Christianity 201

June 8, 2018

Selwyn Hughes on Proverbs

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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It’s unfortunate that outside the UK, so few are familiar with the devotional writings of the late Selwyn Hughes. His devotionals were part of my own routine for at least a decade, and unlike other small devotional booklets, you had to pay for them. Furthermore, he would stay on the same theme for 60 days, so each day’s reading built on the previous days. His writing is currently available on the website Crosswalk. While I couldn’t get the earliest ones on this series from the book of Proverbs, I thought we would join the study a few days in progress…

 ►►►To continue with this series during this month, bookmark and track at Crosswalk – Everyday Light

Proverbs 28:1-17
“‘ a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.” (v.2)

…[A]ny church which does not encourage its people, especially its youth, to dig into the book of Proverbs is doing them a major disservice. I was introduced to Proverbs within weeks of becoming a Christian and this book, perhaps more than any other in the Bible, has supplied me with wisdom for living that has enriched my life. Moreover, the teaching in this book has greatly empowered my ministry and my writing. Every young person in the Christian Church needs to be steeped in the book of Proverbs as there is nothing in the entire annals of literature that can so prepare them for life. Alexander McLaren, a famous preacher from a past generation, said: “Proverbs is portable medicine for the fevers of youth.” How true. And we might add that with medicine what matters is that you take it whether you know the doctor or not.

I have known a number of young men and women who have told me that they came to faith in Christ through reading the book of Proverbs. One such person told me: “When I applied the principles of Proverbs and saw that these wise and witty sayings really worked, I was drawn to search for the One whose hand was so clearly present in the book and also in my life. After reading the Instruction Manual I wanted to know the Instructor.” Not everyone, of course, will react in that way, but I myself am convinced that encouraging and exposing people, especially young people, to the ideas and concepts of Proverbs is one of the greatest forms of evangelism that can be conducted.

Proverbs 8:12-36
“Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors ‘” (v.34)

The more you read and study Proverbs, and the more you apply its words to your life, the more you will find that its wise and witty sayings “work.” They work because that is the way the Lord has set things up. It was said of Jung, the famous psychologist, that written over the door of his study was: “Invoked or not, God is present.” This interesting statement provides us with a clue to understanding Proverbs, for whether men and women invoke the Creator or not, His creative and sustaining wisdom goes on giving them a world where wisdom operates and where things make sense to humankind.

Someone has described Proverbs as “the scrapbook of common grace.” “Common grace” is the phrase theologians use to describe the grace that God gives to humanity in general so that, whether they turn to Him or not, they are enabled to live more effectively and wisely on the earth. “Wisdom,” says Charles G. Martin, “writes the handbook of instruction in God’s workshop and when people despise wisdom, that is, true wisdom, they blot the copy book of life.” …

Proverbs 9:1-9
“Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars.” (v.1)

…I would encourage you to read through the whole book of Proverbs, preferably in two or three sittings…Our text for today tells us that wisdom is like a house built on seven pillars. There are two ways of interpreting this text. One view says that both wisdom and folly have a house to which humankind is invited. Wisdom has a much larger house than folly, being built upon “seven pillars” – a sign in ancient times of wealth, status and prestige.

There is no doubt that this is one meaning of the text, but the other view – and this is the one I am following in these studies – is that wisdom has seven major aspects. The book of Proverbs does not state categorically what these seven aspects are, so, based on my study and understanding of this great book, I am going to give you what I consider to be the seven major aspects of wisdom. Never in the history of the human race have there been so many problems, so much confusion, and so many conflicting philosophies of how to live. Those who lack wisdom do not have the perspectives that enable them to discern the connection between cause and effect and therefore they don’t understand what they are stumbling over, or, if they do avoid problems, they don’t understand why they avoid them. We need wisdom to live and Proverbs will show us how.

Proverbs 3:1-18
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding ‘” (v.5)

…The theme of trust is everywhere in Proverbs; it punctuates almost every passage. The word “trust” itself occurs quite often, the frequency varying according to the translation you read (in the King James Version, for example, “trust” appears ten times) and its synonyms, such as “lean,” “acknowledge,” “depend,” are found scattered through the book.

According to Rabbi Bar Kappa, the verse [above] is the pivot around which all the essential principles of Judaism revolve. He claims that these words summarize the teaching of the whole Old Testament and give a clear focus to the fact that the wise are those who trust God and follow His directions for living. But what exactly is “trust”? How important is it to daily living? Why do the word and its synonyms occur so many times, not only in Proverbs but in other parts of Scripture as well? The dictionary defines trust as “a firm belief in the reliability, honesty, veracity, justice and strength of a person or thing.” Basically “trust” is confidence that what we believe about a person or thing is true. We tend to think of trust as a spiritual quality, but actually it is an essential posture of life for everyone… All government, all economics, all institutions, all marriages, all relationships between people, are fundamentally governed by trust. We cannot relate well to God or others unless the capacity to trust is present within us.

Proverbs 14:14-26
“A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” (v.15)

…Without trust, society would deteriorate into paranoia – the feeling that everyone is out to get you. Mental health specialists see an inability to trust as a symptom of emotional illness. Erik Erikson, a famous psychiatrist, says that the capacity to trust is the foundation of good emotional health, and conditions such as chronic anxiety, high nervousness or paranoia could be caused by an inability to trust. Although people may let us down and betray our trust, we must be careful that we do not allow those experiences to lead us to the conclusion that everyone we meet is a conspirator.

On the other hand, you will no doubt have come across the expression “a trusting fool” – a phrase used to describe the person who is unable to discern the diabolical schemes that might be hatched up to exploit him. Erikson also says: “Unless we have a balanced approach to life – a basic trust together with a certain degree of caution – then we will never achieve emotional maturity or wholeness.” Note his words carefully – “a balanced approach to life.” Therein lies the secret. We must learn how to trust while at the same time exercising a certain amount of caution. Our text tells us that “a simple man believes anything,” but that does not mean we should go to the other extreme and believe that everything people tell us is a downright lie or fabrication. Truth is a narrow column and we must watch that we do not lose our balance and fall off.

►►►To continue with this series during this month, bookmark and track at Crosswalk – Everyday Light

 

 

March 31, 2017

Before April 1st: What the Bible Says About Fools

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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With people reading here from around the world, I don’t know how common “April Fools Day” is where you live, but I thought it would be a good time to see what scriptures might come up in a search for fool, fools, foolish, etc.

As I’m sure you can imagine, many such verses come from the book of Proverbs. This is a book about wisdom and the wise person is clearly the opposite of a fool. I found a number of these verses listed at OpenBible.info. A number of verses also appear at GodVine.

The best source however turned out to be BibleReasons.com. This was a new site to me, but one I felt was the best because the verses were categorized, and they also provided an introduction. As often happens with solid, conservative Christian websites, all of the quotations are from the King James. I decided to go ahead with this anyway, I hope that “201” readers here can navigate the archaic language.

Not wanting to reblog their entire contents on this topic, I’ve done some selecting, so I encourage you to click the title below to read in full.

25 Bible verses about fools

A fool is someone who is unwise, lacks sense, and lacks judgement. Fools don’t want to learn the truth. They laugh at the truth and turn their eyes away from the truth. Fools are wise in their own eyes failing to take in wisdom and advice, which will be their downfall. They suppress the truth by their unrighteousness.

They have wickedness in their hearts, they are lazy, proud, they slander others, and live in repeat foolishness. Living in sin is fun for a fool.

It’s not wise to desire their company because they will lead you down a dark path. Fools rush into danger without wise preparation and thinking about the consequences.

Scripture keeps people from being foolish, but sadly fools despise the Word of God…

Teaching them

1. Proverbs 18:2-3 Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. Doing wrong leads to disgrace, and scandalous behavior brings contempt.

2. Proverbs 1:5-7 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

The mouth of a fool.

4. Proverbs 10:18-19 He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

6. Proverbs 18:13 Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.

They continue in their foolishness.

10. Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.

Arguing with them

11. Proverbs 29:8-9 Mockers can get a whole town agitated, but the wise will calm anger. If a wise person takes a fool to court, there will be ranting and ridicule but no satisfaction.

12. Proverbs 26:4-5 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Trusting them

13. Proverbs 26:6-7 Trusting a fool to convey a message is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison! A proverb in the mouth of a fool is as useless as a paralyzed leg.

14. Luke 6:39 Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch?

The difference between an intelligent man and a fool. 

16. Proverbs 15:21 Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.

17. Proverbs 14:8-10 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception. Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.

Fools say there is no God.

20. Psalm 53:1 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

21. Psalm 74:18 Remember this, O LORD, that the enemy has reviled, And a foolish people has spurned Your name.

Can a Christian call someone a fool? This verse is speaking of unrighteous anger, which is a sin, but righteous anger is not a sin.

22. Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.


Again, there are 25 verses in the full article, it’s easy to see by the numbers here we condensed this. Click the title to read the full article and bookmark the site next time you want to pursue a particular topic.

That would be wise thing to do!


Related post from April 1, 2014: A Day Devoted to Lies.

November 2, 2015

When to Speak, And When Not To

Several years ago at Thinking Out Loud we linked to Carole McDonnell’s blog; it’s always great to return years and years later and find people faithfully writing.  This piece stood out from a number she’s written over the past months. I later discovered this will be her third piece here at Christianity 201. Click the title below to read this at source.

A soft answer turns away wrath

 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.  Proverbs 15:1

This is a verse that has saved the lives, reputation, and livelihood of many people throughout the ages. It is found in the Book of Proverbs,  book of great wisdom that is designed to protect its reader from sin, shame, poverty, and death. There is much in Proverbs about anger, and it behoves the reader to take these admonition to heart.

It is generally a part of human nature to defend itself, whether the “self” is right or wrong. It is also generally a part of human nature not to allow one’s self to be intimidated. Humans are also insightful. They can perceive egotistical and subtle human pride in the rebukes, corrections, and scoldings they receive from when certain teachers, officers of the law, pastors or others use or abuse their “authority” to lecture them and triumph over them.  Rebukes can be given at the correct or incorrect time, with the wrong or right attitude, with a desire to help or a desire to assert the rebuker’s pride. Those with power, however, often become so identified with their power that they do not wish to be challenged.

In American culture, there have been many instances of cruelty done by police, slaveholders, financiers, and others in some kind of authority. Sadly, those in power have often won, especially when there was no videotape or fair-minded judge to challenge them. The guilty have often triumphed over the weak even when the laws were fair.

The Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 4:1, “Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.”

The Preacher also writes in Ecclesiastes 7:17, “Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.”

Those who believe in God trust God to defend them and to show them when to speak and when to be silent.

The Psalmist writes: “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” Psalm 13:2

He also writes: “O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.”  Psalm 25:2

The Preacher also states, “I said to myself, ‘In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.'”

A victim might or might not get justice inside a court of law, but learning to answer one’s oppressor carefully by “biting one’s lip” can protect one’s life, livelihood and health. As the Preacher says in Ecclesiates 9:4, “There is hope only for the living. As they say, ‘It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!'” The victims of oppression in many countries have learned to survive the unjust authorities over them by knowing when to use gentle –if cowardly– answers. This is how the ancestors of Black people survived during the early days of lynching and perhaps this will be necessary in the modern day when the counterpart of lynching is also prevalent.

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.

March 5, 2015

Have You Lost Your First Love?

A link to this was added as an update to Sunday’s post, but I felt it worth giving full attention to it today. Randy Davis is another author we linked to in the past at Thinking Out Loud. Click the title below to read this at source and look at other articles.

Have You Lost Your First Love?

This is a followup on my sermon from Revelation 2:1-7 titled What’s Love Got to do with It? The theme was, have you lost your first love when it comes to your relationship to Christ?

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Rev 2:4-5 ESV)

These questions may serve as a diagnostic help as we probe our own hearts and ask this question, have I lost my first love in regard to following Christ as my Lord and Savior? All Christians should take stock of their lives from time to time. We need a spiritual checkup to see if we are spiritually health. These questions are certainly not exhaustive. I’m sure the reader can think of others that need to be asked. However, maybe these will help you and me think about our lives before Christ and ask that question, have I lost my first love?

  1. Have you stopped praying daily?
  2. When you do pray is it out of duty?
  3. When you pray, do you take time to think about God and wait on his reply?
  4. Does your faith influence the way you live your public life?
  5. When you make important decisions, do you consider what Scripture says? Do you pray about it?
  6. Do you use the phrase, “I prayed about it” as an excuse to do what you want to do?
  7. Do you read the Bible often?
  8. When you read Scripture, do you read with understanding?
  9. When you read Scripture, do you find surprising ideas that you have not seen before?
  10. Do you find it hard to go to church?
  11. Do you see “Church”as something you are a part of or something that you just attend?
  12. Do you spend a lot of time being critical of others at church?
  13. Is church attendance something you do when there is nothing else to do?
  14. Do you let hobbies, personal interests, sports, and other lesser matters keep you out of church?
  15. Do you feel close to other church members?
  16. Do you fellowship with church members and consider them your closest friends?
  17. Do you understand that church membership means a close spiritual bond between each other?
  18. Do you feel accountable to your fellow church members?
  19. Do you not attend church because you don’t like someone there?
  20. Do you do the work of the church?
  21. Do you volunteer or do you have to be asked and begged to take a position in the church?
  22. Do you think it is someone else’s responsibility to teach, serve on committees, chaperone at children and youth functions, etc.?
  23. Does your love for God cause you to tithe and give generously to the church?
  24. Do you think that a few dollars every now and then is all that is needed to serve God?
  25. Do you share your faith with others?
  26. Do others know you are a Christian by your behavior, your language, your attitudes?
  27. Do you believe that Christians should carry out a mission endeavor whenever possible?
  28. Would you refuse to go on a mission trip if it were offered to you?
  29. Do you give consideration to the poor and their needs?
  30. Are you put off by someone’s poverty, race, heritage, etc.? Would you refuse to minister to them or to fellowship with them?
  31. Given the chance to witness to someone about Christ, will you refuse?
  32. Do the two great commands, to love God and to love your neighbor, impact the way you live?
  33. As a Christian, do you think there should be limits to things you want or do you think you should buy whatever your heart desires?
  34. Are you proud or are you humble in the way you live and treat others?
  35. Do you think that worldly practices are fine for a Christian to practice?

August 12, 2013

Contemplation and Wisdom

Because these are shorter pieces, today we’re offering a double feature from Canadian academic John Stackhouse. First, a quotation from a prayer by a writer he admits to having theological differences with on other matters. There is great spiritual maturity in being able to see the good and the value in something written by someone who may sit on the opposite side of the table as us in other matters. Some people simply look at the name of the author and then dismiss anything they write categorically. That’s not good. The second piece is a teaser from a piece about wisdom. Click the link for each title to read at source, which you definitely need to do for the second one.

A Good, Daily Prayer from Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton has fans. Lots of them. I’m not one of them. His spirituality is neither to my taste nor lined up with my theology in many respects.

Still, his classic book New Seeds of Contemplation has played a crucial role in my spiritual and psychological life, for which I am grateful. And in re-reading it these days, I again came across a powerful prayer, structured lightly by elements of the Lord’s Prayer and the Seven Deadly Sins. I could pray this one every day for quite a while:

Justify my soul, O God, but also from your fountains fill my will with fire. Shine in my mind, although perhaps this means “be darkness to my experience,” but occupy my heart with your tremendous life. Let my eyes see nothing in the world but your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for your service. Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise your great mercy. I will hear your voice and I will hear all harmonies you have created, singing your hymns. Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough that I may live in your service; I will give the rest to your poor. Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving you glory.

Therefore keep me, above all things, from sin. Keep me from the death of deadly sin which puts hell in my soul. Keep me from the murder of lust that blinds and poisons my heart. Keep me from the sins that eat a man’s flesh with irresistible fire until he is devoured. Keep me from loving money in which is hatred, from avarice and ambition that suffocate my life. Keep me from the dead works of vanity and the thankless labor in which artists destroy themselves for pride and money and reputation, and saints are smothered under the avalanche of their own importunate zeal. Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hunger that exhaust my nature with their bleeding. Stamp out the serpent envy that stings love with poison and kills all joy.

Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice.

But give me the strength that waits upon you in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for you alone.

For there is only one thing that can satisfy love and rewarded, and that is you alone. (pp. 44-45)

Give Wisdom Time to Work: S-P-I-R

Proverbs 16:23: “The mind of the wise makes their speech judicious, and adds persuasiveness to their lips.”

When I get into trouble, it’s usually because my speech has been injudicious and unpersuasive. In the technical language of psycholinguistics, that is to say, it’s been stupid or mean. And that depressingly frequent occurrence is almost always a function of speaking out of reflex rather than out of reflection.

If one has an utterly innocent heart, one can speak truly and lovingly. But judicious and persuasive speech requires more than a pure heart: it requires a wise mind.

As the Proverbs cumulatively teach, wisdom is knowledge applied according to sound values felt in properly cultivated affections and informed by the particulars of a given situation.

Wisdom applied faithfully to a frequently recurring situation can act automatically in each iteration. In every other instance, however, we must give wisdom time to operate.

So whenever I see a warning light blink on my mental dashboard, whenever an alarm chimes that something unusual is going on, whenever a sensor reports something in the current situation that is anything other than routine, I simply must slow down.

In fact, I must stop. I must refuse to react immediately, but instead insist on stopping in order to give wisdom time to deliberate like a judge so that my response will be judicious.

I have developed a short… [continue reading here]

 

Previous piece by John Stackhouse here at C201: Desiring to be Known.

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.

November 20, 2010

A Serious Moment with Jon Acuff

Even though he doesn’t print my comments anymore, I continue to be impressed by the serious, devotional side to the otherwise humorous blogger, Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like.    Today’s post was a good example…

Last week, I asked my dad, a pastor in North Carolina, about something I read in Proverbs 1. Here are what two verses I read said:

8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

9 They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

After reading that, I thought I’d ask my dad what he would consider his “instruction.” I was curious what he and my mother would say. Here’s an excerpt of his response, which I think probably applies to a lot of us:

Jon, that’s a great question. My primary prayer is for you private, interior life to keep growing so that it can support your growing public life. The other half of my prayer is great thankfulness for you and the opportunities that God is giving you.

So, my immediate thoughts:

Read Scripture deeply (not for material but for life, like what you are doing with Proverbs, guarding and sustaining the good habits that you have had.)

Pray deeply – e.g. Prov 3:1-6. Turn what you are learning into prayers.

Read devotional authors deeply – find out from people you respect who they read (that would be a great list to develop down the road)

Share deeply with someone – a friend or counselor

Without missing the fun, sustain a healthy paranoia about your heart and your temptations. I think it is possible to have a healthy paranoia without living fearfully or cautiously. A healthy paranoia not only keeps us alert and honest, but hungry to keep learning. Success dulls our eagerness to learn.

Thanks Jon… and Jon’s dad! The last paragraph contains much “instruction,” including that reverence for God is the beginning of wisdom.

April 14, 2010

The Wisdom Psalms

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:12 am
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In the text considered in the previous post, the “Rivers of Babylon” Psalm, we’re provided with some background information not available anywhere else in the scriptures.   At this point, the Psalms, while not a historical book, lapses into history.

In the Messianic Psalms, the book clearly lapses into prophecy.   While the Psalmist’s words have fulfilment at points closer to the time of writing, we see a clear picture of events fulfilled in the life of Christ, to the point where I truly believe that Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, Why have you forsaken me?” is, in addition to many other things, a giant billboard flashing out the message, “Turn to Psalm 22 and read it.”

Mostly, however, we think of the Psalms in terms of poetry and worship, but I’d like to suggest that many of the Psalms are more Proverb-like.   If you were asked to guess the source for the verses featured today, you’d be forgiven if you said they were from the book of Proverbs —

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.   (Ps. 127 1-5 NIV)

or this one

No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man.
But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.  (Psalm 75: 6-7 NIV)

Of course, this is balanced out by the many times historical books, prophetic books and even New Testament epistles surprise us with moments of worship which are very Psalm-like.

Conclusion:  We find both worship and wisdom throughout the scriptures.   Someone has suggested that each and every of the 66 books of the Bible contain the DNA of the gospel, enough to lead a person to Christ.   You could also argue that each contain a sampling of all that is contained in the other 65 books; proving the harmony of scriptures and the idea that the Bible is truly one book.