God Teaches Us 5

Luke 6:47-49

In my first year in college I took a history course which had several books as required reading. At that time I was not ready to take college seriously and didn’t take the time to read many of the assignments (the books were boring!). Everything seemed to be fine all through the many weeks of the class until the final exam came around. I was unable to answer a huge portion of the questions and got a low grade in the class.

God teaches us in our experiences with His presence. God teaches us through the Scripture and through worship. God teaches us through the lessons of Jesus. Will we take the time to make these teachings part of who we are?

Jesus spent a huge portion of his ministry teaching people about the kingdom of God and how we are to live as believers. But then, like today, not everyone embraced the lessons and lived out what Jesus taught. To whom does Jesus compare a person who lives out his teaching? What about the person who doesn’t live out his teaching?

We may be among the faithful people who attend church, take part in Bible study, and even read our Bible when we can. But God’s teachings involve more than just hearing the words from Scripture and reading them. The lessons from God are there to change us.

We can change into more perfect people when we embrace what is being taught. We must understand what the lessons are that God teaches us. We must comprehend what Jesus teaches. But then we must put these lessons into practice.

Simply having the information available to us does no good if we don’t learn from the teachings. If we can’t live out what is taught, if we can’t change who we are through our understanding of God’s lessons, then we have not given ourselves the spiritual foundation to weather the storms of faith.

We can hear the lessons from God, but we must also internalize them, putting them into practice, living them out in our day-to-day. When we do that then we have the strength to endure the challenges of life and the challenges to our faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be certain the foundation of your house of faith is firm?

God Teaches Us 4

Colossians 1:28-29

“Why do we have to learn all this stuff?” I heard it over and over in the years that I worked as a teacher. My students didn’t understand the value of their education. Learning was a chore for them, and a pointless one it seemed.

But learning is important. It is important to understand, to expand our thoughts, to gain more knowledge. In that way we can become better people than what we are now.

The letter to the Colossians celebrates a relationship with Christ as well as the ministries that were going on. Who is proclaimed? How is Jesus proclaimed? Why is Jesus proclaimed?

Although our faith involves a relationship with Jesus Christ, making him part of who we are and what we do, and our faith involves living out the love of God, there is another essential part of our faith. We must learn about who God is and who Jesus is.

Part of our religion is to attend worship services, and in those worship services (hopefully) the meaning and lessons from Scripture, the lessons from God and the teachings of Jesus, are explained and interpreted. Through our worship we can expand our understanding of how God works and we can more fully know who Jesus is.

This teaching is a way to proclaim Christ. It is a way to proclaim the love of God. Through the teachings of worship and Bible study the fullness of God and Jesus Christ can be made known. Our faith can grow and develop. It can become stronger and deeper.

And as we grow in knowledge and understanding, as we increase our comprehension of God and our place in the kingdom, we can move closer toward perfection. We can be made into better and more holy believers by the teaching we receive in our faith and worship. God teaches us when we take the time to encounter His lessons and learn from them. And the teaching God provides makes us better, more perfect people.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can your attitude toward learning from God and about God be more positive?

God Teaches Us 3

Matthew 13:33

One of my favorite things to eat (and there are so many!) is a nice piece of baked bread. And, of course, one of the key ingredients in good bread is the yeast. The yeast works to make the dough rise up and become fluffy. It gives the bread a softer texture and adds flavor. A small bit of yeast can really make things better.

Jesus continued in his teachings with another parable – a simple example of something familiar. To what does he compare the kingdom of heaven? What does the woman do with the yeast?

I find it interesting that this simple parable appears almost incomplete. Living a life obedient to God and a life which shares God’s love with others is like yeast. A woman takes yeast and mixes it in with flour until it is thoroughly blended. The end.

What about it? What happened to the dough? Jesus doesn’t give any more detail than that. But we can imagine what will happen to the dough. Since the dough has had yeast added to it, the dough will be much improved.

And the kingdom of heaven isn’t compared to a nice loaf of bread. It is compared to the yeast, something which will affect the outcome. The kingdom of heaven – that is, our ability to live as Godly and holy people – is not an end result, but an influence of change for the better. Just as yeast improves bread, our ability to live as children of God and people who imitate Christ can improve life.

So too are the teachings of Christ. The lessons Jesus present can serve as an additive to us so that our lives are much improved. We need to let the yeast of Christ’s teachings work its way all through our lives so that what we do and say, how we respond to life’s situations, and how we respond to God’s directing is aligned with the teachings of Jesus.

We can also serve as yeast to the situations in life. Bearing the wisdom and teachings of Jesus, we can be a positive influence with other people. We can share our learning with others who may be in a difficult situation.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you let the yeast of the kingdom of heaven mix thoroughly in your life?

God Teaches Us 2

Matthew 13:31-32

While I was away one weekend my wife and daughter assembled some goody bags for members of our church to hand out to area families. It didn’t take a great deal of effort – a few candy bars, a flyer and a magnet in each one. But for me, not having to worry about this effort was a tremendous gift of relief. It was one less thing for me to worry about.

I imagine that these small gift bags were a pleasant treat for those who received them. Not a lot of money was spent, not a great deal of time was invested, but these gifts may have brightened the spirits of those who received them. This small effort, done with love, may have had a big impact.

When trying to get a better picture of how God loves us through His teaching we can not overlook the ability of Jesus to teach lessons. Most of his teachings were done in parables, which are defined as short and simple examples using familiar themes.

Today’s reading is one of those parables. To what does Jesus compare the kingdom of heaven? What are the two contrasting images of the mustard seed?

Many people are familiar with Jesus’ comment that we need faith like a mustard seed – that even faith that may seem small can be very strong. But here Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven, not faith. What’s the difference?

I believe that faith is our belief and our ability to hold firm to that belief. I believe the kingdom of heaven is not just beliefs, but faith lived out in obedience to God and service to others. Part of the kingdom of heaven is the expression of God’s love in acts of mercy and grace.

Like the mustard seed which begins as very tiny and then grows to such a size that it gives shelter to animals, our acts of kindness and expressions of love can be small. They do not have to be grand, sweeping gestures or dramatic rescues. The smallest of expressions of love and kindness can have huge effects.

But also like the mustard seed, the teachings of Jesus do not need to be lengthy dissertations, explanations and lectures. With very simple words and common images he can convey the profound lessons that we need to hear. From these small gems of wisdom we can gain some of the greatest insights to improve our faith and strengthen our understanding of God’s kingdom.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Which of Jesus’ lessons have made the biggest impact on you?

God Teaches Us 1

Psalm 139:17-18

Although I am not much of a conversationalist there was a friend I had in college with whom I really liked to talk. We could sit for hours and have conversations. I enjoyed them because he was really clever and intelligent and I always got something out of our times together.

If we know that God loves us because He created us, then we can also know that God loves us because He shares His thoughts with us. What does the psalmist say about the thoughts of God? What do you think is meant by the last statement in verse 18?

Most believers agree that the ways of God are far beyond our reach. We are not capable of being as wise and intelligent as God. God is far above us in His thinking and we do not always understand what He does or what God’s motivation is.

But God does love us very much. He has created us and He also expresses His love for us by sharing His thoughts with us. He has expressed His desires through the writings of the Bible, and He still speaks to us today with lessons and guidance – that little nudging of our thoughts that urges us to do this or that.

God teaches us how to live a holy life. He teaches us through the Scripture and through the lessons that Jesus taught how to behave in a righteous and good way. He shows us how to truly be His children.

It is up to us to listen to these lessons. And more than listening, it is up to us to obey the teachings and commands of God. No matter how hard, no matter how challenging, God shows us what we are to do. We just need to do it.

And the teaching of God, the direction, the prompting and urging, is not something that God delivers to us and then leaves us to struggle along. He is with us in all things helping us to comprehend what He shows us, guiding us to do what is right.

Although the psalmist says he is still with God, we might remember that God is still with us. He is beside us as we work to live out His teaching and understand His will for our lives.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can help you listen to God?