Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teaching and Learning

I quickly mentioned in one of our older posts that I've had the privilege of taking a class at SEBTS while Matt has been working on his MDiv. I wanted to write a little bit about what I've been learning. That first sentence alone shows the great change that's gone on in our hearts regarding school, especially for me. While I've always loved information and learning, I've never really been a person that enjoyed or thrived in the traditional schooling system, and that lead to lots of frustration (that eventually became bitterness) in trying to figure out what kind of degree to pursue, etc. I've been so thankful that God opened up this opportunity and provided a class that was just exactly what I needed, and so applicable for right where I am. I wanted to share some of the things I've been learning from some incredibly awesome women, because I feel like it is universally helpful, whether you're Baptist or not, or even whether you consider yourself a Christian or not. Really, these are just some highlights- a few notes on the topics that I have found really helpful for me personally. It's a little long, but I like having it in a place I can come back and read through it easily!

1. Forgiveness.

This has been huge for me- I'm learning that forgiveness is such a crucial part of life. It's what we're supposed to do as believers, but there are very few times that it's easy or simple, maybe even never. Especially as Christians, we tend to separate "Bible land" in our lives from "everyday land"... Bible land is where we live and who we are at church or in front of other Christians, and everyday land is who we are when we try to live our lives in our own strength, without God's help.

In Bible land, we know that we're supposed to forgive, that we should forgive, we might even say we have forgiven or want to, but then we don't live it out in everyday land. We bring it back up and dwell on it. It becomes a bitter root in our lives (Heb 12:15). We have to choose to do it, even when we don't want to, don't feel like it, feel like we can't, and haven't even heard an apology. We do it out of obedience to God- repeatedly, everyday if necessary, not because it's easy or because the person deserves it or because we're a doormat to be walked all over.

Real forgiveness is realizing how much you have been forgiven of in Christ, and forgiving others.
When it's ourselves that we struggle to forgive, our forgiveness comes from Christ and can never be taken away from us. There's probably no greater way to be Christ-like than to forgive. The world says retribution, God says forgiveness. Forgive fully and specifically for the hurts you've felt- they will have names and faces. It's not easy, but God who loves justice, will make everything right someday (Heb21:12). God orchestrates forgiveness- He changes your heart!

2. What is the Purpose Of My Life?

How do you see who you are and why you are here in this life? I think everyone wants to feel like they have a purpose and a reason to be alive. The answer is in the heart- the real inner you, the control center for all you do- we live out of what is in our hearts (Prov 12:23). We should protect what goes into it, and what things we chose to think about often or dwell on (Phil 4:8).

Things that are out of your control can influence your heart (parents, upbringing, finances, job, marriage, your past, children, culture, sickness or loss), but they can't control you. That's because God is sovereign over your life, meaning he designed your life and circumstances to make you the best you you can be for his glory. That last part is SO important! Especially when hard times arise- we have to have the faith and trust that God is in control. If you are a Christian, everything you go through has meaning and purpose. God lays a claim on every part of you. This means there is no area of life off-limits to God's mercy, grace, love, power, and redemption!

You may think of Christianity as some long list of rules to be kept, or be asking yourself, if God is in control then why do bad things happen at all? That would be another post entirely (which Matt is great at explaining!) but in short- God is all about his glory, but he gives us choice. We get to chose whether or not to love him, whether or not to seek him, and whether or not we live for him or for ourselves. BUT, that also means we have the power to make wrong choices, choices that hurt us or that we regret.

When we chose to live our lives for him, and to want his will for our lives rather than trying to figure it out by ourselves, that's where real joy is found! (1 Cor. 10:31). We can stop living in the fear of what people think of us, and instead live in the forgiveness and love of a merciful God who knows even the deepest thoughts of our hearts and still loves us anyways! What's even better, is then he starts giving us everything we need to be able to obey him and give him the glory, even through those difficult things (2 Pet 1:3). He doesn't even ask us to do it all on our own- he helps us every step of the way!

3. How Do I Talk to God?

It's so easy for me to forget to talk to God. Sometimes when you pray you can feel like you are just talking to the ceiling- wondering if anyone is listening. Prayer is really just abiding in the Lord, talking to him every day throughout your day, just like you would call your mom or best friend every day. It helped me to look at prayer not as something about me, but as something about God. I would never have called my mom and talked about nothing but myself for 2 hours and then hung up the phone. It's the same way with prayer. Tell God what you're really thinking and feeling. Tell him what's really going on. But also thank him for the good things you have, and the things that have made you happy. Those are all blessings he's given you! When we're choosing to live for him and trying to do what he wants us to do, we can know that he hears and listens to us (Prov 15:29).

How you pray is usually the best indicator of how close you feel to God. When we feel far away, it's easy to feel stressed, frustrated, discontent, angry or bitter about pretty much anything in our lives, even the little stuff that probably shouldn't really be all that stressful. Praying throughout the day really helps me keep things in perspective because it reminds me that God is in control, and he gives me his peace even when it doesn't make sense for me to feel a peace
- because God's peace doesn't depend on our circumstances.(Phil 4:6-7) Praying a bible verse is a great way to pray and know that you are praying God's will and that he hears you- without God's word, we are praying out of our own limited and weak knowledge (1 John 5:14-15 and Rom 8:26-27).

The most important thing about talking to God is to remember to listen- he answers! Take some time each day to be still and listen for what God is telling you. (Psalm 46:10). He's God and he loves you! The more you talk to him, the more you will want to talk to him!

4. I Am a Work In Progress.

I am someone who loves crafts and ALWAYS has an unfinished project (or two, or ten) and a work in progress in the process of being made. If you don't believe me, ask Matt who is constantly tripping over a half-crocheted scarf in the living room or moving the glue gun out of the way on the kitchen counter! We (believers) are in the process of being made more like Christ. I find such a comfort in knowing He's not finished with me yet. He has a plan for me, and for my life. That's so reassuring to me- I am so far away from perfect!

Think of yourself as a house... when you become a believer, God starts with the major renovation: floors, walls, a rebuilding that is sometimes unpleasant, but necessary. Then you think you’re “pretty good” and you realize He’s not done. Stuff comes up you thought you had gotten rid of. You thought you were a pretty nice little place, but He’s building a mansion, a palace where He can live!

But rest assured, He won't walk away and leave you unfinished... "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..." (Phil 1:6). Wherever God takes you, wherever you are, he is at work! He's up to something! He will complete it!

If anything you're reading here is confusing or you want to know what I mean when I say "believer" I would absolutely LOVE to talk to you more. I haven't always been a person that finds it easy to talk about God and how much he has done in my life, but that is changing for me. These crazy lives we have, beautiful and painful, are only part of the journey. Where does the journey end? The eternal destination of the soul is the most important part, where your soul goes when the body is done. If you seek truth, you will find it, and if you knock on God's door he will answer! (Matt.7:7). A huge thank you to the following professors/wives who have taught me so much this semester: Sharon McDill, Mindy Williams, and Charlotte Akin, among others!

Also, if you've made it this far (yay!) I want to invite you to leave your comments and thoughts here (just click 'comments' right below and it will prompt you). You've always been welcome to do that, but I'd especially love to hear it them!


Tara said...

It was so good to see you on Saturday at the SEBTS craft sale. Girl, you are one creative woman! I was so impressed by all your "goods!"

I am so glad that you are taking this class at SEBTS. I have heard so many women share what a blessing it has been in their lives. Though I've never taken it, it is very obvious that the Lord has taught you so much!

Much love!

Kim said...


THANK YOU!! You touched my heart by what you shared. Thank you for taking the time to type what you have learned as it has meant a lot to me tonight

Blessings and Love

Ron & Debbie Stafford said...

Lindsey: Thanks for the encouragement! It is always helpful to be reminded of forgiveness, prayer, our purpose...it is all intertwined. God uses it all...especially learning how to forgive others and ourselves. You are learning from your life experiences how to trust God. Living it out daily is the hardest part. You have shared things that touched me today. Thank you for sharing. Keep it up. I miss you and love you,
I do get lonely so far away!!
Debbie Stafford