Teachableness: You Can’t Live The Christian Life Without It

Wisdom and Teachableness

Yesterday while reading Proverbs chapter 3, it hit me how readily I rely upon my own abilities to navigate life.  “Trust in God with all your heart and do not exalt your own wisdom. In all your ways know wisdom that she may cut a straight path for you, and your foot will not stumble. Do not rely on your own discernment but fear God and turn away from every evil. Then there shall be healing for your body and care for your bones.” Trust God. Fear God. Know wisdom. Don’t rely on your own wisdom or discernment. But, I think I know better.

You see, one of my problems is that I’m often not teachable. Wisdom comes to those who trust God rather than their own thinking. I’m not good at that.

It is essential that we be teachable. 


Here are some definitions of “teachable” a) capable of being taught. b) able and willing to learn. c) favorable to teaching. Are you teachable? 

I’m talking about a general attitude of desire or willingness to know. Since you can’t learn about everything, you need to limit yourself to what is most beneficial. This is where it gets dicey for Christians who may spend their whole lives learning about things that are relatively useless for their spiritual life. Interests like cooking, auto mechanics, sports, politics, hobbies, or travel can distract from spiritually substantial matters. 

St. Paul points this out to Timothy when he writes that physical exercise is slightly beneficial but godliness benefits all of life – life now and life eternally (1 Timothy 4.8). 

So, why aren’t more Christians interested in the condition of their own souls? Or, in their own relationship with God? Or, in the healing of their sin-sick heart? Or, in their lack of Christlikeness? 

I wish I had a good answer. It would be the key to unlocking the door of stubbornness and ignorance that comes with being unteachable. 

  • Are you teachable about knowing God? Your eternal life depends on it (John 17.3).
  • Are you teachable about experiencing union with Jesus Christ? Jesus prayed for it (John 17.23, 26).
  • Are you teachable about participating in the life of Christ? It is your calling (1 Corinthians 1.9).
  • Are you teachable about the Church? It is the means of your spiritual life (Acts 2.42; Ephesians).

Wisdom & Teachableness  

Being teachable is really a journey of learning wisdom. 

Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9.8-10).

Get wisdom, get insight…do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight  (Proverbs 4.5-7).

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path of life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray (Proverbs 10.17).

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (Proverbs 10.17).

God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our WISDOM and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1.30). 

Wisdom is not pure intellectual knowledge but an ability to live as God designed us to live. Bible scholars Curtis and Brugaletta describe wisdom: 

Wisdom’s method is to stimulate thought and reflection rather than provide exhaustive answers; it encourages the kind of life application of the material that both allows the exploration of the broader dimensions of the principles and generates skills in living. The goal is to produce a craftsman who can respond to the circumstances of life in a fallen world in ways that reflect Yahweh’s order and move a person toward godliness. (Discovering the Way of Wisdom, p. 10, Kregel Publications)

Characteristics of the Non-teachable 

  • Want current beliefs to be affirmed. They refuse to learn anything that challenges existing beliefs, practices or prejudices. 
  • Lack curiosity. They rarely ask questions seeking to further their understanding or gain new insights. 
  • Don’t desire wisdom. They have convinced themselves that they don’t care or wisdom doesn’t matter.
  • Are over-confident in their abilities. 
  • Have difficulty in accepting correction. 
  • Are not part of a learning group or relationship.
  • Are lazy. They want to stay within their intellectual and spiritual comfort zone.
  • Possess a pervasive pride. They’ve convinced themselves that asking questions makes them look ignorant, stupid, or uncertain.

Being unteachable demonstrates an unwillingness and arrogance that has the potential to thwart God’s work within. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. 

If you are stubbornly unwilling to consider God’s workings in a way different than your own ideas, then you are more committed to your ideas than you are to God. 

I don’t mean you must be open to every new idea about God that comes down the pike. (I’m not convinced God has any “new” ideas.) But, He does have significant realities that you and I have not discovered – have not participated in – into which He desires us to go. 

In 10 years you’ll be the same person you are now except for the books you read and the people you meet. 

Characteristics of the Teachable

  • Are aware of their limited abilities and understanding.
  • Consistently seek out help, instruction, guidance, and wisdom. 
  • Are open to learn from any source.
  • Possess the ability to see God in everything even what seems to be “bad.” 
  • Are thankful for all things especially those ideas and people they do not currently understand.
  • Have a humility to admit error and wrong along with a willingness to change ideas and opinions .
  • Are willing to try something different, make mistakes, and ask questions. 
  • Listen attentively to others in curiosity. 

Curtis and Brugaletta provide great insight on teachability and wisdom. The first sentence is priceless… 

A wise person is teachable, and this as much as any single characteristic distinguishes the wise person from the fool. The wise person is open to instruction in all of its forms (teaching, correction, rebuke, and discipline), and he learns from it, whereas the fool rejects it and continues to pursue his own self-destructive course. Discovering the Way of Wisdom, p. 51

Ask yourself, “Am I really teachable?” From whom am I learning true information and practices?  From whom am I learning real wisdom and humility? 

How to be(come) Teachable 

  1. Come to Jesus, commune and walk with Him daily. Since He is wisdom and humility in bodily form, learn from Him. 
  2. Embrace your struggles and let them work their transformative powers in you.
  3. Read and meditate on the truth of scripture, living it as you are able. Allow scripture to light your path instead of your own ideas. 
  4. Listen to others around you aware of your own spiritual and emotional condition. 
  5. Ask more questions, express less opinions. 
  6. Ask God constantly for wisdom and then observe what happens in the days and weeks that follow. 

Being a Christian involves learning wisdom and truth. To learn wisdom and truth, we must be teachable. On a scale of 1-10, how teachable are you? 

Dr. K

Your Children Are Here for Your Sanctification Not The Other Way Around

Learning to Be Like Jesus From Your Children

Rhonda and I got married in 1977 in Portsmouth, VA. I was just entering seminary so we weren’t too concerned about having children. In 1983, we accepted our first full-time pastoral position in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Enough cold nights and long winters might help us get our first little bundle of joy. But Rhonda’s battle with endometriosis kept conception at bay.

So, we had a late start to the the whole procreation thing. I told people that I kissed my wife good-night every night but nothing happened. Huh? Anyway, we were married 9 years before our “gift from God,” Nathanael, made his appearance. After almost 10 years without children, we had to make some major adjustments. Yet, we loved it. His blond hair and blue eyes (and latent musical talent) qualified him to be a member of the Beach Boys. So, when he was 18 months, we moved to Southern California.

Maybe it was the warmer weather or the new digs, but a year later our beautiful daughter Jenna blessed our family. She was a cute little spit fire ready to tackle whatever was in front of her (still true).

Our family was complete but we were far from finished.

I had the mistaken idea that one of the primary reasons Rhonda and I had children was to make good little Christians of them.

But, in reality, they were here to help us become Christians. 

Misplaced Expectations

Do you have children? Were they raised in your “Christian” home? You probably attended church together, made sure they went to Sunday School and AWANA then got involved in the youth ministry. You prayed before meals and perhaps had “family devotions.” Did you homeschool, public school, or Christian school? You probably prayed for them every day.

You may have read Dobson, Campbell, “Growing Kids God’s Way,” or other books by parenting “experts” and thought you knew what you were doing. Your children did not dance, listen to rock music, watch crap on TV, or go to R-rated movies. Good job!

How did all that work out for you…and them?

How they turned out isn’t the point of this post. How they have challenged you to be like Jesus – actually be Christian – is my point. Your children have been, and are even now, teaching you your shortcomings and your need to become like Jesus. You may have thought you were here for their spiritual good. Nope! They’re actually here for your spiritual good.

No child turns out like you expect or imagine. They challenge your preconceptions, your presumptions, and your expectations.  And, that’s all good for you. They challenge you to love in ways you didn’t think possible. They teach you patience, kindness, and how to speak the truth in love.

If you’ve missed their lessons and are pretty much the same person you were when they were born then something is wrong with you. You’re blind to your own faults. Your children are not, however.  They see you for what you really are…like it or not. Their evaluation of you may be more accurate than your understanding of your own self.

If you believe you are here to make your children walk the straight and narrow, be morally upstanding, and be all you want them to be, you’ve got much to learn (from them!).

Your role as a parent has probably been reduced to loving, supporting, praying, listening, and modeling. Real simple, right? Hardly! The simple things are the hardest.

If your children are not what you want them to be and they know your disappointment, then maybe you are not the person they need you to be. They are not the problem. You are.

Helps to Enhance Your Relationship

  1. Become more like Christ every day. Learn to love – sacrifice, give, empty yourself like Jesus did. He gave Himself for people who rejected him. He loved those who resisted Him. He showed mercy to those who did not deserve it. He humbled Himself for the sake of others. Get closer to Jesus and let Him rub off on you.
  2. Pray for your children without expectations and without trying to control outcomes.
  3. Ask for your children’s forgiveness. In humility, recall mishandled instances, bring them up with your children, and ask them to forgive you.
  4. Be attentive to your children. They are God’s messengers to help you know yourself and become more like Jesus.

If you have children, learning how to parent never ends. Because, learning how to be like Jesus never ends. The two go hand in hand. Your children are here to help you become more like Jesus. Love them for it.

Dr. K 

P.S. This is my first cross-over post from the Motley Christian website. Check it out and subscribe. Thanks! 

The Single Most Important Habit for Growing, Thoughtful Christians

Questioning is the Art of Learning

Recently we had a delightful young couple in our home for dinner. They told us the story of serving in a discipleship school in Italy. With high hopes they had raised support and moved to the school. Quickly, it became a difficult situation mainly because they asked questions which were not “allowed.” After two years of trying to make it work, they returned to the States wounded and broken by a Christian organization that didn’t know how to deal with genuine questions.

I have a friend who also asked too many questions of the leadership of a Christian nonprofit organization. Conflicts arose not because questions were asked but because certain people did not want to deal with the questions themselves. He is now working a “secular” job and loving it.

You may have your own stories about asking questions when that sort of activity was not welcome. It seems to be prevalent in Christian organizations and churches. Growing up in a fundamental Baptist atmosphere, I was not encouraged to ask questions except the kind that would advance an agenda like, “What do Baptist’s believe?” If it ever turned into something like, “Why do they believe that?” “Where did that idea come from?” or “What is the real meaning or consequence of that idea?” then the discussion turned into a debate about who’s interpretation of the Bible was right. It was better not to ask.

So, most of my Christian friends never ask tough questions of their church, denomination, leaders, or even the Bible. They just go along with the prevailing teaching of the moment. As a result, they get stuck, stagnant in their Christian walk.

However, good questions need to be asked. Good questions are a mark of an eager learner. When we stop being a learner we stop being a Christian. Good questions make us good Christians. Like children, it’s the simplest and most effective way of learning. Yet, it is frequently forgotten as one gets older. Maybe this was an aspect of faith Jesus was addressing when He challenged His followers to have a “childlike faith.”

What is a Question?

  • a sentence, phrase, or word that asks for information or is used to test someone’s knowledge
  • a matter or problem that is being discussed
  • a subject or topic
  • doubt or uncertainty about something

This is one of the challenges of raising the issue of asking questions. The listener may not know what kind of question is being asked. They may see the question as a threat when it may simple be introducing a matter for discussion. The question may be due to doubt or not. The question may be for clarification not to be confused with a personal attack.

He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever – Chinese proverb

WHY is good?

Simon Sinek has made a career of helping people ask “Why.” He writes:

Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is the purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? and WHY should anyone care? (Start With Why, 2009, p.39) 

WHY do I exist as a human being? WHY am I a Christian? WHY does the Church exist? WHY do I interpret the Bible the way I do? WHY do I sin? WHY do I believe? Don’t settle for pat answers. Keep asking WHY.

Yet, this is only the beginning.

Good questions lead the learner on a journey in which there is a balance between content (who, what, when) and process (how, why).

What is good Questioning?

Nicola Watts, freelance strategy and research consultant, highlights how to master the art and science of asking effective questions. We can learn from her — 

1. Create an environment where curiosity is welcomed and rewarded.

2. Become a keen observer of everything you see, hear, and experience.

3. Look at the world with fresh eyes, question the familiar, assume nothing is obvious.

4. Understand the power of different types of questions – how they should be used and when.

5. Keep asking why until you can go no further.

I’ll add #6: Truly listen to the answer to your question. Do you really understand the answer? Does the answer create more questions? Ask those as well. Keep asking. Keep learning.

Christian organizations and churches would do well to heed #1. Individual Christians need to apply #2-5, especially #3: “assume nothing is obvious.”

Why don’t we ask questions? 

What makes this difficult for churches and church leaders is that they may assume too much when a question is asked. They think a question is asked because a person is being disloyal, rebellious, or obstinate. They may fear the person is doubting God or their “right” understanding of God.

A big problem for the person with questions is that they don’t know what questions to ask or how to ask them. But usually, they don’t ask for fear of being labeled, dismissed, or “blackballed.”

Paul Sloane, innovative thinking expert, asks the question: Why don’t we ask questions? Here are his answers:

  • Laziness – people assume they know all the main things they need to know. Why bother to ask more? They cling to beliefs and remain certain of their assumptions. Dr. K: Is this not THE main reason most Christians do not ask questions? They already know what they believe. Don’t confuse them with the facts!?!
  • Perception – people don’t want to appear weak, ignorant, or unsure. They like to give the impression that they are decisive and in command of the relevant issues. In fact, asking questions is a sign of strength and intelligence. Dr. K: Been here; done that! This is really a pride thing.
  • Busyness – people don’t slow down to ask, research, or study. They rush headlong because life is short and things need fixing. Dr. K: We’ve got to do ministry. People need Jesus. That’s all that matters. Questions distract us from our real mission of winning the world to Jesus.

And, I’ll add:

  • Fear – for two reasons: 
  1. People are afraid of the answers. They might find out they are wrong or have been misguided. That means they would have to change. They don’t want to change. 
  2. People fear being labeled, dismissed, or “blackballed.”

What are good Questions?

  • Open vs closed – they inspire discussion and reflection  – How can kindness be expressed in everyday life? vs. Do you express kindness everyday?
  • Essential vs superficial – they seek to elicit deeper issues – Why do you think you react to disagreement like that? vs. What disagreements do you have with him?
  • Genuine vs accusatory – Almost any question can be accusatory. It’s the tone of the questioner more than the question itself. These questions could be asked either way: Why do you believe that? Are you sure? What is the problem?

It’s unfortunate that asking too many questions can get you into trouble especially with Christians. Yet, ask you must. When good questions, even those outside the box, come to you search out answers. You’ll grow as a Christian that way. Don’t settle for the status quo and the pat answer. Keep asking why. 

 Intelligent questions stimulate, provoke, inform and inspire. — Paul Sloane

Be a catalyst for change, for yourself and/or for your community or family, by asking good, effective questions.

Dr. K

Exploring the Magnificent, Yet Often Misunderstood, Mercy of God

Mercy = Lovingkindness, Steadfast Love, Goodness, Loyalty

It is very clear in scripture and in life, that God is merciful. Over half the Psalms proclaim God’s mercy. God’s mercy is seen from Old Testament stories to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Your life and mine are filled with evidence of God’s mercy. That you are alive: seeing, breathing, reading, thinking, and being show God’s mercy in action. 

The Lord loves mercy and justice; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord…Behold the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, that He may deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our helper and defender. Our heart shall rejoice in Him, and we have hoped in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we have set our hope on You.

(Psalm 33.5, 18-22)

O God, You have rejected and destroyed us; You have been angry; yet You showed us mercy!

(Psalm 60.1) 

No matter what God does (even the occasional angry act), He always does it in mercy. Whatever your life situation, God will strengthen you in it or guide you through it by His mercy. 

How God Characterizes Himself

God describes Himself as one who “shows mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Ex 20.6). In another conversation with Moses, He says of Himself: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… (Exodus 34.6-7).

How do you perceive God? 

Many Christians believe God sees Himself as: The Lord, the Lord God, angry and impatient, eager to punish, and abounding in wrath and displeasure, keeping fury for thousands, outraged by iniquity and transgression and sin. 

If that describes your perception of God, then you don’t believe God Himself.

Does God ever describe Himself as wrathful? The closest I’ve found is Psalm 95.11, “Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest'” referring to His dealings with disobedient Israel who refused to trust God in conquering Canaan. Moses uses the word “anger” (Numbers 32.6-15) to describe God’s dealings with Israel at this time. However, in an earlier conversation with God (Numbers 14.13-19), Moses says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love [mercy].” It seems that God’s wrath is not so much an emotion God “feels” but an action of judgment or justice towards those who disobey in unbelief. 

God’s mercy is all over this particular event and certainly is seen in His dealings with Israel in the wilderness. 

Does God judge sin? Of course; yet in a manner permeated by lovingkindness. Though hard for us to understand, He has the ability to be merciful as He deals justly with those who disobey and reject Him

There is a place for God’s wrath in His dealing with humanity. Yet, again, it is wrath permeated by mercy. It may not make sense to us humans. But that’s one of many ways God is beyond our understanding. 

My point is that He never characterizes Himself as angry, outraged, eager to punish, or wrathful; only as merciful, gracious, long-suffering, good, truthful, and forgiving. His words, not mine. 

For more on God’s mercy along with some modern-day examples, click here.

A Gospel of Mercy 

A misunderstanding of God’s mercy creates a misunderstanding of the gospel. Modern Calvinists and many others who see God primary as an arbitrator and punisher of sin, belittle God’s mercy and settle for a truncated, crude gospel. It looks like this: God protects us from Himself and His wrath by punishing His Son, pouring down His wrath on Him for sins He did not commit, so that we are spared from His punishment ourselves. What a God! And then we wonder why we struggle to accept God’s love for us.  

The contrast of these two approaches to the gospel are clearly and uniquely presented by my friend Brad Jersak here. He delivers the “Gospel in Chairs” to highlight the truth that God has always dealt with humanity in mercy.

It’s only a merciful God who rescues us from ourselves and a corrupt world that we might enjoy communion with Him. 

Please give the time to look at this video. It could change your life…just like God’s mercy does. 

But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation (Psalm 13.5).

Dr. K