Christianity 201

August 19, 2015

The Source of Wisdom

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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wisdomDesiring Wisdom? Desire God

by Clarke Dixon

There has never been a time of greater access to information. We have so much information, knowledge, and opportunities for education in our society today and yet sometimes people seem to make the craziest choices!  Just having access to information does not ensure that we will use the information to make good decisions. Recently I discovered that a major Christian website has deleted the comments sections from its blogs. Why? I suspect it is because some people say the dumbest things in the dumbest ways and the editors could not keep up. People comment without wisdom, just as people often speak and act without wisdom. We need more than information to make good choices. We need wisdom.

Solomon was known for his wisdom. In 1 Kings 3:1-15 we learn about how Solomon came to be wise. Solomon had recently become the king in place of his father David, and God told him to ask for one thing. Solomon asks for wisdom.  There are six things there we can learn from his request in our quest to speak and act with wisdom:

First, in seeking to be wise Solomon acknowledges God.

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 1 Kings 3:5-6

Notice that Solomon does not immediately shout out his request. I think many of us would have done just that. Instead Solomon takes the time to recognize who God is and what God has done. Notice also that Solomon does not focus on his father David. Yes, David is mentioned, but it is God who is reason David did so well as king. God is the focus. If we want to make wise decisions we would do well by starting off with an acknowledgement of, and focus upon, God. This is one reason why weekly worship with other believers is so important.

Second, in seeking to be wise Solomon becomes humble.

And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 1 Kings 3:7

Notice again Solomon still has not rushed into his request. Before he does he acknowledges who he himself is, and what he is like. There is something about acknowledging God that inspires confession and humility in us. Many people do and say the dumbest things because they think they know everything already, therefore everything they speak and do must be good. They do not have teachable spirit. We will not speak and act with wisdom if we do not learn to say “I have much to learn.”

Third, in seeking to be wise Solomon recognizes the importance of his calling.

And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 1 Kings 3:8

Notice that Solomon still has not made his request yet. Before he does Solomon realizes the gravity of the situation. He is now responsible for many, many people. Not only that, but they are the people God has chosen, they are “your great people” v.9. Solomon understands that his role is very, very important. I wonder if people say and do the dumbest things because they do not realize that what they say or do is important. We can carry around the attitude that “it doesn’t really matter”, or “I am of no significance, I don’t really matter, so what I say or do is of little significance and does not really matter.” Every Christian person has a calling from God. Wisdom becomes a greater priority for us when we understand the importance of God’s call upon us.

Fourth, in seeking to be wise Solomon knows the importance of listening.

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people . . . 1 Kings 3:9a

Now Solomon finally gets to his request. I often go over the passage I preach on in the original languages, but please don’t think of me more highly than you ought for I am not a master of the Hebrew and Greek languages, I am a student. Being such I was amazed when in verse 9 I did not come across the Hebrew words I was expecting, words for “wisdom.” There instead was the word for listening. It reads something like “give your servant a listening heart.” This also rings through the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. But it does not ring through the English translations. We can have great trust in the English translations, but I wonder if something has been lost here. When we have the idea of listening, the obvious question becomes, “to whom are we listening?” Given that we have already seen Solomon acknowledge God, express humility, and recognize the importance of leading, not his own people, but God’s, it is clear that Solomon is asking for a heart that listens to and is obedient toward God. We can do and say the dumbest things because we are not listening to God.

Fifth, in seeking to be wise Solomon understands the importance of knowing the difference between right and wrong.

. . . able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people? 1 Kings 3:9b

Have you noticed that in educational situations in today’s society right and wrong, good and evil are barely talked about? The reason is obvious. If good and evil are real, then so is God. So instead we are given information and then asked to discern the best choice. Do you see the danger in this? The astute student (and they all are), figures out, even if only in the back of his or her mind, that while some choices may not be the best, they are still permissible. And so why not if it looks like fun? Christianity moves beyond a discussion of best choices, to right and wrong choices, good and evil choices. Many dumb decisions could be avoided if we knew the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. Solomon knew that.

Sixth, in seeking to be wise Solomon will need to remain committed to God.

Next follow three verses where God expresses his delight in Solomon’s request, and His desire to grant that request and more. But it will not always be automatic, there is a big “if”:

If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life. 1 Kings 3:14

Notice the emphasis on God’s ways, God’s statutes, and God’s commandments. These are not the ways, statutes, and commandments of the king, but of the King of kings. Solomon gets off to a great start, but there are already hints in the opening verses of 1 Kings 3 that Solomon will not always be wise. Indeed he does not listen to the wisdom of God concerning marriage as defined in Genesis 2:24. His many wives and concubines end up being his undoing. Somewhere along the line Solomon’s commitment to following God waned and he started doing dumb things. How is your commitment?

To conclude let us summarize: If you desire wisdom, desire God. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever.
Psalms 111:10 

One final, but important thought: The most wise decision a person could make is to become a follower of Jesus. Some think that following Jesus and becoming a Christian is a stupid thing to do. But again we go back to acknowledging God, being humble, realizing the importance of His call, realizing the reality and implications of good and evil, and making a lifetime commitment. Some just don’t want to do that. But many of us find that following Jesus is the best and most worthwhile decision we have ever, and could ever make.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:1

All Bible references are taken from the NRSV


Regular Wednesday contributor Clarke Dixon @clarkedixon is a pastor in Canada and blogs at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

June 23, 2012

Freeing Yourself From Anger’s Poison

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:22 pm
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Today we introduce you to the ministry of Allen White, who ministers through the blog Galatians419. This post was originally entitled Churning Up Anger: How To Free Yourself. You’re encouraged to read at source and then visit the rest of Allen’s blog.

For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.Proverbs 30:33

The Slow Food Movement is gaining momentum across the U.S. and around the world. People are making the connection — treating plants with poison leads to eating poison, and giving antibiotics and hormones to animals leads to people eating the same. Our food is making us sick.

Now, if you have some great argument in favor of Food Inc, please send your comments to eatmorepoison@galatians419.com. (This is not a real email address, but please feel free to send your complaints there.)

The Slow Food folks believe what we put into our bodies affects our bodies. They prefer organic, grass-fed, free range, cage free, hormone free and overall more natural foods. Don’t be mistaken. They don’t advocate eating cardboard – those are the weight loss people. (Please send your complaints to the email address above).

When it comes to food, we are what we eat. If we put the right things into our bodies, we tend to be healthy. If we put the wrong things in, we can become unhealthy. It’s simple cause and effect.

Solomon applied this principle to other common practices. If you churn milk, you get butter. While we may be eating healthier, few of us are back to churning butter…yet. If you can get milk worked up enough, it will produce butter – not margarine, not fake butter, but the real thing.

If you twist your nose, it will bleed. If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and try this at home. Have a towel handy and maybe some ice. If you try this on another person, then you’ll end up with two effects from this verse – blood and strife.

Anger produces strife. According to the dictionary, strife is “vigorous or bitter conflict, discord, or antagonism.” Strife is getting someone stirred up for sure.

Now, milk is not volatile. If you stir chocolate syrup into milk, you get chocolate milk, not chocolate butter. If you twist your nose slightly, you might look funny, but you probably won’t bleed. But, keep the towel handy. When you continually activate anger, you antagonize the other person and cause on-going conflict.

I say “active” anger, because I learned from Dr. Archibald Hart years ago that anger is only a present emotion. We don’t store anger up in some vast reserve to be released. If that was the case, we would feel better after we lashed out at someone. That just doesn’t happen.

The Bible tells us, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26) and when we do get angry we need to resolve things before sunset. We shouldn’t carry the results of anger over into the next day.

Anger isn’t sinful. Anger is an emotion just like happiness, sadness or any other emotion. How we use anger can result in sin.

If we continually keep ourselves worked up over something that happened long ago, we are probably entering into sin. If we can’t get past an issue or forgive someone, we’ve also violated some Scriptural principles like Colossians 4:32.

Much of our anger comes from fear. We become upset when we’re afraid. So, here’s the exercise for today. Set aside a few minutes and ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What am I angry about? 
  2. What am I afraid of?

If you can’t come up with a few answers right off the bat, then pray and ask God to reveal these answers to you.After you have the answers, then begin to ask God to help you work through these issues. Read Scripture to give you a truthful perspective on your anger and fears. It can be transforming.

~Allen White

October 17, 2011

Prophetic Wisdom

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:27 pm
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When I was younger, I played a form of the “match game” with a set of cards identifying different species of birds.  The cards were actually a premium item when you purchased a particular brand of tea, though I don’t remember that much tea consumption going on.  I think some other people were saving them for us.

Many of the birds look very similar until you study the drawings more closely, but every once in awhile a card would turn up that you might have forgotten was in the deck.

I think the book of Proverbs functions in a similar fashion.  There are definitely verses — especially about the value of wisdom itself — that seem to repeat from chapter to chapter.  You could cut them out and shout “match!”

But then there are little nuggets of wisdom that are entirely unique, like the one I spotted this morning:

Unused fields could yield plenty of food for the poor, but unjust men keep them from being farmed.  (Prov 13:23, Good News Bible)

In a world where people get paid not to grow certain crops; in a world where we are told that we have sufficient food to meet world demand, but the issue is distribution; in a world where relief and development agencies ship grain overseas but corrupt political groups prevent it from being made available; in a world where all these things are happening at once, we see the Bible has already been there, it has already made the necessary observation.

So Proverbs — in a situation it somewhat shares with Psalms — remains essentially what it is, a book of wisdom, but sometimes speaks with a prophetic voice.  We look back at what some consider an ancient book, and with that book in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other, we discover the Bible already has the story covered.  

And we clearly see, in this one verse, that the problem is not overpopulation, or global warming, or economics; but injustice.