Be Teachable

Are you teachable? Do you have a spirit of openness to new ideas, concepts, or opinions? People tend to close that part of their personality off as they advance in years. Long-held notions cement themselves with an iron grip and it is hard to loosen an idea or ideology in some folks.

Years ago I taught a year-long bible study called Disciple. It is a comprehensive Methodist study of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that is well known and respected. Imagine my surprise when a retired Methodist pastor in my congregation deep into his 90’s signed up to be a student. I was just a little intimidated! He set my mind at ease on the first day when I heard him tell the rest of the class that he loved learning new things. Besides, he explained, he was “now studying for his finals.” He was an absolute delight in class and we all learned so much from him…and he would say he learned a lot from us as well.

This fellow was teachable. He understood the power of the Holy Spirt that comes into a particular moment with a particular scripture and breathes new life into it for the usefulness of the reader. But the reader has to remain teachable for this to work.

John Wesley, as explained by Albert C. Outler, seemed to follow a four-part strategy for understanding God: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. It is the “experience” part where teachability is key. This is where the current context of your situation interacts with the instruction of the Holy Spirit to bring meaning and understanding to scripture in a new way. For example, until you have lost a loved one, Psalm 23 will not mean the same thing to you as it will the first time you hear it read after their death. The experience of the Holy Spirit illuminating that scripture in your grief brings you into a new and deeper place in your relationship with God.

In our passage in Acts today, we see a lovely encounter between Philip and a very unusual man. This man is a Hebrew, a eunuch, the treasurer for a Queen, and an Ethiopian. Luke spares no detail! We can see him riding in a regal chariot as he is returning from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He is a dedicated believer, following the dictates of his religious practice. And he is teachable:

Acts 8 (The Message)

26-28 Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.

29-30 The Spirit told Philip, “Climb into the chariot.” Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”

31-33 He answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip into the chariot with him. The passage he was reading was this:

As a sheep led to slaughter,
    and quiet as a lamb being sheared,
He was silent, saying nothing.
    He was mocked and put down, never got a fair trial.
But who now can count his kin
    since he’s been taken from the earth?

When the eunuch asks Philip how he could understand Isaiah without some help, he is throwing the door wide open to a new interpretation, a revelation, and an unknown insight into God’s word. Philip immediately grabs the opportunity to teach Jesus to him, and by the end of the encounter, the eunuch is baptized. His entire life changes in that teachable moment.

34-35 The eunuch said, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.

36-39 As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be.

Because he was teachable, his life would never be the same. Imagine the impact this had on the court. Imagine what happened in Ethiopia when he returned and told people what happened. Imagine the pure joy of that moment!

Where is God trying to teach you something? Are you resisting? Where is he giving instruction in the context of THIS moment and inviting you to change, grow, be better, and understand him more fully?

We won’t know until we open ourselves up to being taught. Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord! We want to see you.

New Day by Michelle Robertson

WHO and WHOSE

My journey into ministry began innocently enough. I was a young mother of two when a good friend talked me into taking a Bible study called DISCIPLE. It was a year-long study that covered about 75% of the Bible. It also had a free nursery and like many young mothers, anything that came with a free nursery was pure GOLD. I immediately signed up. At that point in my life if a course on taxidermy had come with a free nursery, I would be the proud owner of many stuffed things right now.

The video presenter was a beautiful man named Zan Holmes. His resonant voice still echoes in my mind these many years later. I remember sitting spell-bound one day listening him say, “Always remember WHO you are…and WHOSE you are.” That struck a chord with me. It was during that year of intensive study that I discerned my call to ordination. God was directing me to the WHO by reassuring me of the WHOSE. I am a flawed and inconsequential child of God who is also the daughter of the great, high King. So if he decides to send me to seminary, I figured I would be alright.

God indeed went ahead and the rest is my history. The Holy Spirit acts as our on-site supervisor, available 24/7 for everything we are called to do. You can’t learn this from a bible study or a divinity school. You simply have to yield to God’s understanding and remember WHO God is.

Watch what happens to Peter:

Matthew 16 (The Message)

13 When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17-18 Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.

By the power of God’s Spirit, Peter had discerned that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. He understood that Jesus was the Son of God. The three years of journeying with Jesus revealed WHO God is in a profound way to Peter. Then Jesus helped Peter understand WHOSE Peter was. He was a sinful man raised up to be the rock upon which the church would be built. In typical Messiah-transformation fashion, Peter the worst became Peter the first.

Imagine what he can do with YOUR life.

19 “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

Where is God saying yes to you? And where is the no? We are all called to some form of ministry in the kingdom of God. Some will be bishops and some will be NICU nurses. Some will be dads and some will be Sunday School teachers. Who are you?

When we remember who we are, and more importantly whose we are, the kingdom is open wide to us. There are no barriers to God. There are no obstacles except our own disobedience and reluctance.

YOU are a child of God. Who do you say that he is?

Remembering Whose by Michelle Robertson