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.


Signs of Life

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
2 Pe 3:18

Scientists search the universe for signs of life, any evidence of life that might exist on other planets. I’ll admit, the notion is captivating, and certainly one that has gripped the imagination of writers and movie makers for years now. There’s no reason why we cannot hold to the Biblical account of creation, and still entertain the possibility that there are other creatures “out there,” still a part of God’s creation.

Most likely, though, when and if we do discover life, it will be small, simple, microbial life; not the little green men from Mars. 

Still, the search continues for signs of life.

When I was a college freshman I was part of a group of students who were interview by a PhD candidate, who was researching Spiritual Development among High School and College Students. I don’t know that I ever saw the results of his study, but I remember the interview vividly. During the interview I mentioned that I really wanted a “stronger faith,” and the interviewer stopped me and asked, “What do you mean by that?”


I honestly didn’t know what I meant by “a stronger faith.” Looking back now, I’d tell my younger self that a stronger faith would mean being more consistent in your walk with God, struggling less with sin and doubt, and perhaps being someone people looked to as an example of Christian maturity. That’s what I’d say now. But I couldn’t articulate that back then.

But if I’m honest, I still have the same desire. I long to have a faith that continues to grow stronger, a maturing walk with the Lord, and a deepening love for God. I continue to look for signs of life (see – I had a point in talking about that stuff at the beginning), life in the Spirit, life in the Vine.

I must remember that I am a man in the midst of transformation. God isn’t done with me, not while I’m still alive. He continues to prune, feed, and nurture growth, that a harvest of righteousness will be produced in me. One day I’ll be raised in perfection, until then I must continue to tend to my growth in grace.

What are the signs of life? In biological terms, the signs of life are:

  1. Responsiveness to the environment;
  2. Growth and change;
  3. Ability to reproduce;
  4. Have a metabolism and/or ability to breathe;
  5. Maintain homeostasis;
  6. Being made of cells;
  7. Passing traits onto offspring.

In spiritual terms, the signs of life, according to J.C. Ryle, are:

  1. Increased humility – The nearer a man draws to God and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfections, the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless imperfections…
  2. Increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ – But as a man grows in grace, he sees a thousand things in Christ of which at first he never dreamed. His love and power, His heart and His intentions, His offices as Substitute, Intercessor, Priest, Advocate, Physician, Shepherd and Friend, unfold themselves to a growing soul in an unspeakable manner. 
  3. Increased holiness of life – The man whose soul is growing strives more to be conformed to the image of Christ in all things and to follow Him as his example, as well as to trust in Him as his Savior.
  4. Increased spirituality of taste and mind – The man whose soul is growing takes more interest in spiritual things every year; spiritual companions, spiritual occupations, spiritual conversation appear of ever-increasing value to him.
  5. Increase of charity – The man whose soul is growing is more full of love every year – of love to all men, but especially of love towards the brethren.
  6. Increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls – The man who is really growing will take greater interest in the salvation of sinners every year.

Take a second and consider your own life. Do you see signs of genuine spiritual life? Is there a sincere humility, a growing love for Christ, a passion for holiness, a taste for the spiritual, a heartfelt affection for the church, and a desire to see the lost come to Christ. Look for signs of life, and lean hard on those things that God has promised to help this life grow, the means of grace. Be reading daily in God’s Word. Spend time communing with God in prayer. Attend worship regularly, to be renewed in the grace of communion and fellowship with Christ and other believers.

Look for, and work for signs of life in the Spirit. But I leave you with this caution from Ryle:

Let us never measure our religion by that of others and think we are doing enough if we have gone beyond our neighbors. This is a snare of the devil. Let us mind our own business… Let us follow on, remembering daily that at our best we are miserable sinners. Let us follow on, and never forget that it signifies nothing whether we are better than others or not. At our very best we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us. We shall be debtors to Christ’s mercy and grace to the very last. Then let us leave off looking at others and comparing ourselves with others. We shall find enough to do if we look at our own hearts.


Ryle, J. C. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots. electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995. Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1999. Print.