Be Open to Correction

I’ve never claimed to be a great student, but I have always loved learning. When I was in high school, my only goal was to have a better GPA than my brother, and once I did that, I didn’t really push myself. When I was in college I saw which students were graduating with honors, and I figured I was at least as smart as they were, so I hit that standard as well.

It wasn’t until I got to seminary in preparation for Pastoral Ministry, and when I was paying for the education myself, that I really started to apply myself. I read everything that was assigned. I joined study groups, did extra assignments, and really pushed myself to achieve the best education I could. The big difference was I wasn’t as concerned about the grade, I was passionate about the study, and that made all the difference.

What I’ve found, however, over the years since seminary, is that I don’t much remember all the things I got right in school; what really stands out is what I got wrong. Case in point: the only question I remember from my Worship final in the Worship in the Reformed Tradition class is the one I got wrong.

I studied like crazy for that final, and it paid off. I sat down, began the test, and just felt confident with every answer. Except for this one: “What is the Haggadah?” When I read that, my mind went blank. I went through the rest of the test, answering everything as best I could, the circled back to this question, “What is the Haggadah?” Still nothing. Knowing I had done everything I could on the rest of the test, and knowing no amount of head-scratching was going to help me produce an answer to this question, I quickly wrote, “My favorite brand of Ice Cream…” and turned the test in.

I don’t remember any of the other questions from that test. But I do remember the Haggadah. And now I know what it means. In Hebrew, Haggadah means, “A retelling.” It comes from Deut 6, when the children would ask their parents what God’s commands and testimonies meant and why they were important, and the Father would retell the story of their deliverance from Egypt at God’s mighty hand. This is essential in our Biblical understanding of worship, because as we worship according to God’s Word, we are retelling the story of our salvation in God.

What stuck with me from that test is the lesson I learned in my error. I walked away knowing what I didn’t know and still needed to learn. And this is the mark of a wise man, he knows what he doesn’t know.

As you go through life, don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know, to own your own mistakes. Our most important lessons are learned in our failures. The only people who don’t fail are those who don’t try. Mistakes and failures are not flaws in the system, they are how we learn and grow. The true fool is the one who refuses to learn from error, who continues in it, and only grows bitter and resentful when facing setbacks.

This is Biblical.

Proverbs 15:32 “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.”

Proverbs 18:12 Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

In fact, God honors and exalts those who humble themselves with a penitent heart.

Is 57:15  For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Ps 149:4  For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.

1 Pe 5:5  Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Be humble, knowing you will make mistakes. Listen to the advice of those who have gone before you that you may avoid their errors. And when you stumble and fall, for that is guaranteed, be humble, repent, admit your error, and with a heart seeking wisdom, grow in the grace of the Lord.


Proclaiming Truth Through the Tears

“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous 
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help,
the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
(Psalm 34:15–18)

On Monday, March 27, 2023, three 9 year old students and three adult staff of Covenant Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, TN were murdered when an armed assailant entered the school with intent to kill. The female attacker was quickly stopped when Police entered the building using deadly force to prevent further carnage.

Within moments, the blame games were started.

Mainstream news outlets blamed Republican politicians for not doing enough to prevent gun violence, the Church and Christian School for not being more inclusive of the “Trans Community” (the female perpetrator identified as a male), and even the killer’s parents for their alleged rejection of their daughter’s new identity.

Meanwhile, conservative pundits were quick to blame the Democratic party for their lack of initiatives to provide protection in our schools, the LGBTQ+ activists for encouraging a mindset that leads to greater depression and aggression, and even the mainstream media for blaming everyone but the killer.

In each and every time that this kind of violence erupts in our world, we turn on each other, accuse and vilify one another, and even subtly blame the victims… all because we are afraid to say the one thing we know to be true: Sin and Evil are real, and there is a cosmic, spiritual battle raging in the world around us. Since the fall, satan has asserted himself as the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2), and has been working to undo all that God has done. Jesus said, “[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The lies of the left, and the lies of the right, only serve to promote satan’s agenda. When we turn to lies in the midst of tragedy, the only one who wins is the devil.

And so it is that in the midst of evil’s eruptions, the Church must stand for the Truth. Even in our suffering and sorrow, we proclaim the victory over sin and death that has been won for un in Jesus Christ. We declare that there is freedom from the chains of sin, hope in the midst of a dark and fallen world, and security in the arms of our Eternal God. We stand in the revelation that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one may come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). 

Because of this victory we have in Christ, called to bless those who persecute us, and reminded “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19–21).

This is the hope, the peace, the faith that I hear when Pastor Chad Scruggs, Senior Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA), and father of 9 year old Hallie who was killed on Monday said, “Through tears we trust that she is in the arms of Jesus who will raise her to life once again.” Through tears of pain, sorrow, and unbearable grief, there is still a hope that is rooted in the eternal Truth.

This is the truth that, only months ago, Pastor Scruggs proclaimed as he preached from John 11:35:

The whole time Jesus knew how the whole thing would go down and yet what are the most remarkable things about this story, it always gets me, is that knowing exactly what he’s about to do Jesus sits down and does what? He weeps. Do you see that a strong confidence in the end of the story does not undo or justify the absence of grief in the middle. A mature faith adds its tears to the sadness in our world Jesus says blessed are those who mourn all the while not losing confidence and how that sadness will eventually be overcome in him

If you’re doubting the love of Jesus, you try to work it out through your circumstances. No, you never read your circumstances and then read the Love of Jesus. You read the Love of Jesus towards your circumstances. If you are doubting his love for you, if you are struggling with his authority in the midst of sadness and confusion, let the cross speak to you again. Look there so that you might say confidently, ‘see how he loves me. This is the one man given for me.’

Beloved, let us not do the devil’s bidding today and be divided by lies, but let us stand firm in the truth that is found in Christ alone. In Him we have redemption from our sins, forgiveness with God, hope and security for the future, the Spirit who gives us grace and strength to live for today and the boldness to stand and shine as a light in the midst of darkness.