Tag Archives: wisdom

Need wisdom?

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If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed in the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  James 1:5-8

A dear co-worker’s family has been going through some upheaval with her husband’s job.  It has been a three month roller coaster and they have faced several forks in the road where each choice would take their family down an entirely different path.  He lost over ten pounds in the process because he was so worried he couldn’t eat.  My word to both of them was this passage: if you need wisdom, ask for it and God will give it to you.

Her response was to say, “I guess we haven’t prayed about it.”  How easy it is to name the name of Jesus, but yet not apply Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your steps.”  The husband’s response when I shared the James 1 verses with him was interesting.  He shook his head like he was smacked by the verse and asked, “would you say that again?”  It seemed like such a different idea to him to think that if he needed wisdom to simply ask God and He’ll give it to you.

James tells us that God gives wisdom generously to those who ask.  That’s a great promise.  When he declares that God will give us wisdom to all without reproach, that  means that God doesn’t find fault, he won’t rebuke or criticize us.  I hate telling someone about something that happened or is happening and they jump in with criticism that starts with, “You should have…” or “Why didn’t you…”  God promises that He will give us His wisdom generously and He won’t tell us how stupid we are for getting into that jam in the first place.

James  also gives us some conditions to our asking for wisdom.  We are to ask in faith, without doubting that God is listening to us, that He cares, or that He can actually do something about our situation.  It’s like bringing an umbrella to a prayer meeting calling out for rain.  We need to come to God believing that He can do anything, without ‘hedging our bets.’  That indicates that we bet on both sides just in case God doesn’t come through.

James calls that double minded faith, saying that such a person will not receive anything from the Lord and even calls them ‘unstable.’  Having a half-hearted or not-all-in faith sounds like that in God’s eyes it doesn’t amount to much.  James 1:7 also tells us that such a person will not receive anything from the Lord.

So when you need wisdom, ask God for it.  He gives it generously to anyone who asks, without criticizing or casting blame.  But ask in faith, being all-in when it comes to trusting God.  To my co-worker, stop trying to figure things out on your own.  You say you believe in God, so now it’s time to trust Him, do things His way, and place your life in His hands.  When you do, ‘you’re in good hands,’ as the All State commercial rings out.

 


What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

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Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4

I didn’t have a very good week.  The  first day of my much awaited month off  started with an extreme gallbladder attack, though I didn’t know what it was for a day.  Day two involved having it removed.  Day 5, I hit a deer, smashing our car and causing the airbags to go off.   Our deductible from our health insurance will cost up to $8000 out of pocket.  

Different versions use the words perseverance, endurance and patience instead of steadfastness.   So, be joyful when troubles come your way, and be steady, persevering, patient, and not crumbling like a cheap card table.  Somehow our trials and troubles, given their full effect, will make us mature, perfect, complete and lacking nothing.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul said that they thought they were going to die and didn’t think they could endure.  But then he said it happened so that they would not rely on themselves, but on God who raises the dead.  Paul was saying there was a purpose in his suffering, which was so that he wouldn’t rely on himself, but on God.  I’ve been saving extra money away, dreaming of retiring from my job which has gotten more grueling for several reasons, including me getting older.  And in a snap that money goes toward something  else.  Perhaps God wants me to rely on Him and not my own resources.  

God also wants to produce in us  a wholehearted faith.   He values that so much that He may, in His love, take away all the other things that we might be tempted to rely on.  In my case, maybe it was money.  God’s aim is that we grow deeper and stronger in our confidence of Him, knowing that He’s all we need.

Finally, God wants our faith to be strong.  Being joyful when troubles come is a reaction that is counter our own emotional response.  Being steady and unwavering because God is our refuge in times of trouble can be a showcase for those around us to see His life at work in us.  Satan stood before God saying that Job’s faith was really because he was so rich and prosperous.  God responded by making a wager that if all of the stuff was gone, Job would still worship Him.  Job proved that his faith wasn’t built on all of the stuff, but that he worshiped God because God is worth it.   

Job’s faith was strong because God planted it in him, just like He did in Moses and the other Hall of Famers, and just like He does in us.  He will grow and build our faith, even protect it.  Jesus told Peter that in Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  

So take heart in your trials, making them a source of your joy.  God will use those troubles to cause us to rely on Him, and to show us that He’s all we need.  When we let God do His work in us through our struggles, He grows us.  God protects our faith even when we are sifted like wheat by Satan.  And in the end, it is “He who keeps us from falling and will present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”


Oh, Grow Up!

 

babyFor everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Hebrews 5:13-14

Milk is good for newborn infants.  In fact, they scream until they get it.  But eventually, that baby grows from desiring milk to eating table food that is made into a mush.  Then  she gets little pieces of meat and moves her way to entire portions of meat.  It’s what makes her grow.  She wouldn’t just continue to drink milk up through elementary school.  She would be weak, small and malnourished.

So it is with our spiritual progression.  We need the milk of the Word, and to desire it like a baby–even scream for it.    1 Peter 2:2 states, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”  But then we need to become more mature–doers of the Word and not just hearers, as James 1 prompts us to do.  That means we put it into practice.  And as we do, we move from needing to being taught to being the one teaching.  We’re then eating solid food and we have our senses trained by it.

 Habitually reading the Bible gives us a new mind and it gives us the spiritual sense to know what is truth and what is error.  It helps us to know the difference between right and wrong and heightens our senses to spot counterfeits.  When we do what God puts on our hearts to do, we grow in faith and in obedience.  

In 2 Timothy 3:7 Paul talked about people who “are always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.”  Chances are it is because they haven’t gone to the Bible for themselves, starting with milk and working up to meat by obeying.  They may rely on teachers to interpret the Bible for them, but they don’t have the discernment to know if they are false teachers or not.  It may also be because they spend more time on Facebook than in the “Good Book,” or to spend time watching questionable TV shows.  To them it is easier to read from Oprah’s book list than it is to feast on the Word.

I hear many people say that they just can’t understand the Bible.  I think that’s a lie from Satan that they’ve picked up.  God will give you the understanding as you patiently work your way through the Bible.  Use a Children’s Bible if you have to, or an easy to read version.   With the regular practice of being nourished in the Bible you don’t need intelligence, you need obedience.  

Be a meat eater.  Read the Bible and then put it into practice.  Obey it and put away sins.   And then you will have the ability to discern between good and evil.  Do something deliberate to put your faith muscle into action, and watch God grow you.


Let the word dwell in you richly

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Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”  Philippians 3:16

Today’s verse starts off with the word “let.”  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.  That gives the idea that we are to allow it to, to give the word permission or access to our hearts and lives.  It is then something within our control, not outside of it.  So many times I hear people say that they try to read the Bible, but they just can’t understand it.  Or they say they just can’t memorize.  Then others say they just don’t have time in their day to read, study, memorize or meditate on the Bible.

But then if I were to ask  sports fans about their favorite team, they can rattle off all kinds of statistics and facts about games and players.  Hunters can tell an endless facts about the animals that are their favorite targets.  And quilters can give a mini seminar on how to “stitch in the ditch” or say what book and page their favorite pattern is on.  I wonder why that is.  If we could just apply the same devotion and enthusiasm to the word of Christ.

Here are three things that I have found that help me to have the word of Christ dwell in me.

1.   When I read, I underline, highlight, take notes and journal about what I am reading.  There are studies that say when you write something down with your hands (and not a keyboard) you can remember it better because it is forming a pathway in your brain.  I have been journaling with quiet time notes since I was 18.  That means I have 36 years of notebooks and journals.  Occasionally I go back and read them.  I am refreshed at how God has worked in my life in ways that I forgot about.  I include my prayer items in my journals, application thoughts and ways that the Scripture jumped out at me.  It’s never too late to start a quiet time journal.

2.   I make memorizing a part of my life.  I have been memorizing verses, chapters and books of the Bible since I was young.  I just finished memorizing the book of 2 Timothy.  I have to go back and review old verses to keep them in the front of my mind.  I keep note cards with verses written on them, little post it notes, big ones, you name it.  If I want to put something into practice or remember a promise in a difficult time, I put those verses wherever I can.

3.  When I read the Bible, I expect God to speak to me.  I look for how what I am reading applies to my life.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the Word is living and active,” and 2 Timothy 3:17 says that Scripture equips us for every good work and makes us mature, or complete.  If you feel inadequate to do something, get into the Bible more and see if that equipping changes things.

Finally, Colossians 3:16 instructs us to admonish one another with all wisdom.  That must be a way of putting the Word into practice.  To admonish means to “reprimand, rebuke, scold, advise, or to recommend,” according to dictionary.com.  2 Timothy 3:16 relays that Scripture is profitable for teaching, for correcting and rebuking, as well as training in righteousness.  Perhaps the key words are “with all wisdom.”  In other words, you need the leading of the Holy Spirit to be at work when it comes to admonishing.

Billy Graham used to use the phrase, “the Bible says,” quite often in his sermons.  Instead of our wisdom being from Dr. Phil or our own storehouse, it is good to speak Scripture to one another as a means of encouragement and instruction.  Maybe that should be one of our go-to phrases as well.  And sometimes it is admonishing when Scripture is simply shared that relates to a particular situation.  Because the Word is living and active, the Holy Spirit can take it from there.

May the Word of Christ dwell in you richly today as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.

 


Wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  James 1:5-8 ESV

James makes it sound so simple–if you lack wisdom ask for it in faith and voila’–you got it.  So why aren’t we wiser?  When we’re stuck and we pray, why doesn’t this formula work as cleanly as this?

I can think of a few things we don’t always do to start with and then I’ll move to the opposite.

1.  James 4:2-4 says that we have not because we ask not.  And when we ask, we have selfish motives to spend on our own desires.  We don’t pray and we’re self centered.  In Joshua 9 the Gibeonites didn’t want to get wiped out by the Israelites so they dressed up like they were from a long way off and got them to sign a treaty.  The Israelites, according to Joshua 9:14, “did not inquire of the Lord or ask counsel from Him.”  One version calls it presumption, which the Hebrew defines as “seething pride.”

Seething pride is when we think we got it covered.  We don’t think we need God, or we don’t think to ask Him.  

2.  We don’t know how to listen for God’s voice.  Some Christians just don’t know that when they ask, God will answer.  We’re not just praying some general rote prayer, like meal time grace.  And we’re not leaving a message on God’s voicemail that He may or may not respond to.  John 10:4-5 clearly teaches, “My sheep follow Me because they know my voice.  They do not know the voice of strangers.”  We don’t have to worry about being deceived if we get to know God’s voice.  

He speaks first and foremost through His Word.  That activates the Holy Spirit and keeps us grounded.  People who get mystical or off in a ditch usually aren’t feeding on the Bible on a consistent basis.  Others are students of the Bible, but think that listening for God’s voice is bogus.  Then so is John 10.  

3.  We get spun around with anxiety, worry, self pity, doubt, fear and unproductive things.  It’s easy to do in any given situation.  So we need to go to God in the middle of the muck and call out for help, for peace, and for wisdom.  Some people like the process of wallowing and don’t like to be called out.  Jesus didn’t mince words when He said things like “O ye of little faith,” and told His disciples they had hard hearts.  He even told Peter, “Get behind Me Satan.”  We need to gently but firmly remind ourselves and each other of God’s call to ask in faith with nothing wavering.

What are the positives about getting wisdom?

1. Wisdom comes from having a hearing heart. You can go to school for knowledge or Google just about anything, but wisdom is gained from calling out to God on a regular basis.  When Solomon was called to be king God gave him one request.  In 1 Kings 3:9  it tells what Solomon asked for: “Give your servant an understanding mind, a hearing heart.”  

 2.  In Proverbs 2 Solomon coached his readers to treasure up God’s commands, to call out for insight and to search for wisdom like silver and hidden treasures.  Wisdom comes from a long obedience in the same direction.  It is a quest that is much like mining for gold.  

3.  Wisdom comes through prayer.  In Luke 11:1 the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  It doesn’t say “teach us how to pray,” but “teach us TO pray.”  We try to figure things out on our own, or get advice from others, or something less efficient–but God says to pray.  If you lack wisdom, ask for it.  

We know this stuff, it’s just hard to do.  And even when we do, life doesn’t always comply.  Plus, God doesn’t work on our time schedule.  And things that we think should be easy aren’t.  But the promise still stands.  If you lack wisdom, ask for it and God will give it.  Don’t you wish you could just push the “Staples” easy button?easy button