part of what honors God in our attitudes

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

It must have been “the evil day” for this pastor, but I remember decades back witnessing a pastor I respected lighting into a guy I was working with, really giving it to him when we were at his house to do some kind of lawn or tree care. And the guy just taking it, trying to explain a bit, but essentially just taking it. Something I’ll never forget.

Life is so full of quandaries and conundrums. Like it says in Ecclesiastes, the more you know, the more sorrow and trouble. I have often kind of envied those who are seem so happy go lucky, and don’t seem to worry about much of anything, who take everything pretty much in total stride. As for myself, I’m forever asking questions, doubting just about anything and everything, wanting the most firm answers I can get.

My pondering here is just how we can honor the Lord when we’re faced with a difficult dilemma, not knowing how to handle it. And I’m faced with the seeming reality that life is far from foolproof. Maybe it’s a problem with my expectations. After all, we’re promised that nothing at all can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8). But we’re absolutely not promised that those things that can’t separate us from God won’t be our experience.

What we need here is wisdom. And not just the wisdom from Proverbs in the above passage, though that is a good place to start. Of course the proper fear of God being basic to our existence as we’re also told in Proverbs.

The above passage, Proverbs 3:5-6 is helpful here because it’s about life in general, all of life so that every circumstance is included, even the most difficult ones. But what is told us in that passage needs to become more and more a part of who we are.

We’re told to trust in the Lord with all our heart, I take that to mean without reservation. And that we’re to acknowledge God in all our ways. I take that to mean that God is central in all we’re doing, so that even though we might have to ask all kinds of questions and investigate a situation, we seek God’s help in all of that, believing that God will see us and the situation through.

Not to rely on our own understanding or insight is an important point for me. I tend to want to get to the bottom of anything and everything. Are we doing the best we can? And can we trust the process along with the outcome to God? Those seem to me to be two good basic attitudes for us to have.

In the end we’re told that God will make our paths straight. The Hebrew word יָשָׁר (yashar) means “to make smooth; to make straight” (BDB). Somehow God will do that. If we just do what we’re told to do here. To make this the practice of our lives so that when the difficulties come, we will continue on this path. A part of honoring God in and through Jesus.

am I open to rebuke?

A rebuke impresses a discerning person
more than a hundred lashes a fool.

Proverbs 17:10

Dallas Willard I think in his The Divine Conspiracy wrote how today any correction to a person is equated to condemnation. One has to tread very carefully, and try deftly to help indirectly, maybe through just prayer and being present, or through example. Even a hint of correction just isn’t accepted.

Of course we always need to turn the mirror in on ourselves. Are we really much better, or at least do we have some of this same tendency in ourselves? Do we easily become defensive when someone suggests that we might be mistaken, or should have done something differently?

I carry around a little Bible, the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. I recently thought that I might be better off with just the New Testament and Psalms, or just now, the New Testament by itself. But again as I plod through the Proverbs, I’m quite impressed with all the wisdom we find. You have to read Proverbs as sayings that often need to be turned over and over again in our heads, maxims as they call it, to live by. Some are absolute and true in every situation, like the fear of God being the beginning of wisdom. Others are generally true, or at least have truth in them, even if at times we don’t see them coming to pass, or seemingly quite the opposite. Life is surely complex, which is almost why in my own thinking, I could wish Ecclesiastes was included in my little Bible. But then it would be getting too big for my pocket.

Rebuke is mentioned a good number of times in Proverbs, and is nearly always good there in itself. I saw just one exception. My question to myself is whether or not I’m willing to receive godly rebuke. That certainly calls for discernment. Fools won’t discern such rebuke as good, but even if first they flinch, the wise will. It’s a matter of wisdom. When something less than complimentary is said to us, if we’re wise we’ll listen and consider. Prayerfully. And we’ll accept what is helpful, and let go of the rest.

Rebuke can be given to us in words, but sometimes nonverbal communication can be just as telling. At any rate it is good if we’re open to receiving such, so that we might change in becoming more and more the people God has called us to be. Truly growing in loving God and our neighbor. In and through Jesus.

wisdom: a lifelong pursuit

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

Proverbs 2:1-11

I am blessed to not only work for, but really feel a part of a ministry whose stated mission it “to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all.” I feel right at home at such a place.

Turning to the Bible itself, and the gospel we find in it is life-changing for sure, as we enter into its reality by faith. Wisdom is a huge part of what God offers to all.

I have found without a doubt that the pursuit of wisdom is a life-long endeavor. But that, alas, I have stumbled too much in earlier years in not making it the priority it needed to be. And even now, I can struggle along the way, which actually can be a blessing, as I feel my need for wisdom.

Proverbs is a wisdom book, probably the first one that comes to mind for most of us when we think of wisdom literature. We have to consider it in its original context, including its setting, and then seek to bring that wisdom into our own context today. God helps us. So much there to glean, warnings and encouragements that need to be taken as seriously as when they were written.

God’s promise is encouraging: all who seek the wisdom from God, and keep seeking it will find it. Such a blessing. Not easy, because we are so bent in our foolish ways, or at least I can speak for myself. But wonderful as we begin to enter into it, and seek to continue on. In and through Jesus.

take wisdom to heart and life

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:1-7

One do over in my life would be a much more serious reading and application of the book of Proverbs. Add to that all of Scripture. I seem to take a special liking to wisdom literature in Scripture, I don’t think because I actually like it above the rest, but more like that seems to be the bent of my thinking and how I approach life, or how and what I attempt to share now.

One big possibly common mistake for young zealous Christians is to think that reading or listening to Scripture again and again is good enough. That is quite good no doubt, but not enough. The truth and wisdom found in it needs to become more and more a part of who we are.

Proverbs is the straightforward wisdom book of maxims to encourage us that if we become and practice such and such, there will be good results. I think we can rest assured on that. I don’t think every promise is like turning in a coupon at a grocery store. Maxims don’t work that way. For example, not every child we train up in the way they should go, will necessarily follow through (Proverbs 22:6). Certainly God has his wayward children. There are too many variables. And admittedly no parents perfectly fulfill their calling. But by and large the maxims are true. And there’s no doubt that wisdom carries its own reward.

It’s never too late to try to do better. But it takes time, patience, and practice. We will and do fail. But we need to especially heed the warnings, and steer clear of the dangers, taking seriously the counsel of God’s word. And seek to become what we aren’t now in accord with where Scripture points us. In and through Jesus.

 

guarding our heart

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

This is a section in Proverbs, the fourth chapter of that book in our Bibles with the heading in the NIV , “Get Wisdom at Any Cost.” Proverbs directly addresses wisdom. And what is contrary to it.

And here, we’re told that it’s up to us. We’re to guard our hearts above all else. The heart in scripture, especially in the Old Testament means the thoughts, emotions, and will.

For me this means not only to keep some thoughts from getting in and taking over. Like thoughts of worry, or regret, or even second thoughts at times. Lustful thoughts certainly can be included. Anything that is contrary to God’s will.

And it means letting good thoughts, and specifically, God’s thoughts in, from God’s word, from scripture. Letting them sink in and take over.

But this is not automatic. As the text tells us, it’s up to us. It’s all in the way of wisdom, which is from God (see the link above for more context). In and through Jesus.

wisdom from the Lord

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For through wisdom your days will be many,
    and years will be added to your life.
If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
    if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

Proverbs 9:10-12

Wisdom in scripture is all about life. It is taking scripture as God’s written word, and particularly our relationship with God, and through that, our relationship with others quite seriously. Proverbs may be the marquee wisdom book of scripture to read, but we need all of scripture. And particularly we need to begin to understand the fulfillment of wisdom, Jesus, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). Jesus and him crucified is called the power and wisdom of God, and Jesus is said to be wisdom from God for us, that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption, so that our boasting can be only in him (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

So wisdom is really all about life. It is where the rubber meets the road, right where we live, no less. It is not theoretical, but practical, down to earth.

We need to take it particularly serious as it’s given to us in all of scripture, and particularly as it’s fulfilled in Jesus himself. That means we have to walk lightly with consideration and thought over our ways. Taking care that we give wisdom in our lives not just lip service, but the place it deserves. Remembering that wisdom itself is fulfilled in a person: Jesus. And that we are in him. So that it is both given to us in scripture, and as close as the breath that we breathe, by the Spirit. In and through Jesus.

pursuing, being attentive to, and following the wisdom of Proverbs

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
    for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
    doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
    the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1

I am going through the book of Proverbs right now in my slow ponderings. And I am reminded of a number of things. But I begin with the fact that when we read the Bible, we have to read it first of all in its original context as best we can. That may be limited, though we can get some good helps. But we have to remember it was written at a specific time in a specific cultural context. But if we read it no other way at all, then we have to read it from the context of all of scripture, and especially of Jesus, considering his fulfillment of it all. In Christ we are told are hidden all the treasures of wisdom (Colossians).

But back to the book of Proverbs itself, if we need to err in any way, we need to really seek to take to heart all it has to say. We don’t do everything literally, but the essence or point of every saying, or thought, what it’s getting at, the underlying principle one might say, we do want to understand, and seek to hold on to it for dear life. It is a matter of life and death, but too often we drift away from that, since we either think we know better, or we don’t take it seriously enough.

Proverbs helps us both explicitly and implicitly in giving us direct specific instruction and in helping us have discernment in areas in which it doesn’t directly speak. Proverbs helps inculcate in us a capacity for learning and implementing wisdom for life.

And of course this wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. We don’t trifle with God. God is love, and God is God. That sense of fear has to do with respect which becomes awe for pursuers of God, and dread for those who fail to pursue him. And that is all by grace in and through our Lord Jesus.

Read Proverbs slowly. The best reading is slow reading, I think. We need to let it soak into our bones, into our heart, and out from that, into our very lives day after day. An essential part of our growth in and through our Lord Jesus.

in the midst of possible change

Sometimes we find ourselves at crossroads where possible changes might occur. They can be major, at other times minor, but requiring some significant adjustments. What gives in these situations is a combination of things including the nuts and bolts of the actual situation, and how that is being approached: problems and solutions.

I find the book of Proverbs to be wonderfully helpful for such issues and times. In itself is plenty of wisdom for navigating such, and it puts us in a frame of mind to be able to improvise better the inevitable changes life sends our way.

God’s promise is to be with us, and God gives us what we need to succeed and do well, at least in his eyes. We are given responsibility in this life. Much is not foolproof, but we need to learn to walk in the way of wisdom, and be wise ourselves in the gift which God gives us in and through Jesus.

a hindsight which might help

It is said, “hindsight is better than foresight.” Some ways true, if one can learn from their mistakes, and some ways not, since we would all like to have some necessary foresight. I think of the book of Proverbs and learning some good wisdom from it. For good, down to earth living. I wish I would have done a number of things differently, even this year. Though the kind of insight- perhaps in the form of hindsight and foresight- needed, is certainly something beyond ourselves, even with the Bible in front of us. We need nothing short of God’s wisdom. We often have failed to receive it at key junctures, James tells us, simply because we have not asked for it. And wisdom is meant to be relational, when enjoyed to the full. The fear of the Lord is called the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (at least nearly synonymous in meaning). Plain old fashioned fear, but also reverential awe, respect, are in view here. Which implies a commitment of obedient faith in God.

Yes, we need wisdom, and we don’t necessarily help others in the best way, by simply giving them handouts or what they need. That may be the easy way out up front, but in the long run often makes no difference at all, like the wound which is never cured and always requires another bandage. Yes, we need to be wise in how we seek to help others. We need to pray, read the maxims of wisdom stated proverbially in scripture, and listen to wise people.

We can be confident God does look kindly on mistakes made erring on the side of grace. We meant well, even if we did not do entirely well.  If our goal is to help another, then we are on good ground. What we have to come to grips with is that our way of helping may not be helpful at all for them. We need to be present for them in love, but in a way that would help them to learn to live in wisdom themselves.

And so the hindsight I propose here is not any formula or “the answer.” Rather it is to go on, in humble dependence on God in prayer, with a face set toward love and truth. And truth in a provisional way, as needed for the time. The book of Proverbs is ideal that way, because it provides maxims which are not inflexible, but guidelines in how we might approach the resolution of a problem. And again, let us not be afraid of erring on the side of grace. No matter what position we take, it should be one marked by grace which means desiring wisdom in truth, on the side of the real good of the person concerned, as their advocate before God.