Posts Tagged ‘Teacher’

prisonThe story of Joseph and how he was sold into slavery by his brothers is a popular Sunday School tale. This, along with his “technicolor dreamcoat,” have been repeated over and over again. Joseph was wonderful; his brother were not so wonderful, but God blessed Joseph and the paybacks were sweet. But is that all of the story?

But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. [Genesis 40:14, NIV]

Despite Joseph’s favor with God and being the favorite of his own birth father, he was sold, enslaved, raised up, imprisoned, and raised up with the prison walls, and forgotten (again and again). Yes, Joseph received favor in his circumstances and yes, apparently Joseph had a great work ethic, but Joseph also knew he was captive to the whims and control of others.

He was not his own man. He was dependent and I believe this is the lesson he needed to learn.

Joseph may have been a man of integrity and all of that, but until he walked the challenges of being in the lowest place could he be elevated to the highest.

Jesus tells a parable with a similar message in Luke 14:7-11.
“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”Minolta DSC

This is the message of the old Joseph story for me today. Joseph was proud of his many dreams that showed his family bowing down to him. He inadvertently, through a bit of gloating, set a major set of circumstances into motion.

Beware, I say to myself, beware of pride and judgment. God will teach in a variety of ways. In God’s time, there is no time, only the lesson that must be learned.

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Sometimes it simply comes down to this basic request of God: Teach me! Even the disciples, in all of their travels and time spent with Jesus, still didn’t get it and all they could say was, “teach us.” [Luke 11:1] But of course, in order to learn, I must be open to the information.

WhichwayTeach me how to do Your will,
    for You are my God.
Allow Your good Spirit to guide me
    on level ground, to guide me along Your path. [Psalm 143:10, The Voice]

First of all, I must know and trust the teacher. In Psalm 143, David identifies clearly his relationship to the teacher for it is God alone who has the ability to teach was David needs in that moment. His life is at a cusp, a turning point and David must figure out what to do next. The only course to take is God’s way, but what is it? This is the eternal dilemma of most believers at one point in our walk or another.

Which way? Where next? What next?

And so, I must turn to God and ask for direction or even better (as translated in the voice), ask for instruction to determine God’s will (both this time and the next time and the time after that).

As part of this request, I am hoping for a little extra help in discerning the way. This time, I say, I really don’t know which way to turn, what to say, how to proceed. Guide me, Lord, and as your Spirit guides me from within, use this opportunity to teach me how you work both inside me and outside me.

So often, I find myself on an uphill climb and I sense it’s not the best way to tackle my issue, my understanding. I may even be making things more difficult than they need to be.

I need to stop striving so. I need to stop, right where I am and confess my “control freak” self has taken over the reigns again and I’ve managed to get myself back into a difficult state of affairs. I didn’t pay attention to the Spirit before I started out on this path. I didn’t even bother to “check in.”

Forgive me Lord. Like Sara of old who thought she had to help out prophecy and gave her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abraham that Hagar  might bear a child whose destiny would be to populate the earth. O Sarah, foolish bride, set a great nation in motion that may have never intended to be one.

Each of us set change in motion by our actions, our words, our decisions: sometimes for good and sometimes not.

I let go of the past. I trust in God’s future for me. Teach me about the now of my life.

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If you’re wondering, there are lots and lots of blog posts about the “seal of apostleship.” Go figure. What’s the appeal of the seal? Authority and proof.

I Corinthians 9:2
Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

Ever since we were little kids and got sticky stars pasted onto our attendance sheets or report cards, we have understood the power of the “seal.” This was the symbol of a job well done, of success, of completion. It didn’t stop with childhood, we are still getting seals. Look at any diploma or plaque. Don’t they carry the same power and authority? I always check the doctor’s office walls for his/her credentials. (Of course, I’m not sure what I would do if I couldn’t find the requisite diploma or it was from the Internet School of Medicine.)

When my husband and I were in the adoption process, we had to jump through a zillion hoops to get the right seals on the right pieces of paper for our home study: a seal from the county to verify that our notary was legitimate and then another seal from the state to verify that the county verified the notary (and so on) . . . for every piece of paper (at a cost of $5 per page – those gold sticky stars must get more expensive as they get bigger).

Paul’s seal is not a star or a “good job” sticker. Paul’s seal is the people whose lives were touched in a meaningful way. Paul worked among the people in Corinth, told his story, shared his faith, and people’s lives were changed. His seal was the fruit of his labor. That’s all. So simple.

Can I be content with that seal as well?

Several years ago, out of the blue, I got an email from a young woman who had been one of my students in a series of acting classes I taught in Indianapolis back in the 80’s (age hint). She was contacting me to let me know that she had become a theater professor and that it was my influence, my time with her, my teaching, that made her decide on this profession. She wanted to thank me. That was lovely. That was a seal.

When we truly touch a life and that touch makes a difference, what else is really needed?

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A believer, grafted to the tree of faith, still has some responsibility despite all that grace. I do, after all, need to participate in the tree… “be a tree” and not something else, like a mushroom or a dandelion.

Romans 3:2b
First of all, they [the Jews] have been entrusted with the very words of God.

When I accepted Christ, I agreed to give up some things in exchange for the embedded words of God. Those words have power and can transform a life. I agreed to keep them safe by treating them reverently.

Oh, it’s not like the “words” will go away if I am faithless. I can even cast them aside and God will not be changed in any way. But I will have broken trust… it’s a type of betrayal, a broken covenant.

God is teaching me about God through those words. And Jesus is teaching me. And the Holy Spirit is teaching me. And as I learn, I become a stronger part of the tree.

An image that comes to my mind is the great tree in the movie, Avatar. It was a life force, a home, a safety net, a fortress, a symbol… it was all of these things and more to the native peoples. And so is the tree of life for me. Unlike Pandora’s tree which was destroyed by evil, our tree of life lives on forever. But it really thrives when the parts contribute to the tree with love and joy and obedience and faith and truth and confession.

As a believer, I have been entrusted with the words of God. They are only seeds. The life of those word-seeds must be planted and nurtured to manifest.

Similar metaphors are used throughout the scriptures to help us understand. Do we? Do we take these gifts seriously? Do I? If I truly understood the words of God to be like the metaphors that Jesus used about the kingdom (e.g. a mustard seed, yeast, treasure in a field, a pearl [Matthew 13]), would I sell everything to gain the full value of this treasure?

Oh Lord, give me a love for your words that will bear much fruit. Give me wisdom and understanding. Help me to be a better caretaker of your truth.

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It’s one thing to have knowledge and a desire to share that knowledge with others but it’s another thing altogether if we don’t apply that knowledge to our own behaviors. Am I guilty?

Romans 2:19-21
. . . if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?

Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a way that God tempers rashness and bad choices. It’s like one of those dog leashes that releases for a long way, but eventually, the end is reached and the dog is pulled back into safety. I’m feeling some tugs today.

I love writing about the Word and what God shows me each day. But I think I need to be more careful about the voice I use. Sometimes, I read aloud what I have written and I must go back and change all the pronouns to first person, to acknowledge that the message is personal. It’s a reminder that I must teach myself. There are many things I have learned and and I have grown immeasurably, but the application of what I know continues to be a challenge. I assume, no more or less than it is for anyone.

I tend to be “results” oriented, but this Christian walk business is all “process.” I know and understand this in my mind, but the heart is slower to come around.

In my enthusiasm for the “message,” I forget to walk it. God forgive me. Let this day be a day of sensitivity to your counsel. Give me mindfulness. Keep me in prayer throughout the day.

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In order to “do good” or choose good over evil, one must first “recognize” what is good. That may seem obvious but I’m not so sure in today’s world that it is done so easily. The world has become quite complex and the “knowing” of what is good requires thoughtful and prayerful attention.

Certainly, the Word gives us a strong foundation for choosing good, but this element seems to fall under “knowledge” which is our 3rd step noted in our anchor verses, II Peter 1:3-10. Choosing the virtuous or excellently moral way comes first. So, if it is not based on our own knowledge, it must be rooted within and then tempered and fine-tuned with knowledge.

Let’s remember, the foundation was faith. If we have grounded ourselves in faith and communion and intimacy with the Lord, our ability to recognize “good” begins there. A key element then is hearing the Lord within our spirits. It is important to nurture that sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, our Teacher and Counselor, who is always speaking, whispering, and encouraging, “go this way, not that way.”

Touch the Spirit in prayer and the ability to identify and “choose good” grows from that seed of faith.

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