Learning

“Learn from Me.” Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

A disciple is a learner. We learn best by association. That was the classroom for Jesus’ disciples. They learned from Him through their association with Him. Their classroom was life. They observed how Jesus lived in relationship with His Father. He showed them how to live, how to pray, how to be men as God intended man to be. Seminars, conferences and bible study classes are wonderful, but the greatest truths you will learn will always be in your association with Christ. That’s why the first invitation in this passage is “Come to me …” in verse 28. When we come to Christ, we begin learning the unforced rhythms of grace. I love the way The Message paraphrases this passage:

“Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus is more than a teacher. Oswald Chambers said, “If Jesus Christ is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize me by erecting a standard I cannot attain. What is the use of presenting me with an ideal I cannot possibly come near? I am happier without knowing it. … I must know Jesus Christ as Savior before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. But when I am born again of the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be.” Have you come to Jesus Christ like that? You’ll never learn from Him how to live freely and lightly until you do.

Leaning

… lean not on your own understanding.” Prov. 3:5b (NIV)

What are you leaning on in life? All of us lean on something or someone. You may be leaning on your abilities, your intellect or your resources. So far they’ve proven stable enough to support you. But what about in a real crisis – when the storms of life come and you don’t know what to do? It could be an economic setback, a layoff, an unexpected diagnosis or worse, the sudden death of a loved one. Life happens; and when you live long enough, you discover that sorrow and suffering are indiscriminate. It doesn’t matter how wealthy or intelligent you are. Ask yourself if what you are leaning on can sustain you no matter what happens in life. If you’re wise, you’ll admit you need something greater than your own ability, someone far more capable than you are to lean on in life. The wisest man who ever lived other than Christ Himself – offers us this advice. He said, “Lean not on your own understanding.” I’m so thankful Solomon didn’t leave it at that. He prefaced it with what we should do. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart …” Your understanding, your talent, your skills, your resources can only take you so far. But, when you put your trust in God, you have an illimitable supply! Moses taught the people of God that truth in a wonderful promise found in Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV).The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Lean on Him! He will never let you fall!

Guarding Your Heart

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

“Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts.”

Hebrews 4:7b (NLT)

We’ve increasingly become more heart conscious today. It’s a good thing and causes me to consider what I’m eating more than before. Is it heart healthy? Will it increase my cholesterol? What’s the fat content? We read all the labels and try our best to make the best decisions for ourselves and the ones we love. But, beyond the physical condition of our heart, there is a much deeper issue. Maybe it’s not what you are eating that’s having the worst impact on your heart, but what’s eating you! How can you guard your heart from hardening? I used to think that a hard heart was something only people without God suffered from. Pharaoh certainly had a hard heart against God and the people of God in Moses’ day. Israel even suffered from hardness of heart and lived forty years in the desert as a result of it. The religious leaders that rejected Christ specialized in it and missed their Messiah. Jesus even told His disciples that they had hard hearts when they forgot the miracles He had done. The truth is none of us are immune to our hearts becoming hard and calloused. The older I get, the more intentional I must be in keeping my heart tender and open to God and others. If we are going to guard our hearts, we must know the warning signs of a hard heart. Recently, I came across a list that Pastor Carey Nieuwhof put together. And, I really connected with it. Here are the warning signs he gave:

1. You don’t really celebrate and you don’t really cry. Well, you might on the outside, but in reality you don’t feel it.

2. You stop genuinely caring.

3. So much of what’s supposed to be meaningful feels mechanical. From your personal friendships to your family, to work, the feeling’s gone. 

4. Passion is hard to come by. For anything.

5. You no longer believe the best about people. Even when you meet someone, you’re thinking about what’s going to go wrong, not what’s going to go right.

These symptoms are subtle and almost imperceptible at first. Left unchecked, they can lead to a hard heart where you no longer hear from God and lose your passion for life. If you recognize any of these symptoms, it’s time to take action. Acknowledge it to God and ask Him to soften your heart. Listen to what He says and respond. Take time in worship this weekend to give yourself a heart check-up. Let God revive your heart.

Pleading

Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” Romans 8:34 (NLT)

 Did you pray for yourself today? You should have. But if you didn’t, the Bible says that Jesus did. In fact, consider the intensity of His prayer for you in this verse. It jumped off the page at me when I first read it. Paul said that Christ is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. If you read the passage in the context of Romans 6 – 8, you get a better understanding of why Jesus prays for us with such passion. These three chapters describe the dilemma every child of God lives with in a fallen world with an accuser that constantly bombards us with condemnation. When you feel condemned and defeated, Jesus is pleading for you to understand that God has acquitted you and has removed your sin and guilt. Satan, not God, is the one who accuses us! When he does, Jesus, who sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand, is our advocate to represent our case. Because He died for us and was raised to life for us, we no longer have to live under condemnation and guilt! He has set us free, and He is pleading for us to accept His grace and live in the liberty for which He has set us free! Only then will we experience the abundant life He came to offer us! Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” When Peter denied Christ, Jesus forgave and restored him to fellowship and service because He prayed for him knowing what would happen! Jesus told him, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has asked permission to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed especially for you that your own faith may not utterly fail.” (Luke 22:31-32 WMS) Just as He did for Peter, Jesus is pleading for you and me! “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NLT) When Satan stands before God to accuse you, thank God that Jesus is pleading for you!

Good News!

“The Good News is about His Son … He is Jesus Christ our Lord. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight.” 

Romans 1:3a; 4b; 17a (NLT)

Good news! Who’s not interested in some good news for a change? In his book, How to Give Away Your Faith, author Paul Little says, “More flies are attracted by honey than vinegar.” His point was that how we present our faith has a lot to do with the response we receive. It’s important to remember that the word “gospel” means good news. Before the Apostle Paul speaks about the bad news of man’s sinful condition before God, he begins with the good news. Seven times in the first seventeen verses of Romans 1, he uses that phrase good news. (Vs. 1, 2, 3, 9, 15, 16, 17) “This Good News is about His Son … He is Jesus Christ our Lord. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight.” Now that is good news! How can I be right in God’s sight when I feel so wrong in my own? This is why it’s such good news! In verse 17, Paul says, “This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.” The gospel doesn’t deny nor ignore our sinfulness. It just doesn’t begin there. Two chapters later, in Romans 3, the Bible says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. … He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-25a; 26b NLT) The good news is that God makes us right in His sight when by faith we believe in Jesus. It’s not a matter of achieving but believing! Isn’t that good news?