff.” Just like David did, pray for God to increase your desire and heart for His word (Psalm 119:32-36).

Psalm 119:20 – “My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times.”

Some were persuaded and some disbelieved

Last night, I went with a few other Christians to hear a preacher present a great lesson on “Can We All Understand the Bible Alike?” One of the passages he referenced in his sermon was Acts 28, which is an account of Paul arriving in Rome. Please take time to read the passage below and notice why some did not receive Paul’s message. You can see that it had nothing to do with God’s word or it being impossible to understand.

“But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:22-28).

Some were persuaded and some disbelieved

What did Paul do? He expounded, he testified and tried to convince them about what the Scriptures said. The message of Jesus was clearly and reasonably presented to the crowd that day.

Take note that some were convinced, but others disbelieved. They did not agree “among themselves.” There was religious division among them. So, what was the problem? Was Paul’s teaching too hard to understand? No, Paul quoted Isaiah in saying they had “closed” their eyes and that their hearts had grown dull. It had nothing to do with the message. The problem was their eyes, ears and hearts.

Lord, please open our hearts, our ears and our eyes to see Your word just as it is. Please remove any pre-conceived notions, traditions and men’s opinions from our hearts. May we simply listen to Your truth with an honest mind. Amen.