What a blessing a church family is! There is nothing this side of Heaven better than being together at God’s table of grace with like minded people who love Jesus and each other. The prayers and fellowship kindle the felt presence of the Holy Spirit so that we surely know that by God’s grace we are made for and made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Not only does iron sharpen iron, but iron also makes a louder noise by contact with iron. Iron on wood would bring a muffled, uncertain sound, whereas iron on iron would ring out like a bell on the hillside. Brother Khai has really done a marvelous job encouraging and leading SPBC in songs and music both through the choir and through congregational hymns. As far as I know, Christians are the only religious group who sing songs. Other religions may gather and bow to a false god and moan and coo, but you won’t hear an “Amazing Grace” nor a “Come Thou Fount!” The difference is Jesus — Jesus makes all the difference in everything, but most especially in religion. He is the only way to God, to Heaven and to happiness because of holiness. The resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith and when Christians assemble on Sunday to celebrate His resurrection through prayer, preaching, and singing, the result is abundant joy and peace which passeth understanding.
Someone reminded me last Sunday of what a beautiful scene it was to see all the young fathers in the congregation stand up to send their children to the front of the church for children’s church. And on top of that, I get to see something most beautiful that most of you don’t get to see from the pews. I see the bright and innocent faces of those youth sitting there on the front pew facing the pulpit and listening intently as Brother Todd brings them a message from the gospel. We are also truly blessed to have a man like Brother Todd Hutchens, to lead the children like he does. His position of commitment to protect the citizens of Bulloch County is reflected in his concern and care to protect our youth from the evils of this world and we all appreciate that so much.
The local church is a platform whereby we can outwardly and publicly express our love for God and for one another. May the good Lord continue to build His church at 4 South Zetterower Avenue and may His Holy Spirit stir and energize us to honor Him and help one an- other. The staff at SPBC is one place “church” is done with God’s glory and His people in mind. Sister Tamela inspires us all by her loving sacrifice for her family, especially during troublesome times, yet responding with a sweet spirit and willingness to carry on as God carries her. And there is no doubt that Sister Melanie will be making plans for a trip or an event just so we can be together, enjoy the time with one another, learn more about Jesus for the young and old alike. And I know Brother Chris will do all he can to make us comfortable even though the congregational comfort zone may be hard to monitor at times.
I could go on boasting about the blessings from God at SPBC. Thanks to the Board of Deacons, The Sound Booth Personnel, The Bible Study Teachers, The Prayer Room Prayers and all who join us in worship whether in the pews, in the fellowship hall or via the internet or phone. You all are evidence that Jesus is alive and that there is hope for the hopeless and help for the hurting. Please know that as I brag on you, I’m really bragging on the Lord Jesus Christ, for this is His church and we are His people and there could be no greater blessing than that. While all of us cannot be servant leaders, we can and ought to be servant learners.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:29
A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who has been made teachable by the Holy Spirit’s renewing, quickening work in the heart, soul and mind. All genuine Christians are Jesus’ disciples because Jesus said, “my sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” Sometimes real Christians are slow learners! Our Lord is patient with us through, He knows our heart and that we do want to learn. Even the Apostles had trouble understanding kingdom life with Jesus. A young child who wants to learn how to tie his shoes will struggle trying to tie it right whereas an adult can do it with their eyes closed. But the parent of the young child learning to tie their shoes, or even learning to walk, will be patient and encouraging, not angry because the child can’t do it right the first time. This kind of training and teaching from a superior, whether God or man, motivates the learner to try and try again.
Now we don’t learn everything we need to know about life in kingdom kindergarten. We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God’s word and ways.
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” II Peter 3:18
Even though we’ll never graduate from the Bible nor have perfect knowledge this side of Heaven, we should be excited just to be learners. We don’t have to know everything for God to love us and that is great because if that were not the case we would be most pitied, given how little we really do know. Remember that God loved us first and that is such a precious, profound fact that He enabled us to love Him back and we do that by learning about Him. It is true, the better we know God or learn of Him, the more we will love and obey Him. The hymn,
“More About Jesus” capsules an appropriate learning curve for a Christian’s education. “More about Jesus on His throne, riches in glory all His own. More of His kingdom’s sure increase, more of His Coming Prince of Peace. More, more about Jesus, more, more about Jesus; More of His saving fullness see, more of His love Who died for me.”
When we stop learning we die! The psalmist says, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.” We should say along with the psalmist, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be happy and learn something!” I remember asking my children when they were going to school what they learned that day. A lot of times the answer was “nothing!” It’s hard to imagine that we can be exposed to educators and not be educated, but it happens. The truth is, I wasted so much time in school by not learning when I had the opportunity to learn a lot. The reason was, I was not interested in what was being taught. Something amazing happened during my senior year in high school though; I decided I wanted to go to college and study forestry. Because I had not applied myself and learned so little up to that point, I had to take remedial courses in Algebra and English my first quarter in college. I gladly did so, getting tutors and studying hard, because I wanted to learn. I was motivated to train myself and to not take my teachers for granted, because I had a goal, a vision which I deemed a most worthy and satisfy- ing pursuit. Would you believe I made straight “A’s that first quarter in college? It is true! What makes my education even more amazing is that I was able to make the Dean’s list for several quarters in college after that.
Learning is not easy. Anything worthwhile takes effort and sacrifice. The greatest factor in learning is not your IQ or what you used to do, it’s what you want to do! Do you want to follow Jesus? If you do, God has given you a most worthy, even the most worthy pursuit, so don’t waste your life by having a pity party or viewing yourself as a victim. God has a lot of life lessons to teach His children! All of those important lessons are found in God’s two great text books: The Bible and the natural world. Don’t think that all of God’s courses are a piece of cake and a curriculum we really want to take. I quickly found out in college there were some courses I wasn’t particularly interested in and really didn’t see why they were needed for a career in the woods; namely, physics and chemistry. Yet, because I wanted the degree, I took the classes, tried to be teachable and trained my mind to work for something my heart had a passion for. Several years ago, I had a young man apply for a job with our forestry consulting firm. He came to my house and told me he really wanted to do forestry work. He admitted he had no formal training in the field, but he said if I would teach him, he would make sure he would be a good employee. I hired that guy and I believe he was the best forester we ever had in our office!
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
We all should strive to learn something new every day. The Holy Spirit indwells us every day and since He is our teacher, maybe we should listen to His instructions and learn from His prompting and His constraints. It may be true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but a child of God, regardless of age, can learn something new about God, self and others. It does seem like the more I study the Bible the less I know about it. That’s because the Bible is a living Bible. You may read a verse of scripture one hundred times and learn something new each time you read that verse. I throw all my study notes away from the last Sunday’s sermon topic on Monday morning. I do so not because the sermon was so bad or so good, but because the next time the Lord burdens my heart with that text or topic, I want to start fresh and learn it all over again.
The greatest learning tree is the tree Jesus was crucified on, the cross of Calvary.
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.” Acts 5:30
Here are three branches of the tree of Calvary from which we can glean some glorious lessons:
Lessons From the Master Teacher
There has never been nor will there ever be a better, more able or clearer instructor than the Lord Jesus Christ. From the promises of God, the precepts of Holy writ to the parallels of the parables, Jesus lays out the foundation to fundamental fellowship with the Heavenly Father and the abundant life of grace. We learn what God is like from Jesus. And God delights in His Son’s commitment to our instruction.
“While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Matthew 17:5
People have said, “Get an education, nobody can take that away from you!” One lesson we are taught by our Lord is that nobody can take us away from Him, for both He and our Heavenly Father hold us in their hands. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word and Jesus said she made the right choice, for His word could not be taken from her either. Teaching is a gift. Everybody can’t teach, but Jesus can. His lessons are simple but with authority. He does give a lot of homework though and He is also apt to give a pop quiz at any time. Even when we struggle understanding our lesson, we have a teacher who is at our calling through prayer. And when we fail, we can confess our faults, and He will forgive us and show us the right way.
One of the first lessons we need to learn from Jesus is to follow Him. It should go without saying that in order to learn from Jesus we need to do what Jesus says do, and He does say “follow me.”
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
Last week two of my grandchildren were at our house during potato planting time. It was a good time for me to teach them how to plant potatoes. They didn’t know all that much about planting potatoes (They are 3 and 4 years old.) but they wanted to learn. After placing the potatoes in the furrow and covering them with dirt, I called them both to line up behind me to do the potato walk. They were to walk where I walked, put their feet where my foot prints were, to pack the soil over the seed potatoes. In all probability our lives would be more fruitful if we’d quit trying to be so smart and become like little children and line up behind Jesus and follow Him.
Lessons From Our Troubles
One of the greatest schools is the school of hard knocks. These knocks are needful in our education, without them we would not know much. Jonah spent only three days at “whale university” but it was long enough for him to learn that he was a sinner and salvation comes only from God. How would any of us be able to have testimony without having a test. The truth will surely make us free, but sometimes the truth hurts. Trouble is the very place where God gets our attention. There is a tendency to learn a lot more from our troubles than from our triumphs. Troubles should not discourage us since they are from God and come with His promise of deliverance. A person who has never failed, has never had troubles, is a person who has never done very much and may not be a child of God.
David is called in the Bible a man after God’s own heart, yet David had a lot of troubles. We see in David’s life the truth in the saying, “The problem is not the problem, the problem is our attitude about the problem.”
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” Psalm 119:71
I like this poem even though I don’t know the author, the lesson is pure godliness.
“I walked a mile in pleasure, she chattered all the way, but I was not the wiser, for all she had to say.
I walked a mile with sorrow, and not a word said she, but oh the things
I learned, when sorrow walked with me.”
Sometimes troubles soften our hard heads enough to listen to our hearts. And then, there are times when God will send trouble to an obedient servant’s heart just to teach a lesson of sacrifice. A hundred years from now nobody will care how many degrees hang on our wall or whether we’re summa cum laude or not. The influence we leave behind on this earth will be in direct proportion to the sacrifice we made. Jesus Christ is the best example of that I know and note He also had the greatest trouble. Trouble teaches us that it’s not how much we know, it’s how much we care that really matters.
Lessons from Things
A hard lesson for us to learn is that we don’t have to have everything we think we have to have. Sometimes the very thing we think we want would be the very thing that would destroy us. The truth is, God knows what we need and has promised to provide all our needs. However, God does not give us everything we want.
“The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” Psalm 34:10
If we are not satisfied, then most likely we need to learn to want the right things. The first thing to want is God’s fellowship and when we have that, all the other things will fall into the right place. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount that when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things will be added. Prosperity is the great enemy of the church and to Christians. When our pockets are full, our hearts can be empty. There are too many places to go, so much to do and people to see, that we hardly think of the most important thing to do — worship God!
Kingdom life should be the most satisfied, peaceful life to live because the one in charge and over it all is the Lord Jesus Christ. Most likely we all have more than we think we have. We need to learn to appreciate what we do have realizing that it all comes from God and is just add-ons to the greatest gift of all, eternal life.
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11
There is a sense in which you can have everything and everything is not everything. The lesson of things is that contentment is not about adding more things or multiplying our wealth, but in subtracting our desires. It is a lesson well learned to be content with what we have even though we ourselves are not what we want to be. One of the best ways to praise God is to be content with our lot in life, seeing our troubles as well as our triumphs as coming from Him. This also reminds us that we are learners and a work in progress — His work. Brother Randy
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