The Progression of Wisdom

light-bulb-376922_1920Proverbs 5:21 For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths.

No doubt you’ve examined the chart of heart states and have begun to take a look at your own heart. As we look at these heart states, we begin to desire to move our hearts closer to the heart of God. Does the Word provide us with a path that will let us take giant steps toward Him? Can we identify the steps (or levers) that move our hearts closer to the heart of God? Can we take actions to find wisdom more quickly?

First, let’s look at some of the verbs associated with attaining the various heart states:

  • Seek: Knowledge (Proverbs 18:1, Ecclesiastes 1:13; 7:25, I Corinthians 1:22)
  • Find/Get: Understanding (Proverbs 3:4, 13; 19:8)
  • Sow (plant): Righteousness (Proverbs 11:18; Isaiah 61:11, Hosea 10:12, II Corinthians 9:10)
  • See/Find: Man’s Wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:13)
  • Given/put in the heart: God’s Wisdom – always given by God (I Chronicles 22:12, II Chronicles 1:10, 12; Job 38:36; Proverbs 2:6; 28:15; Ecclesiastes 2:26; Daniel 2:23, Luke 21:15; I Corinthians 12:8; Ephesians 1:17; James 1:5; II Peter 3:15)

Even the verbs God used to explain all of this to us indicate the heart states where we hold responsibility. I particularly like the use of the word “sow” relative to righteousness. We do the right thing as one planting a seed with an expectation of a fruitful harvest. Note we may see/find wisdom (general or generational truths), but only God grants His wisdom; and, we know He examines our heart as He makes His decision.

I think the GPS must be one of the great inventions of this generation. Let’s just say I hate to be lost. I’m the gal who would stop and ask for directions at every turn (and we won’t discuss the many times we have been lost because my husband refused to ask for directions). With the invention of GPS, and its subsequent availability on my iPhone and in the dashboard of the car, there is no more need for arguments or wasted hours pursuing wrong paths. If we have a destination in mind, I want to get there quickly and on time. Who wants to be like the Israelites wandering around and around in the desert? Let’s just get on down the road to the Promised Land. So it is only natural as I looked at this chart to turn to God and ask Him for directions straight to wisdom. How can we move from one heart state to the next? Are there things we can do or steps or levers we can take to move our hearts closer to the heart of God?

As I studied, God illuminated the path. I am excited to share with you the things I found that move us from one heart state to the next.

Note: We are going to cover a lot of ground—the levers between our seven heart states. Don’t get lost. There’s a chart at the end of the chapter that will bring this all together. So hold your place here and take a look at the chart. Then flip back and let’s build the chart together. We want to understand what God is looking for in our hearts, so we’ll take our time with this one; Growth takes time.

Lever from Foolishness to Knowledge: The Fear of the Lord

 Proverbs 1:7 (NLV): The fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (the KJV describes the fear of the Lord as the beginning of knowledge.)

In Proverbs 1:7 Solomon highlights the dividing line between the two paths: knowledge (movement toward God, the fear of God) and foolishness (movement away from God, despising wisdom and instruction. The despising of instruction and discipline indicates a prideful attitude, a leaning on self vs. dependence on God). The one who seeks knowledge has an attitude of humility, realizes and acknowledges he or she needs help. This is the tipping point or the crossroads we each face. Will we seek God’s will for our life or will we turn to our own ways, deciding we can handle things on our own, attempting only doable feats and safe roads? Will we humble ourselves before God (James 4:10)?

Proverbs 1:7 also provides an exciting find. Now we see a dividing point between foolishness (the beginning of a backward/downward spiral) and knowledge (the beginning of a forward/upward spiral). The fear of the Lord is our first lever or right step toward wisdom. It is certainly a defining moment when one begins to move away from foolishness and toward a knowledge of an eternal, awesome, mighty God.

If one is a fool (not acknowledging God exists), wicked (an intentional sinner), or a scorner (establishing oneself as God) then the fear of the Lord will help him or her decide to turn around, to seek a new direction, and begin a journey toward the heart of God. First stop: gain a little knowledge.

Proverbs 15:33 (KJV) provides another insight into the fear of the Lord: “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility.” The instruction of wisdom is included in Proverbs 1 (KJV) as one of the seven types of knowledge. Here you see the fear of God in combination with humility and the seeking of knowledge; it’s the turning point. It is not an overwhelming fear as we might think of dread, but an understanding that you might not have all the answers. Perhaps you have come face to face with the fact you need God and need to know more about Him. So, your first step might be to search the Scriptures.

My mom worked during my high school years and would typically leave my sister and me a note on the kitchen table listing the things she wanted done when she arrived home. We could ignore the note and do whatever we wanted. We knew, however, she would walk through the door at five-thirty, expecting we had followed her instructions. We possessed enough fear in our hearts, driving us to pick up her note and read the instructions, so we could be ready when she arrived. Pleading ignorance wasn’t a good reason for not accomplishing what she desired; she left us instructions. We knew we would face her soon. Even though she was a mild-mannered, loving mother, we didn’t want to see her disappointment, or face well-deserved consequences, if we were disobedient.

The same is true of God. Once you know He exists, and you understand He is coming and has left you instructions in His Word, let’s hope enough fear of the Lord comes into your heart so you dust off your Bible and begin seeking knowledge. Maybe you show up for church on time, even Sunday School. And, maybe you squeeze out time in your week to attend a Bible study. Next thing you know you will be in the Word daily and find yourself in your closet on your knees before Him. Too many times we focus on God’s attribute of love and diminish the fact that He is the righteous judge. While He gave Himself for us and willingly took our place in death on the cross, there will also be a day when we all stand before Him as judge. Now is the time for a little fear of the Lord to settle into our hearts so we will not fear Him when we stand before Him at the judgment seat.

Levers from Knowledge to Understanding:  knowledge of the Holy One, to depart from evil

LEVER ONE: Knowledge of the Holy One

Proverbs 9:10 also held the definition of a lever from knowledge to understanding: “. . . the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” This is the first of two steps, or levers, to understanding. The first step toward God is learning about God. In our churches today, we describe these individuals as seekers. I like this word because God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (Jer. 29:13; Deut. 4:29). There was an “if” associated with this promise in each of these passages: “if you seek me with all your heart.” A seeker of the knowledge of the Holy One isn’t going to be satisfied with learning religious rituals, fitting in with the religious crowd, or putting their name on a church roll. They are going to begin searching for the knowledge of God as if it was the only thing that could satisfy their soul. Can you say that you know Him? Are you seeking Him with your whole heart? Our quest is a personal relationship with the God of the Universe. Nothing else will do.

LEVER TWO: To depart from evil

Proverbs 28:28 “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

Here we have the second lever from knowledge to understanding: to depart from evil. Have you ever heard a preacher describe the difference between heaven and hell as 18 inches, the distance from your head to your heart? A head filled with knowledge makes one feel important. The KJV says it “puffs up (I Corinthians 8:1). While information is good, it does not cleanse. Knowledge needs to move from the head and take root in the heart causing a turning or repentance. If we stay in the Word, it will show us how to clean up our ways so our heart and life get a thorough cleansing. God promises His word will not return void; it will have an impact on our lives. What we need is a heart that departs from evil out of repentance, a genuine heart change.

The definition of depart from means “to go away from, to leave.”[1] Doesn’t this describe the new man, a man with a new direction, or a man who has set his face toward God and His ways? When you know the Holy One (indeed find understanding), you can’t help but fall in love with Him and set the sail of your life’s ship toward Him and away from self. Understanding is more than acknowledging the existence of God, knowing about God, or making his acquaintance. Even Satan knows He exists, knows about Him, and even talks with Him. But we must take the step of truly understanding and accepting God is good and will do good things for us (trusting Him); this will change our heart. We must make a choice: our way or God’s way. And someone whose heart has worked through the knowledge or seeker heart state will choose to turn away from evil.

One summer as my ladies’ group diligently worked through Proverbs, we made a discovery. Each of us accepted a homework assignment. They were my research team as this was a very low-budget project. My dear friend, Nancy Kendrick, accepted the task of searching through Proverbs (indeed all of Scripture) for everything connected to understanding. As she came back and began to share her findings with us, she said, “I think it is obvious understanding is linked to the heart in some special way because every verse I found with understanding in it also had the word heart in it.” (Indeed it was this finding that revealed all of the stages were states of man’s heart. But especially with understanding, it was ALL ABOUT THE HEART).

NOTE: Let’s take a moment and define the heart or soul of man: it is the seat of the mind, will, and emotions. It embodies our emotional state, our decision-making processes, our drive, and motivations.

I’ll list some of the verses we reviewed, so you can see God is definitely making a point about a heart linkage or change at the understanding stage. Certainly, we can conclude it is not by accident these two words are linked in this many verses; God is trying to tell us something.

1 Kings 3:9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

1 Kings 3:12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.

1 Kings 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.

Job 17:4 For thou hast hid their heart from understanding: therefore shalt thou not exalt them.

Job 38:36 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?

Psalm 49:3 My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.

Psalm 119:34 Give me understanding, and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.

Proverbs 2:2 (KJV): So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Proverbs 8:5 (KJV) O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.

Proverbs 14:33 Wisdom is enshrined in an understanding heart; wisdom is not found among fools.

Proverbs 18:2: Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. The KJV notes this as a heart problem: “a fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself. “

Proverbs 20:5 Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out.

Jeremiah 3:15 And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding.

Mark 12:33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.

Ephesians 4:18 (KJV) Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

Apparently, a heart change occurs when understanding (the knowledge of the Holy) comes. Studying to gain knowledge is an action that fills one’s head with information. But, when knowledge is of the Holy One, understanding comes. Do you remember when you first learned about Him, when you knew Him for who He really is? Wasn’t it your understanding of Him and His sacrificial love for you that changed your heart and led you to make a decision to place your faith and trust in Him? You finally understood without Him you are nothing; but with Him you could have everything. You understood Him: His plan, His wisdom, and His power. He was all you had been seeking.

Knowing and indeed understanding Him yields the sweet fruit of trust and faith in Him. And Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Bible says that whatever is in your heart determines what you say (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45). When your heart overflows with love of the Savior, your mouth will confess Him to all men and you will believe He is the resurrected Savior. And, salvation and eternal life become yours. Understanding and accepting the Holy One and His love will make you a new creature (I Cor. 5:17). It will give you a clean heart. You become a child of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords—linked by heart.

What about your heart? Is it a heart filled with the Holy One? Do you have an understanding heart? We know once we reach understanding, a heart change occurs. Thus you can now understand how wisdom (see I Corinthians 1:24—Christ is the wisdom of God) rests in the heart of him who has understanding (a knowledge of the Holy One) (Proverbs 14:33). Indeed, it is the mystery of the Gospel: the indwelling of wisdom and the power of the Spirit, the Holy One within us. Isn’t it exciting to know at the point of salvation, Wisdom took up residence in your heart?

Maybe we should get a sign for our cars saying, WISDOM ON BOARD, to remind us He is available each step of the journey. So many times we are no doubt like the disciples in the boat when the winds arose. Jesus was with them, but they were trying to cope with the storm without His help; He was apart, resting while they struggled with the elements. They had witnessed His power to solve other’s problems, but yet they didn’t call on Him to help in their trial. If the disciples didn’t realize His power even though they witnessed His many miracles first hand, no wonder those of us who are trusting in an unseen God sometimes forget He is on board, ready to act on our behalf.

In Ephesians 3, Paul’s prayer sums up this concept,

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”

Lever from Understanding to Righteousness:  Faith

Next, I searched the Scriptures looking for a lever to righteousness. I noted when righteousness was referenced, it was often linked with justice or the just or contained a reference to judgment. Obviously, the Word is making the point that when we stand before the righteous judge, our works will be examined and tried by fire (I Cor. 3:13). We want to be found filled with righteousness (doing the right thing) as unto God and our fellow man.

In Proverbs 2:9 Solomon says if we seek for wisdom as for hidden treasure, and cry out for her with a loud voice, “then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path” (KJV). In the NLV righteousness, judgment and equity are translated as “right, just, and fair.” What do we need to understand about the linkage between righteousness, judgment, and fairness in our attempt to discern every good path? Isaiah 28:16-17 held an answer to the relationship between righteousness and justice.

Isaiah 28:16-17: Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken. I will test you with the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness.

Basically, Isaiah says there is a precious cornerstone (Scripture tells us this precious cornerstone is our Lord Jesus Christ). Easton’s Bible Dictionary, online-at Crosswalk.com, gave the following notes on a cornerstone.

“Corner-stone (Job 38:6; Isaiah 28:16), a block of great importance in binding together the sides of a building. The ‘head of the corner’ (Psalm 118:22,23) denotes the coping, the ‘cosign of vantage’, i.e., the topstone of a building. But the word ‘corner stone’ is sometimes used to denote some person of rank and importance (Isaiah 28:16). It is applied to our Lord, who was set in highest honour (Matthew 21:42). He is also styled ‘the chief corner stone’ (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-8). When (Zechariah 10:4), speaking of Judah, says, ‘Out of him came forth the corner,’ he is probably to be understood as ultimately referring to the Messiah as the ‘corner stone.’[2]

The picture describes the corner stone of our life: Jesus Christ. To ensure the house you build is level, He sets a horizontal leveling line: justice. And to make sure it is erect and straight, he sets a vertical plumb line: righteousness. He, The Righteousness of God, the CORNERSTONE, will bind these two together: both justice and righteousness. Christ is the chief cornerstone of our life and faith. He brings justice and righteousness together in perfect alignment so the life of a Christian can be strong and right: just before God (upward-vertical) and right before man (outward-horizontal).

This description provides a great visual for God’s role in providing Christ to help us with our relationship to Himself and to our fellow man. Based on Proverbs 2:9, we are seeking to understand how this works.

Jeremiah 9:23 This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken.”

Notice God says He wants us to know Him. And it is in knowing Him that we add a third dimension to His cornerstone work: UNFAILING LOVE. The KJV calls this LOVINGKINDNESS. Aren’t you glad He balances what we deserve when compared to HIS righteousness with HIS unfailing love: His lovingkindness?

Building Block

Have you ever thought about the balance scale used to denote justice in our American legal system? If the center weight is righteousness (doing what is right, choosing right paths, obeying the law), then justice would be on the one hand, and equity (the penalty needed to balance out any offense) would be required on the other side of the scale. Certainly God the Father is the righteous judge who holds the scales in His hands. Justice demands payment for our sin. Christ is not only our righteousness before the Father, He has provided Himself to balance the scales of justice for our sin and His loving kindness took the place of my sin. Equity for the Christian is His sacrifice made possible by His unfailing love: His lovingkindness. Now we can understand righteousness, justice, and equity and their relation to one another as Proverbs 2:9 suggests.

After studying the references to righteousness, faithfully and diligently seeking to understand it, as discussed above, it was obvious righteousness was VERY important to God. But how do we get it?

In the Old Testament, God used the commandments (the law) as the measure for righteousness. So, could we construe that our obedience to Him, our good works, will make us righteous before Him? Well, I don’t know about you, but I have trouble with some of those commandments. In my humanity I find it hard to love the Lord with all my heart and my neighbor as myself. If I’m honest before God and you, I find I love myself—a lot. Face it: I buy myself clothes, I save for things I want, I fix dishes I like to eat. How can He expect me to love Him more than I love myself? How could anyone in human flesh ever do that? Furthermore, He expects me to love others more than I do myself. Is that even possible? Certainly there is no way we can do that apart from the Spirit of God. So, if obeying the commandments is virtually impossible for man (or for woman) in their own strength, I’m sure hoping God has a good alternative plan.

Romans 4:1-8 answers this issue for us and describes our lever from understanding to righteousness.

Romans 4:1-8: Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the lord has cleared of sin.”

Note it was Abraham’s FAITH (belief in God) that was counted to Him for righteousness. Hebrews 11:6 helps us understand without faith we cannot become righteous or pleasing to God. So FAITH is our lever to righteousness.

Romans 10:1-11 explains God’s plan even further.

Romans 10:1-11 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness, which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.

The most overwhelming thing about the Holy One is that despite the riches of glory, He searched for me, found me, and gave Himself for me. Oh, yes, when understanding entered my heart, FAITH wrought its work. I gave my heart to Him and I became a new creature in Christ Jesus, moving from understanding to righteousness: His righteousness. I put on my new garment of salvation and was further clothed in a clean white robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). It is a robe washed in the blood of the lamb, the Lamb of Glory. Salvation, confessing Him and believing in our hearts God has raised Him from the dead (FAITH) as Romans 10: 9-10 explains, is the lever to righteousness. God imputes righteousness to us just as He did Abraham. We, like Abraham, through faith believe He has provided Himself a sacrifice: Jesus, the Lamb of Glory. And through faith, like Abraham, righteousness is imputed to us (not earned).

Romans 1:17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

While Christ rewards our initial faith with salvation (a one-time act), our continued faith allows God’s righteousness to be revealed through to and through us from faith to faith (Romans 1:17 KJV), from right choice to right choice. While we have the garment of salvation, He further dresses us for presentation to the King of Kings in a robe of righteousness, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, imputed to us by faith that orders each step of our journey.

As a seamstress, when I think about the robe of righteousness He places on us, I think of faith as the thread that stitches, indeed holds, a garment together. God sees each act of righteousness as a faith step toward Him; from faith to faith, we order our steps. Through each step of the journey He reveals more of His righteousness to us enabling a further alignment of our way to His way. And, as this process takes place in our lives, we paint a clearer picture of Him for the world to see. Our robe of righteousness is constructed with steps (or stitches) of faith.

Levers from Righteousness to Wisdom:  The Fear of God—awe & reverence, Pleasing God

LEVER ONE: The fear of God—Awe & Reverence

Proverbs 9:10 states “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. . .” The fear of God referenced here is an awe or reverence. And it is our lever from Righteousness to Wisdom. We will delve deeply into the fear of God later in our study.

LEVER TWO: Pleasing God

Ecclesiastes 2:26a God gives wisdom, knowledge and joy, to those who please him.

The prerequisite to God’s granting wisdom is pleasing God: a key lever. This begins to explain why James indicates testing comes on a journey to wisdom. God tests our hearts to see if we will believe (have faith) which is pleasing to Him. He is examining and trying our hearts. If we fall into unbelief, He says we will receive nothing.

Exactly what does please God?

I Thessalonians 2:4 For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

I Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Romans 8:8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

Hebrews 11:6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek Him.

THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

We saw despising knowledge and instruction (pride) was the beginning of a downward path away from wisdom. Have you noticed we skipped over the levers from foolishness to wickedness and from wickedness to scornfulness? Well, I couldn’t find them. Why? I don’t think one moves up within these three states. Frankly, if you do not hearken to the fear of the Lord and begin a pursuit of knowledge, I think you move from walking with fools to standing with the wicked, and soon find you are sitting in the seat of scornfulness, clothed in self-righteousness (Psalm 1). So, the progression is not upward, but downward: downward until they are cut off from the earth and cast into hell. Note these are action verbs: walking, standing, sitting. They take conscious action on man’s part, resulting in man choosing to become one of the sinners.

My mom would always tell me, “Bad company corrupts good girls (or boys).” It was her way of teaching me what David taught Solomon, and he in turn taught his son (Proverbs 1:9-19).

James 1:13-15 provides insights into these downward steps moving one from foolish sin (which so easily besets us), to a wicked state, to a scornful/self-righteous state, and finally to a point God says He will cut them out of the earth.

James 1:13-15 And remember when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow it gives birth to death.

Suppose with me for a moment your heart is in either a state of knowledge, understanding, righteousness, or wisdom; what happens to move your heart downward? What happened to David, the man after God’s own heart, that moved him suddenly into a state of foolish/wicked action?

According to James 1:13, God does not tempt us. It is our lust. When lust draws us away and entices us, we sin. So our own action, our lust, causes our sin. It is easy to see lust caused David to sin. Note lust was not the moment he took Bathsheba in adultery; lust was the moment he took his eyes off the Lord and began to look for other things to please his wanton heart. Where have you set the eyes of your heart?

Once again Scripture explains in I John 1:15-16:

I John 1:15-16 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

You just simply cannot love the world and the Father at the same time. Apparently, taking your eyes off the Lord and putting them on the world is the first step downward. And, it can happen to any of us at any stage. When we put our eyes on anything or anyone other than Him, we go down just like Peter on the water. It is a short step from sinful desires (lust) to the act of sin. Make sure you remember that sin, when it is finished with you, will bring death in your life. My dad used to say, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” Count the cost before you begin the journey!

This is the downward spiral. But, praise God, He didn’t leave us to our own lusts. The Lord tells us in I John 2:17:

I John 2:17 And the world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

JUDGING OTHERS

I felt Proverbs 26:10 (KJV) particularly noteworthy: “The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth trangressors.” Certainly, judging between the fool and the wicked or transgressors could prove difficult. We see them both committing sin(s), so how can we know if they sin from a wicked heart or from a foolish heart? Many juries and judges have had to face this dilemma. Only God can see the heart. David, the man whom God says had a heart like God Himself, sinned with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah. Oh, me. Was his heart wicked or foolish? You and I might have judged him to be a fake and a phony; God saw repentance, forgave Him and judged Him righteous. He imputed His righteousness to Him because of his repentant heart (I John 1:9). So, the next time you find yourself judging someone’s actions, remember that you cannot see the heart and judge not, lest ye be judged (Matt. 7:1). 

Let’s look at our heart stages with the levers we have found:Heart Levers

Proverbs 29:23 One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

God describes those living in the bottom three states as living in darkness. But Psalm 119:130 says, “the teaching of your Word gives light, so even the simple can understand.” No wonder Romans 10:14 states, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

Have you ever met someone religious but lost? Sincerity in and of itself is not salvation. My dad often said, “You can be sincere and be sincerely wrong.” The Bible clearly tells us many will stand before Him; and when He condemns them to outer darkness, they begin reciting all the things they have done in His name. But He will say to them, “I NEVER KNEW YOU.” And the obvious implication is that they have never known Him. RELIGION is Satan’s trick to keep man from knowing God and finding a RELATIONSHIP with the Almighty.

If you talk with a religious man or woman very long at all, you might soon realize some never pick up the Word. They may faithfully go to some form of religious gathering, work or serve until they are exhausted, but there is no LIGHT. If you question them, you find they are not hearing the Word in their congregations and possibly don’t take their Bibles to church. The minister tells good stories but probably never opens a Bible; they are not in the Word for themselves. They are not on the journey to wisdom; they haven’t even begun to pursue God’s knowledge. Their preachers give sermonettes, pleasing their ears rather than pricking their hearts, which would provide a fear of the Lord. They desire to leave their services refreshed rather than convicted of sin separating them from God Himself. God is serious about knowing you and changing your heart; we need to be serious about knowing Him.

Romans 1:18-28 describes the lifestyle of those whose hearts are filled with foolishness, wickedness and scornfulness.

Romans 1:18-28: But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. Forever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.

Is there any wonder why God says in Proverbs 2:22 (KJV), “But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it?” The KJV’s version of verse 21 describes man as vain; in other words, they began to think they knew more than God. Did you see the role lust plays? Did you notice the role of unthankfulness? Did you see the scorner, the foolish and the wicked? Be careful. You don’t want God to find your heart filled with any of these things lest He abandon you and stop convicting you about your sin. Memorize and make real Proverbs 4:23:

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

[1] www.dictionary.reference.com/browse/depart+from, July 2014.

[2] www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/eastons-bible-dictionary/corner.html

THE PATTERN OF WISDOM

light-bulb-376922_1920Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes that I may observe wondrous things out of thy law.

Our hearts are the soil from which everything, good or evil, springs forth in our lives. Ask the children in Sunday School what God looks at, and they will quickly answer: “The heart.” God is keenly interested in your heart. He is not remotely impressed by your bank account, address, title, or wardrobe. You may fool man, but God sees every crevice of your heart.

And, He didn’t intend to keep what He sees a secret from us. The Word was given to help us see what He sees. And He assures us it’s our hearts that interest Him. When you are ready to get serious about your heart before God, He will meet you in the pages of His word (Hebrews 4:12) and deftly reveal your heart as He sees it.

A pattern for wisdom began to emerge early on in my study of Proverbs. And in those early days, the pattern seemed to be a simple three-step process: First: Knowledge. Then: Understanding. Finally: Wisdom (also sometimes referred to as a pure heart). However, it soon became apparent these three things represented the heart of man and there were actually seven states of man’s heart. So let’s identify them.

Psalm 14:1 revealed the fourth state: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” An unbeliever is an uninformed person; someone who has not sought knowledge. A fool has been duped (tricked) by false knowledge: man’s knowledge.

Proverbs 26:10 (KJV) provided the clue to the fifth heart state: “The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth trangressors” (intentional sinner). Here was an acknowledgment of the fool, and yet there seemed to be different rewards for the fool and the transgressor. How are the fool and the transgressor different? It is important we recognize it is God who looks at the heart and thus can judge the motive for one’s actions. Certainly this is one of the reasons He exhorts us in Matthew 7:7 not to judge; we cannot see the intent of the heart. From our perspective a fool and a transgressor may do some of the same things; it would only be by looking at the motives of the heart one could distinguish the difference. Thus, we can further understand His admonition not to judge lest we also be judged.

It was apparent that transgressors or intentional sinners were the wicked. In the first chapter of Proverbs: “My son, my son, if sinful men (transgressors) entice thee. . .” In further studying these transgressors or intentional sinners, it was obvious they had a heart of wickedness, and their sins or transgressions were an outward sign of the inward state of their depraved and wicked heart.

So, now the pattern was WICKEDNESS, FOOLISHNESS, KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING AND WISDOM. Let me quickly point out that wickedness and foolishness are not steps toward wisdom. They are states of man’s heart. Man was born in depravity and sin, and it is the changing of our hearts that interests God. This change is not going to happen by enrolling in a seven-step wisdom course or even by reading this book. It is the choice man faces to agree or disagree with God, and to follow vs. reject Him, which changes our hearts for good or for evil. So let’s learn everything we can about the heart of man.

Proverbs 13:1 provided the clue to our sixth state of man’s heart—the scoffer or scorner. The scoffer does not respond to rebukes. Psalm tells us a fool hath said in his heart there is no god. Unlike a fool, the scorner is not duped. A scorner acknowledges the possible existence of a God but willingly chooses not to acknowledge Him as God; he chooses his own ways. A scoffer or scorner thinks he knows more than God; he is taken with his own intelligence, wise in his own conceits. For example: Satan knows there is a God, but he chooses his own way; he exalts himself above God. Proverbs 3:34 says, “He mocks” (or scorns) proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” From this verse, it seems a scorner is in direct opposition to a man of humility; he is caught up in his own thoughts and is an unrighteous man. Proverbs 26:12 “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?” (a scorner)? “There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Proverbs also says an unrighteous man must forsake his thoughts and ways, and return to the Lord that He may have mercy on and pardon him.

When quoting Psalm 1, my mind’s eye caught the reference to the way of the righteous. Were the righteous the wise? Certainly both Psalm and Proverbs indicate righteous men speak wisdom. Frankly, righteousness should have been the first heart state I found. My Scofield Reference Bible even subtitles all of the chapters in Proverbs from Chapter 11 to Chapter 24 like a flashing billboard: “Contrast: Righteousness vs. Wickedness.” Righteousness was the final piece to the puzzle and it dropped into place, providing a complete template for understanding how God sees man’s heart. Righteousness (choosing right steps-skillful doing/living) was obviously even part of our basic definition of wisdom.

I wanted to confirm whether righteousness was before or after wisdom. Proverbs 2:7 where Solomon explains God lays up sound wisdom for the righteous provided the answer. This verse explains the wisdom He has promised to you and me is held in store for the righteous man. This indicated wisdom came after righteousness. Certainly this helps us further understand James 1. If we ask, God will allow testing in our lives to try our hearts. These circumstances try our faith, yielding patience. And when patience has her perfect work in our lives, we will be found lacking nothing; we will be mature/righteous. He stands ready to shovel His wisdom to us, the sound wisdom laid up for the righteous. Remember not to waiver in your request for and pursuit of wisdom. Keep your eye on the prize and not your circumstances.

If you have ever worked a puzzle, you know when a puzzle piece actually fits; you just know it is right because it completes the whole picture. While I had looked at several types of men (e.g., the slothful and the sluggard), they described outward manifestations or attributes of one of our heart states (e.g., a fool might exhibit slothfulness and be a sluggard). These seven heart states provide a framework, a new lens for seeing ourselves and our hearts before God. Again, please note foolishness, wickedness and scornfulness are not on the path to wisdom. These are the two paths referenced earlier:

  • Broad road filled with pride and self-glorification leading to a fall and eternal damnations—a prideful, foolish person travels to wickedness and ultimately scornfulness leading to rejection by God and eternal damnation.
  • Narrow path filled with obstacles or testing leading to knowledge, understanding, righteousness and wisdom—eternal life with God. It is the path chosen by the humble who choose to follow God’s way.

What is the dividing line between these two paths? What is the pivotal point where a man chooses the path he will follow? The dividing point is the turning of the heart from pride to humility. I Peter 5:6 and James 4:10 encourage us to humble ourselves, trusting God to lift us up; He is the lifter of our head (Psalm 3:3 and 27:6). Humility is a choice. It requires us to take our eyes off ourselves and to focus on Him as we allow Him to work in our lives.

What is the catalyst causing this shift in man’s heart from pride to humility? It is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Without the fear of God, man is left to his own devices as he seeks his own way. But when man fears the Lord, he humbles himself under the hand of God and seeks God through the pages of His Word, which puts him on the path to knowledge, understanding, righteousness, and wisdom. (Note: we will delve more deeply into the fear of God later in our journey.) The first sign of a humble heart is that one will be a seeker of knowledge. A humble person knows they need help, acknowledges they don’t have all the answers, and stands in need of God.

In rereading many of the stories of men and women of the Bible, we can see God carefully chose which of our heart words He used to describe a man. Why? That’s what He sees: our heart. This simple template will deepen your understanding of what God sees in your heart and expand your understanding of what God is teaching you through the stories of the lives of those found in the pages of the Word.

David’s opening to his Psalm lays out these same seven heart states Solomon described in Proverbs. After all, Solomon is David’s son, so it would make sense David would be able to explain all of this succinctly. No doubt he taught these principles to his son.

Psalm 1: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked. . .” (the KJV calls these the ungodly—the foolish man or woman who begins to listen to the call of the world).

“. . .or stand in the way that sinners take. . .” (the wicked or transgressor who intentionally sins because of their evil or selfish desires).

“. . .or sit in the company of mockers.” (the unbeliever who is filled with his own conceit—a scorner—placing Himself above God).

Here David, Solomon’s father, simply lays out the three states of man’s heart I’d finally uncovered in Proverbs. He then goes on to say, “BUT” (a very big BUT—a turning point.).

“But whose delight is in the law of the Lord. . .” (seeking knowledge).

“. . .and who meditates on his law day and night. . .” (gaining an understanding).

“. . .That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, . . .” (upright, staying close to the Word of Life—studying the path of righteousness).

“. . .which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatsoever they do prospers.” (The fruit of the Spirit-filled, Spirit-led life of a righteous man or woman—oh, the sweet reward of wisdom).

Note David does not stop here but also describes the consequences of those who are “not so” (the foolish, wicked and scornful)

“Not so the wicked! They are like the chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” (The reward of foolishness and wickedness and scornfulness. This is another description of the two paths.) (Emphasis and comments mine)

The heart states are intertwined in some respect. Think of this as a process vs. a linear path. God’s wisdom is so vast that when you are given some piece of it, you will be motivated to seek more knowledge and understanding.

When at the wisdom level, one would have knowledge, understanding and righteousness at his or her disposal. When at the wisdom level, it is expected one is motivated to continuously choose the right path, to continuously choose righteousness. That’s not to say a person with understanding and righteousness would not be able to make an unwise choice. His or her heart may be inclining toward God so he or she would be able to make wise choices. However, the heart in these states is not necessarily so devotedly committed to Christ and His ways that choosing to do right or to follow God’s will is the understood and undeniable expectation. We won’t be perfected until we see Him.

We can understand this decision-making process as Paul declares in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what to do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Even though he was called to walk in the Light, his flesh was with him, causing him to falter. But, as we continue to follow Paul in his walk with the Lord, we later see him laying aside every weight that so easily held him back because his heart’s desire was winning the race and the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ. And later in life we hear from Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” As you move your heart closer to Him, His will, and His ways will become your deepest desire and the allure of the world will lose its appeal. May Psalm 42:1 be our heart’s desire, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”

Let’s visually review these heart states. Again, please note scornfulness is not the first stage of wisdom. Unfortunately, we are born in a sinful state (Psalm 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”) Like it or not, we have dealt with our heart’s state since our earliest days.Heart States

Do you see the distinction between the two paths?

REMEMBER: When Solomon asked for wisdom, God looked at his heart before granting it to Him–his heart had to be pleasing to God. Also remember Solomon’s request for wisdom was to be able to judge His people. How could you truly judge anyone if you cannot see their heart? Trust me, the gift of wisdom to Solomon was an “understanding” heart so he could discern heart states (e.g., the story of the two mothers). If you want wisdom, you are going to have to get serious about your heart before the Lord and you need to know and understand heart states.

Stay tuned. There’s even more exciting things coming. Would you believe there are 7 verses in the Bible with 7 things in each one of them that perfectly describe these 7 heart states! Hold on to your socks; we have some exciting things to learn together.

II Chronicles 16:9 The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.

THE WISDOM OF GOD, PART II-B; The Promise of Wisdom

light-bulb-376922_1920Last week we learned some of the basic premises about wisdom and know God greatly desires for us to have and operate in wisdom.

SO WHAT’S THE CATCH?

Note the verses leading up to this proclamation are about trials and the perfecting work of patience in our lives. A trial (or testing) does not necessarily involve suffering. It could, but it is not a given. A clearer understanding of these trials would be the “testing of our faith” as referenced in verse three. Faith untested is not faith, it is only a surmising, or a held belief. I often watched my husband call to one of our children standing on the edge of the pool to jump to him; they so wanted to leap into his arms. I could see their eyes of faith as they jumped with complete abandon. Likewise, our Heavenly Father calls to us and wants us to put our faith and trust in Him. He won’t let us fall. We need that child-like faith that lets us cast all our care upon Him as we jump into His loving arms.

God tells us we all need this tender heart of faith (Matt. 18:3). As a young child, I loved God and wanted to go to heaven. I chose to cast my all upon God with a tender heart of child-like faith, believing His promise to wipe away my sin. Through the years my tender heart’s belief in and desire for God has become strong; through the trials He has proven Himself faithful. My tender childlike heart’s faith has turned into a mature and strong faith in Him. As Wikipedia describes faith, I now have a “complete trust and confidence”[1] in Him.

Flying terrifies me. But my work required I travel across the country. I could know the principles of aerodynamics, visit the airport to watch planes take off and land, and even talk with the pilot before the flight took off. But faith in the pilot and plane itself required me to actually get on the plane and take my seat. Putting my life in someone’s hands and trusting that pile of tin and equipment took an act of faith that shook me to the core. But I wanted to succeed at my job; so faith became a mandate. Over the years and thousands of miles in a plane, I’ve learned to relax and actually enjoy the flight. Would you believe I can fall asleep in the air? My faith has increased so I experience peace. Do you want to enjoy rest and peace? Is it hard to let go and trust God? I don’t know about you, but I hate not being in control. But in the trials, when I cannot be in control, I’m learning to trust Him to take the wheel; I have learned to hold His hand knowing He’s got this.

Faith requires moving forward when we cannot see the outcome; we must hold fast to the hand of the One who leads us, when we cannot see where we are going. He declares it is through the testing we gain patience; and the perfect work of patience will make us whole, lacking nothing. In the midst of these tests, James encourages us to ask for wisdom holding fast to the promise it will be given. The context is: He does hear; He will answer. The acknowledgement that we are going to gain patience, however, seems to indicate we may not see an immediate answer.

Verse six admonishes we should ask without wavering lest we be like a ship tossed about on the seas. And verse seven says, “such people” (the wavering) “should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” And verse eight takes the wavering man a step further; “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” Now, the man in verse eight hardly sounds like the man God was promising wisdom in verse five. What happened to him in only three verses? UNBELIEF.

Basically, He says when we are in a trial, and find we need His wisdom and help, we should ask knowing wisdom will be given. But, first comes the testing of our faith. Testing builds faith, which is the critical ingredient He is looking for, and indeed building, in our lives. We must believe and trust Him and not waver in the midst of the test, lest He see our unbelief (the opposite of faith) and give us nothing. “Faith is not knowing God can, it’s knowing He will” (Ben Stein). Does this describe your confidence in God in a trial?

The road to wisdom may involve some times of uncertainty and turmoil. Whether you are of the theological persuasion God directs our paths through these trials or that trials are just part of life’s journey in a fallen world, hopefully we can all agree God meets us in the midst of our trials when we call upon Him. He uses these trials to strengthen and build our faith as He did the disciples in the midst of the storm. Remember, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

The reason for the test is to prove, indeed strengthen, our faith in Him. When the disciples were in the middle of the raging sea, and the winds were blowing, Christ was on board. He heard their cry, met them in their distress, calmed the storm, and provided them safe passage. And they were in awe. I’ve faced many life storms and cannot imagine how I’m going to come through. Then I call on the Master. The next thing I know, I’m on solid ground and look back with awe, because I know I survived only because of Him and His power in my life. Experience walking with the Master brings peace. Life’s storms no longer frighten me as they once did. I know He’s got this one, too. He’s on board. I can be at peace.

Remember the Israelites? They found themselves in bondage and cried out for God’s salvation. He went to elaborate lengths to free them and desired to give them the Promised Land (more than they ever asked or even dreamed possible). Think of the happenstances God orchestrated simply because they asked. As they continued their labors through many subsequent years of slavery, not seeing God at work, He was busy answering their prayers. Was it an accident Moses was safely hidden in the bulrushes, and that the Pharaoh’s daughter found him and protected him? I think not. God knew Moses was going to need access to the Pharaoh and the strength and courage to stand before the courts of Pharaoh one day (even if he wasn’t an articulate man). And while His time fleeing into the wilderness may look like wasted years to you and me, God knew he was also going to need to know how to exist in a wilderness if he was going to lead about a million Israelites through one. But all this took time, and there was certainly reason for the enslaved Israelites to doubt if God had even heard their pleas. Oh, but He had not forgotten His promise to them. And He has not forgotten your pleas, and will be faithful to His promises to you.

Do you remember what happened on the Israelites’ trip to the Promised Land when they began to waver and think they wanted to return to Egypt, or when they murmured about the manna, God’s provision? Do you remember His anger when they turned to other gods? Do you also remember they wandered in the wilderness for forty years and died there, never seeing the Promised Land in their generation? If you begin to think about wavering in the midst of your life’s journey just because the winds begin to blow, you might want to remember the children of Israel who left Egypt bound for the Promised Land. Because of their unbelief, they ended up dying in the wilderness with NOTHING, when God had everything just a few miles down the road for them.

God indicates when we ask Him for wisdom, He tests our faith (our own personal wilderness). Through testing, patience has her perfecting work in our lives. As we exercise our spiritual muscles, we learn how to make good and wise choices; we learn to recognize and hear the Master’s voice. We learn to rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know they help us develop endurance (translated as patience in the KJV). Problems, tests, and trials are hard; they can be frustrating, unsettling, and can even hurt. Oh, but they bring the sweet fruit of patience and endurance, which means we will lack nothing. This lacking nothing promise doesn’t mean you will have a big house and a new boat. The translation is you will be mature. I like to think of it as being fully prepared and ready to fulfill my purpose: the job He created me to do.

It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to understand once burned by a fire you are not likely to get near a flame again. Indeed, even the smell of smoke would cause you to flee. In the trial we learn; we become able to discern wisdom and ultimately make good choices. This sounds like testing and trials are our wisdom (skillful living) university. Our faith in Him, our source of power, is refined by trials. We are made pure as gold: a fully matured child of God. It is the mature Christian, the one lacking nothing, who is able to walk through trials as a man or woman of faith. You can see this is a process. Think of it as exercising your spiritual wisdom muscles, much like we do our physical bodies, to gain strength for life’s journey.

For example: when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to go into the fire the first time, no doubt they placed their faith in God (albeit their knees may have been knocking), and He rewarded their faith. Imagine there had come a time when they had to go into the fire again. Do you think it would have been as difficult the second time to put their faith in God? I’m thinking those knees wouldn’t have knocked nearly as much, for they would have known beyond any shadow of a doubt their God would meet them in the furnace and bring them out on the other side without even the smell of smoke. The trial builds confidence in God: Faith.

God does not take us through trials so He can rescue us and then sit back, bask in His glory, and draw attention to Himself as the deliverer. He allows us to go through trials to increase our faith. WHY? Faith gives us confidence in Him and allows us to rest and to be at PEACE. He doesn’t want us to be tossed about by the wind and waves as we journey through this broken world. He wants our anchor to be firmly placed in Him that we might understand and experience true security free of fear: PEACE. If we are going to experience walking in His power, we are going to have to get comfortable flying high. We are going to need our security to be placed in Him and His power, the author and finisher of our faith. He’s going to take you places and use you to do things that would petrify you in your flesh. But in Him, you can do all things because He is going to strengthen you and use you to do things you haven’t ever even thought of at this point in your journey (Phil. 4:13). I love D. L. Moody’s statement: “If God is your partner, make your plans BIG!” Remember that question on the top of your notes? Think about it in light of the fact that God has BIG plans for you.

Trust me on this one, the last thing I’d ever have thought He would ask me to do is author a book—about the wisdom of God. Let’s just say this venture is a curve ball outside my comfort zone. Why didn’t He ask someone like Rick Warren, Max Lucado, or Beth Moore to write this book on His powers? “Seriously, God, they are great authors, willing servants, and have platforms, and people who follow them. ME? Are you sure? Do you realize I don’t know how to do this, and have never written the first article about anything? Maybe you should talk with my high school English teacher. She would explain my abilities, or lack thereof, in a way that would make you give up on this notion of my writing a book—about your wisdom and power. God, you do realize I don’t even have a website or Facebook page, right? We are talking no platform: zero followers. I’m a nobody. Who wants to know what I know about your power?” Well, let’s just say He wouldn’t take no for an answer. You see, if He had given all we are going to learn to those three great servants of God, you may have read this book but you would have mentally assumed God shows up in power for great men and women of faith. But this book is proof God shows up and reveals Himself to an ordinary girl who asks. And He will do the same for you. I have no confidence in me, and if I listen to all the professionals who tell me what I need to be successful or useful to the Kingdom, I’d have given up long ago. But I have all confidence in Him. So I’m stepping out in obedience. And it doesn’t matter if I only sell ten books to devoted family members or never figure out how to activate a website. My role, and yours, is obedience. Just do what the Master tells you to do, and trust Him to do as He pleases with your five loaves and two fishes.

Take my word on this. It isn’t going to be anything you might come up with on your own: that doable feat, the safe road. It’s going to require you launch out into the deep and do things in a different way than conventional wisdom dictates. You will have to do what He tells you to do, no matter what anyone else says. The crowds mocked Noah, Isaac questioned Abraham’s sacrifice, Gideon’s army dwindled, the fisherman doubted Jesus’ instructions, the brothers thought they had gotten rid of Joseph, the three Israelite children chose to eat vegetables, and the Jewish leaders thought they had killed and buried Jesus. Oh, but then we see wisdom, the plan and power of God: His way, not ours. His track record is pretty good in the book I’ve been studying, so let’s keep moving forward.

I have experienced many trials: the loss of a child, financial stress, loss of a job, and cancer. The first time the trials came, I tentatively placed my hand in His and fixed my eyes on Him with a young but trusting heart. Now, when the winds blow, I can be still, even rest, knowing He is faithful. Only through the fire was my faith increased and refined so I can experience peace while I wait for the storms of life to pass. I can now sleep while He flies the plane. I can now get out of the boat in deep waters and come when He calls, even if it looks like foolishness to man. I trust Him. God is calling you to a place where you trust Him completely, no matter where He leads. Don’t be afraid. Don’t turn back. I can assure you He’s faithful.

Clearly in our daily life trials, we must ask God for wisdom, patiently expecting His clear direction. We must not begin to waiver or question God. We should not fear when the trials come, doubting His presence and deliverance, lest we become double-minded. Questioning God’s will obviously leaves man in a state of confusion and wanting. And we know our God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). Instead, we should embrace each trial, pursue each road we are asked to travel, look for His teachings, seek His ways, and ask for His wisdom while we patiently wait for His answers. I Thessalonians 5:18 admonishes us, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” James takes it to the next level and tells us to rejoice in the trials. That’s right, each trial, each test, is allowed in your life by your Heavenly Father to teach you all things so you will be lacking nothing. He has His eyes firmly fixed on His desired end for you: conformity to the image of His Son. He has plans for you and wants to use you for His glory. So rejoice and get excited when the winds blow. God is working in you and on your behalf. Could it be we move His heart when we actually thank Him for the trial?

Likewise, when we ask for His wisdom and help, we need to ask in faith, knowing He has promised to give us wisdom from His abundant storehouse. We need to remember He is as anxious to answer our pleas as He was to hear and free the Israelites or to join Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. He is putting together an amazing plan to lead us to the place where He wants us to dwell, even if right now you seem to be in a pit. Joseph couldn’t see the plan from the pit, but God had it all worked out. Indeed, just like the journey the Israelites had to take, we learn from Jesus’ brother’s own words that while the path to wisdom may include a few obstacles, we can still experience the abundant life: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2). It’s hard to rejoice in the fire or a pit. But your faith is in the power of God: THE POWER OF GOD. God’s wisdom says, trust Him, not your circumstances. So call a prayer meeting and start praising like the apostles in prison. Remember not to fear when the walls begin to quake. He can use you right where you are. He can, and WILL, deliver you for usefulness in the Kingdom.

Certainly God wants us to hang our hats on His promise in James 1:5. Doubting He will give us wisdom when experiencing the testing of our faith, we fall into unbelief and Hebrews 11:6 states, “And it is impossible to please God without faith.” Make no mistake, He assures us we will not be given anything if we lose faith. The reason for the testing is to try, indeed strengthen, our faith. Surely if Abraham trusted God with his own son’s life, we can trust Him in our trials to provide the wisdom we need. He will not leave you in the trial. He will go through the trial with you. He is going to bring you out on the other side. He is always true to His Word, and He has promised you wisdom, abundant wisdom, if you ask, nothing wavering.

WHY SHOULD YOU TAKE THE JOURNEY THROUGH TRIALS TO THE PRIZE—WISDOM?

When I read about the trials or testing we may encounter on life’s journey toward wisdom, it makes me pause and question whether or not it is worth it. I’m reminded of the verse in Matthew 7:14 (KJV) where God says, “. . .strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.” One of our pastors explained it this way: the gates to eternal life in heaven or to eternal life in hell are the same size, but the way to eternal life with Him is filled with obstacles, those perfecting trials and testings. These obstacles block the view of His light and the glory He has prepared for us. They make the path sometimes dark, difficult to navigate, and block our view of the destination.

When we look at the way of the world, there seems to be nothing but good things on the path: certainly no obstacles, an obvious choice. He explained, those on the broad path leading to destruction are not aware they are on the path to destruction. They just journey on toward the things of this world until they find themselves at the end of their lives with nothing; they have exchanged their souls for the pleasures of this world that lasted but for a season.

He who knows the end from the beginning says to Israel, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). I can assure you He has thoughts of peace toward us as His children, not thoughts of evil, and He desires to give us an expected end: hope and a future. That future is an eternal reign with Him. The end of the broad and easy road leads to everlasting destruction and damnation. Choose wisdom, choose His trials or testing, and choose the narrow road because you have an expected end and a future. Though the road may have a few obstacles to overcome, you will grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, and fellowship in His sufferings, along the way. You’ll find peace and not evil on your journey, and glory and victory at life’s end. It will be an abundant life filled with the good gifts reserved for you by your Heavenly Father, not the temporal, elusive, unsatisfying gifts the world has to offer.

Both Proverbs 16:25 and Proverbs 14:12 clearly point to the fact there are two paths, and the road we travel is our choice. Are you ready to take the journey to wisdom even if it means you must travel down a narrow road and encounter a few tests on the way? Remember this obstacle-filled journey will have a perfecting work in you. If so, all you have to do is ASK. But, don’t ask wavering. Ask believing, knowing though you may walk through the trial, He will be with you, and will bring you through. Regardless of His plan for deliverance, when you find yourself in a test, just remember to look for Him, thank Him for it, ask for His wisdom, and then trust He will bring you safely through. One thing you can be very sure of is that He will be with you, for He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 23:4).

“Oh, God, may my faith in the face of testing bring me peace and faith in your great promise of wisdom. And may my faith bring you great joy and glory.”

 

[1] Wikepedia.org/wiki/faith, July 2014

THE WISDOM OF GOD, PART II-A; The Promise of Wisdom

light-bulb-376922_1920 James 1:2-8: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Today we are going to continue laying a firm foundation. We want to set these principles of wisdom in concrete so 1) we never doubt that it is available to us and 2) we understand our part in obtaining wisdom. Remember, the bells and whistles are still to come, so dig in with me this week. Yes, it’s a little long, but it’s an easy read and it will affirm the premises upon which we are going to build our house of wisdom.

James 1 provides answers to the basic questions about God’s wisdom and how we obtain it.

WHO CAN BE WISE?

I’m especially taken with the words all men translated from the King James Version (KJV) of James 1:5, because these words indicate God is not a respecter of persons when it comes to giving His wisdom. You do not have to be rich, famous, a world leader, or even a minister or evangelist. “All men” provides a level playing field. Imagine: God wants to give us His wisdom. He clearly didn’t say, “Pastors/teachers, ask and ye shall receive.” Thus, we can conclude He is willing to give His wisdom to average you and average me. We don’t need to wait for Sunday morning services and hope the minister shares a little wisdom we can chew on this week. You and I can delve into the pages of God’s Word knowing He has wisdom available for us: the exact right wisdom we each need today. And, He has given us the Holy Spirit who will help us understand how to apply wisdom to our present circumstances.

IS THERE A PARTICULAR HEART ATTITUDE NECESSARY?

First, you have to know you need help. Many times a particular trial or test will open our eyes to the fact we don’t have all the answers: our ways are not God’s way. The simple act of turning to our generous God and asking for His help places us in a unique, and absolutely necessary position: HUMILITY. Is it any wonder He says in I Peter 5:6: “So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor?” Simply asking God for His help and His wisdom indicates you understand without Him, you will fail. It is at this point of humility you seek His plan for your total success (Jeremiah 29:11). Oh, He just loves to show Himself mighty on our behalf. He is our Mighty God, always there when we turn and ask for His help. He is able to fix the most difficult things (Romans 8:28). Paul proclaims God’s power is perfected in our weakness (II Corinthians 12:9). And as I age, I’m ever more aware of my weakness.

Solomon asked God for wisdom (II Chronicles 1:10). Even though he had been anointed as king (which carries with it the power of God), he recognized his limitations and needs, and humbled himself before an Almighty God. He faced the fact he did not have all the answers and needed God’s help—He needed God’s wisdom as well as His power. In the Old Testament, kings were anointed with power and priests were anointed with wisdom. Solomon’s request caught God’s attention because He was asking God to grant Him an anointing of both power and wisdom. So God stopped and took inventory of Solomon’s heart before granting such a big gift to a mere mortal. God said He saw Solomon did not ask from a heart of greed, pride, or vindictiveness. He desired to do well the task God had given him; he asked for the ability to judge his people wisely. (Note that before you can judge wisely you have to be able to see hearts; e.g., the story of the baby with two professed mothers).

And, true to His word, God gave Solomon abundant wisdom. Scripture tells us God made him so wise his reputation spread far and wide; and indeed, his fame and reputation has extended through the centuries.

God saw Solomon had not asked for riches, honor, or anything for himself. He had humbly and unselfishly requested knowledge and wisdom so he could make wise judgments for the people; he wanted to be successful at the job God had placed before Him. Certainly, his heart was not wavering in this request. And upon close examination, God saw his request came from a pure heart of concern, care, and responsibility for others. And, oh, how God honored his request from his pure heart; and He blessed Solomon. God gave Solomon over and above what he had asked God to give him. He didn’t ask to be revered as a wise man. He didn’t ask for riches or honor. He asked for a wise and understanding heart. Oh, how our God loves to abundantly give good things to His children. Our loving God likewise wants to LAVISH us with His many great gifts when our hearts are pleasing to Him (I John 3:1). May our humble cry before Him be, “Oh, God, grant me a wise and understanding heart.”

HOW MUCH IS AVAILABLE FOR US?

He promises to liberally (James 1:5 KJV) give us wisdom. What a wonderful promise. In fact, wisdom is the only thing He promised to give us liberally. If you ask for wisdom as instructed, He is prepared to make good on His end of the deal. He won’t dole out a little wisdom here and a little wisdom there. He will shower, indeed shovel, wisdom on us: liberally and generously. And, I believe God’s definition of liberal far exceeds our limited comprehension. In fact, as we continue our study, I think you will be astonished at how liberally He provided, indeed poured out, wisdom for us. Though it cost Him everything, He has kept this promise. Talk about faithfulness to His Word: He has held nothing back with this promise. God wants us to be wise.

WHERE DOES WISDOM COME FROM?

In James 1:5, our key verse for this chapter, we learn God gives wisdom. Wisdom isn’t something we purchase, earn, inherit, or manufacture. True wisdom comes only from God. Paul implies the same principle in Ephesians 1:17 “. . . asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. . .” In fact, in studying wisdom, I cannot find one instance of man obtaining God’s wisdom apart from God determining to give it to him. Please make note in the case of Solomon, He gave him wisdom after a close examination of his heart (II Chronicles 1:11). I repeat this because it is a key finding that will further manifest itself as we continue our study.

I think it also noteworthy God did not promise us knowledge. Why? Knowledge was made available to us in the pages of God’s Word. It is yours for the seeking. In Proverbs 1, we are admonished regarding our role in seeking knowledge.

It is also important to point out, while God has provided knowledge in His Word, He has also provided us with understanding through the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will lead us into all truth and righteousness (John 16:13). Note there is a difference between the testing God allows in our lives (to refine us and enlarge our wisdom) and the difficult circumstances we fall into when we turn away from His teachings and reproofs. In which circumstance does He promise to be faithful and bring us out safely on the other side? When does wisdom laugh at our calamity? Remember, God is looking at our hearts and knows our attitudes toward Him and His truth; and, He rewards accordingly. I don’t know about you, but I want Him listening when I call on Him in a trial. I want James 5:16 to define my prayer line to God. When I call, I want Proverbs 15:8 to ensure my ring into heaven is a delight for Him to hear so He picks up on the first ring.

DOES GOD MIND WHEN WE CALL ON HIM?

James says He will not rebuke us. This means God doesn’t mind when we call on Him with our requests, and He won’t scold or fault us. When I realize the greatness of God’s power and wisdom, I sometimes wonder if He is bothered by my frailties. When I need wisdom, do I frustrate Him when I ask for His help? Praise God, the answer is NO. He may be the King of the Universe, but I am His child. I never tired of helping my children when they needed me. And our Heavenly Father is always there to guide and teach, continuously working in my life, ensuring I will grow up to be like Him. Praise God He is willing to keep working on me until He conforms me to His image. Now don’t confuse God’s loving, guiding heart with His (Wisdom’s) response when we intentionally seek our own ways. If we snub our nose at the instruction of wisdom (Proverbs 1:24-33), we will find ourselves in distress. The difference is whether we come asking for His help in humility as we walk day-by-day, or whether we come before Him from a position of panic because we have sought our own way while we listened to the world, crowding out His voice of wisdom as He called to us.

WHEN IS IT AVAILABLE TO YOU?

In the KJV, the verb is interpreted “shall be given.” It is a present perfect form of the verb implying we will definitely receive wisdom now, and it will be ongoing into the future. Sounds to me like we will definitely receive it when we ask, and it will be available for us when we need it in the future. I like this kind of verb when it is associated with one of God’s promises. It means I can’t use up His promise card. This promise will be just as fresh and good tomorrow as it is today.

HOW DO WE GET IT?

Do we bury ourselves in the Word of God, studying hour after hour? This tiresome effort (Ecclesiastes 12:12) will provide you with knowledge (a critical step in changing our hearts toward wisdom) and principles of wisdom, but it will not give you wisdom. Wisdom requires the application of knowledge–DOING. Remember God grants/gives wisdom. Our key verse confirms the answer. Asking is the essential step to gaining wisdom: you have to ASK GOD FOR WISDOM. He’s waiting. Take time out now to personally ask God for His wisdom in your life.

James, the brother of our Lord, had grown up with wisdom as his playmate and companion. Don’t you find it interesting he is the one who says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you?” He even promises when we face a trial and find we need wisdom, we can ask Him, and He won’t scold or fault us for not having the answers and needing to come ask Him. What a great promise. I wonder if James would get into trouble and need to ask his big brother, Jesus, for direction and wisdom. Apparently so, because he obviously seems to have some experience with the no rebuking aspect of asking.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS PROMISE?

Has He ever failed to keep a promise? Has He ever been unfaithful to His Word? Try as I might, I cannot think of one instance where His Word and promises have not proven to be completely true. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

He’s been faithful, ever so faithful, for generations, unwilling to allow failure in our lives. He doesn’t want the trials to overtake you. I can assure you He is not going to lose His reputation of faithfulness by recanting His promises when it comes to you and your request for wisdom. There was no exception clause in this promise excluding ordinary people like you and me. You can rest assured He will indeed prove faithful to you—He says He will give you wisdom and He desires your prosperity. He gives clear instructions in Joshua 1:7-9 and Psalm 1 so we can prosper.

 

The Principles of God’s Wisdom–Part 1 (The Basics)

light-bulb-376922_1920If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (James 1:5).

My husband and I recently built our downsized retirement home. Maybe I should qualify that further: we watched our builder and his subs build our home. First, there was a beautiful plan that caught our imagination. Secondly, there was a well-thought-out process that began with clearing the land, running power and water/sewer lines, and laying the foundation. Apparently, you can’t just have them deliver and install the roof if you haven’t laid a foundation and don’t have the walls up. Many times it seemed things were going slowly. It was tedious to wait for the installation of the plumbing and electrical. Progress seemed to move at a glacial speed. And then there were the inspections, which seemed to cause delays. From my anxious vantage point, it didn’t appear as if anything was happening. The superintendent assured me there would be a day they would install all the bells and whistles that would delight me. But if we wanted a complete, safe, and beautiful home to move into, all of these steps were necessary.

As we begin to build an understanding of God’s omniscience (His wisdom), we need to take a similar approach. So in the next couple of weeks let’s focus on the basics; we’ll consider we are laying a foundation for wisdom. We’ll get to all the bells and whistles before we end our study, and you will see how everything you have ever desired is at your disposal. This will take some time and a layering of knowledge. So once again, let’s dig in as we begin our study of the first of God’s Powers: Wisdom.

THE DEFINITION OF WISDOM

Exactly WHAT is wisdom? In an article published online by Precious Seed International,[1] Brian Clatworthy states, “The Hebrew word for wisdom, hokmah, is used in the Old Testament to refer to ‘knowledge coupled with an inner quality that embodies a heart and life in conformity with the purposes and character of God,’ Prov. 1.2-6.1. Wisdom is not simply a theoretical concept or an intellectual pursuit, but underpins an individual’s behavior and conduct. As Whybray” (a Biblical scholar and specialist in Hebrew studies) “states on the book of Proverbs, ‘But in Proverbs hokmah is always life-skill: the ability of the individual to conduct his life in the best possible way and to the best possible effect.’”

How does the definition of wisdom as life skill—underpinned by our behavior and conduct—affect your thinking about wisdom?

We can all agree wisdom is more than common sense. Wikipedia’s definition[2] describes wisdom as “the judicious application of knowledge.” Thus, one could construe man’s definition of wisdom is “doing what one knows is the right thing to do.” Likewise, Godly wisdom is more than a head-knowledge of the Word of God; it is at least fundamentally the application of the knowledge of God and His principles and laws. Wisdom isn’t about knowing; it’s about skillful doing. Wisdom requires ACTION. But more importantly, wisdom implies the requirement for choosing the right action. A wise person would be skilled at life. We would recognize him or her by his/her behavior.

THE BASICS OF WISDOM

From these precepts, we might begin to assume God’s definition for wisdom would require at least three fundamental building blocks relative to God’s granting true wisdom:

  1. Knowledge/Understanding of The Word and Laws of God:

Fundamental to wisdom is a foundational knowledge of the laws of God. Long ago, man realized knowledge lays a firm foundation for success and prosperity. Unfortunately, many have limited their pursuits to man’s knowledge. But we have come to the place where we know that is not enough. We are seeking the power of God’s wisdom to ignite our lives. God’s laws and principles of wisdom pave the path to success (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1). If we (or our children) do not know the Word of God, His basic laws, and the principles of God, how can we (or they) be expected to apply them? Make no mistake, ignorance is no excuse.

  1. Knowledge/Understanding of the Will of God:

Have you ever wished you could know God’s mind, so you would know what you should do in an uncertain circumstance? These moments in life make us desire to have all wisdom at our disposal. We realize knowing the difference between right and wrong, and being willing to do the right thing, still may not reveal the next right step. Sometimes two or more steps are not wrong. So which path is God’s will? In these times we call on Him to order our steps so not even one step will slide (Psalm 37:31). We cry out for wisdom. When you cannot see your next step and He can, you need His leading. At these pivotal decision points, God instructs us to be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10). He will indeed reveal His path if we just wait (Isaiah 40:31). The ability to discern the will of God is fundamental to our desire for wisdom: the “doing” or “application of knowledge.”

I want to point out that the will of God may not always feel good. We cannot rely on our feelings to discern God’s will. We must rely on His Word. For example: when Christ died on the cross, it wasn’t an occasion that made observers feel good. If we had stood beside Mary and the disciples, we might have cried out, “This surely is not wisdom.” Jesus had been trying to tell His disciples of the plan, but they did not understand; they even resisted the teaching that He must die. But, as heart wrenching as this scene was for them and the Father, it was indeed God’s will: wisdom. It was His perfect plan for our redemption and our salvation. He was not willing any should perish. God’s plan, God’s will, God’s wisdom—sometimes the hard choice leads to the right end.

We also have to understand the purpose of God’s work in our life: He wants to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This conforming process helps us realize His work is not necessarily instantaneous and our path may not always be an easy one.

  1. Application of God’s Principles:

Application seems to be one of the real difficulties. Let’s just suppose we have managed to gain all knowledge, and we even know the will of God. That alone will not make us wise. The possession of knowledge is not wisdom. Remember our definition? Wisdom involves action; wisdom is knowledge in action.

Let’s look at Jonah. He knew the right thing to do and understood the will of God. He had clearly been given a mandate to go to Nineveh. He wasn’t in a quandary at all as to the will of God. Unfortunately, he did not choose to order his steps accordingly. This was a very unwise move on his part. Wisdom is not merely knowing the right thing to do; it is skillfully and consistently choosing to apply knowledge to one’s actions, so you actually choose to do the right thing.

Just like Jonah, I struggle with this concept in every area of my life. For example, I know, and indeed understand, I should exercise, eat a balanced diet, and drink plenty of water every day. However, applying this knowledge and understanding to my choices—well, you see the difficulty. And like Jonah, there are consequences for poor choices.

Once we have a basic knowledge of the Word, have obtained understanding (of the Holy One’s desires, ways, and indeed His will), then it is our CHOICE what we will do with knowledge and understanding. Will we choose His way? Will we allow God to order our steps? Will we choose to be wise, to act wisely?

Pursuing wisdom on your own can be quite difficult. Certainly you would need a tremendous portion of self-discipline. Having someone hold you accountable to Scripture, truth, and knowledge would be a helpful resource. Thus, God’s Word advises, “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). This truth has several applications, but it certainly applies to someone seeking wisdom. We are prone to lean on our own understanding, will, and emotions. A key step in a pursuit of wisdom might include a personal cabinet of strong men and women of the Word, people you empower to hold you accountable when you face key decisions. Even presidents don’t pretend to know everything. Their first act, even before taking office, is to appoint a cabinet of wise counselors. Who is on your cabinet of wisdom advisors?

TYPES OF WISDOM

There are three types of wisdom:

  1. General Wisdom: Wisdom is all around us and cries out to us (Proverbs 1:20). Solomon admonishes us to get/take hold of this wisdom. Some might call this wisdom common sense or common knowledge. I think of things like the law of gravity, mathematics, science principles, and grammar—the things we learn in school—man’s wisdom. Don’t minimize this type of wisdom. It is fundamental to building a firm foundation in life.
  2. Generational Wisdom: Solomon displays generational wisdom as he teaches his son what he had learned from his life experiences. Fathers strive to pass great wisdom nuggets to their children (Proverbs 4). This type of wisdom falls into the category of instruction in wisdom referenced in Proverbs 1. This is a second type of wisdom and God instructs us to get it. I think of these nuggets as character development; e.g., honesty, trustworthiness, hard working, avoidance of evil, etc. It typically requires listening.
  3. God’s Wisdom. God’s wisdom is without measure and only comes to us as a gift from Him (James 1:5). It is only given by Him. God’s gift of wisdom is reserved for those judged righteous and pleasing before Him (Prov. 2:7). This is the wisdom we are seeking in our study together.

God tells us our role in obtaining general and generational wisdom is to seek it and to be sure we get it (Prov. 4). However, we must recognize only God grants His wisdom. The first two types of wisdom will certainly add good things to our lives; but, if we want our lives to shine radiantly, we have to set our sights on God’s wisdom. We’ll learn more about what moves Him to give us His wisdom as we continue on. 

TOOLS OF WISDOM

In Proverbs 1 we find the seven tools of wisdom. These tools will assist us as we seek the right thing to do. This would be a good list to put in the back of your Bible. When faced with a decision, apply these tools to find wisdom.

  1. Perception of understanding—the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses[3]
  2. Instruction of wisdom—detailed information telling how something should be done, operated or assembled[4]
  3. Justice—the legal or philosophical theory by which fairness is administered[5]
  4. Judgment—the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions[6]
  5. Equity—something that is fair and just[7]
  6. Subtlety—this word has a lot of relevant meanings. In essence it is denoting someone who moves delicately, with refinement, gentleness, and without a lot of fanfare
  7. Discretion—the art of suiting action to particular circumstances.[8]

We have learned that wisdom is skillful, right doing. In these next few weeks we are going to delve deeper into how this is accomplished. Our goal for this study is that you understand how to become skilled at life. Certainly the book of Proverbs offers a lot of good advice for skillful living and should be read faithfully. There are, however, some principles we want to explore to help us understand what God expects from us and to show us how to build/lay a foundation upon which we can build wisdom for our life.

[1] Brian Clatworthy, Newton, Devon, England, Precious Seed, April 2016

[2] Wikipedia.org/wiki/wisdom, July, 2014.

[3] www.wikipedia.org/perception

[4] www.wikipedia.org/instruction

[5] www.wikipedia.org/justice

[6] www.wikipedia.org/judgment

[7] www.wikipedia.org/equity

[8] www.wikipedia.org/discretion

UNDERSTANDING GOD–Our Power Source–Part III

light-bulb-376922_1920

GOD HAS CHOSEN TO WORK THROUGH US

We learned God has three super powers: omniscience (wisdom), omnipotence (might), and omnipresence (ever-present). So it’s pretty obvious that with these three superpowers, He could do anything He wanted to do at any time. But here’s an interesting fact: God has chosen to work through you and me. Now I’m not implying He is not present and working in this world, but when it comes to building the kingdom of God, He’s given us the keys. You’ll recall in Matthew 16:19 Jesus gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven because of Peter’s statement that He believed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Likewise, as fellow believers, we have been given kingdom work to do. Fortunately, He also intended for us to have His power to accomplish the work before us.

WE ARE EACH UNIQUE

It is a great encouragement that God’s plan (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 37:3-7) is to give us an abundant and radiant life and His powers are available to accomplish His will. But the life He plans for me will no doubt be completely different from the one He has chosen for you. He will reveal different aspects and attributes of His character, wisdom, and power to each of us in different settings and through unique circumstances. For example, Jesus not only taught the disciples as a group, but also taught each individually, providing unique experiences and interactions with Him based on what He felt they needed and the plan He had to use them for Kingdom purposes.

OUR PURPOSE IS TO REFLECT HIS RADIANCE

He will likewise deal with each of us. It is the reflection of what He uniquely shines into each of our lives that we in turn reflect to the world. Thus each and every one of us is a refreshing and vibrant reflection of Him. We are not the Light but have been commanded to reflect His light to the world, so others might see Him (John 1). Like the moon, we have no light of our own. Any light we have will come from Him: He is our source of light, our power.

Considering this reflecting privilege reminds me of a stained glass window with so many colors and various shaped pieces. If you sit beside me in a sanctuary at night, it would be hard to discern what the twelve stained glass windows portray. They appear dark and grey. Yet when the sunlight illuminates the various sized and brightly colored pieces of glass, the pictures of Christ take your breath away.

My piece may be dark blue and oddly shaped. Yours might be green and a perfect oval. He may use me to reveal His power and you to reveal His mercy or love. We are each a unique piece and may be parts of different pictures of His attributes and perfections, but our purpose is the same: to let others see Him through us. As you search for truth, His Spirit will reveal wisdom and provide power for your very personal story and journey. Then, as each of our lives reflects His Light to the world, together we provide a beautiful and complete picture so the world can see Him in ALL His beauty and majesty. May our reflections of Him take their breath away, as the sun streaming through the stained glass windows do for me each time I see them. Oh, that the world may stand in awe of our glorious Savior.

GOD’S POWERS MUST WORK TOGETHER

As beautiful as it would be to paint a complete picture of who God is, there is no way we can tackle the will, qualities, perfections, and the powers of God in this study. So we are going to focus our attention on His three super powers. At a minimum it should take at least three studies to tackle these very big subjects, but it is impossible to understand the powers of God as separate and distinct from one another. They work in tandem; they are inseparable. So, yes, we are going to tackle all three of them and see how and why they work together to reveal and execute His plan to light and power our lives.

As we begin our study, let’s first agree with Packer that God has three distinct powers: His omniscience (His wisdom), His omnipotence (His might), and His omnipresence (His presence). We will focus our study on these three distinct elements of His power.

Let’s first try to imagine His powers separate from one another. Suppose you need God’s help today and call upon Him. He shows up because He’s omnipresent, but He left His wisdom and might back in heaven. He could empathize with and comfort you, but He wouldn’t know what to do to help you. And, He would not be able to access His power to fix your problem (Romans 8:28). I don’t know about you, but I can call on friends for empathy. But when I call on God, I want Him to show up with His wisdom and might. I need Him to do what I cannot do.

Likewise, if He knew all about your problem and knew the solution, but wasn’t around to do anything about it, and didn’t have any power to do what He knew was best, what good would omniscience be?

And can you imagine Him having power to intervene in your life, but He hadn’t been around to see personally what was happening and how your struggle was affecting you? Worst of all, He might do something, but without wisdom would it be the right thing for Him to do? Would His actions actually be fixing things or making them worse?

We need to dwell in God’s wisdom, His might, and His presence if we are going to effectively experience His power(s) at work in our lives.

Now I must admit there have been times I wanted God to show up with His might and use my wisdom, because, like the disciples in the storm, I had a preconceived notion of the right course of action and a vision of how things should turn out. But praise God, He is patient and kind. He has taught me His ways are not my ways; they are ever so much better (Isaiah 55:8-9). When He works, His work is a complete work (Phil. 1:6). And it will never cease to amaze me that He has chosen to work through you and me (I Cor. 1:27). But get ready: when you unleash all that He is and all of His powers to work in your life, you should probably buckle your seatbelt.

GOD USES THE MEEK TO ASTOUND THE WISE

We recently saw the movie Risen. As I watched the disciples, their humanity struck me like never before. There in fine robes were the members of the Sanhedrin. And, the Roman soldiers rode through the dusty streets on magnificent horses, resplendent in their armor, with mighty swords by their sides–the perfect picture of might. But when Jesus chose His twelve, He looked past those who looked the part of wisdom and power. Instead, He chose some very common-looking, drably dressed, cowering, confused, and afraid men to tell His story to the world through all the ensuing generations. They were ordinary men by anyone’s standards. And for most of their journey with Christ, they had not a clue what God wanted to do through them. Yet, when His Spirit fell upon them, they were empowered and became unstoppable. The light He shone through them has transformed the world.

GOD’S POWERS FUEL OUR GOD-GIVEN PURPOSE

This encourages me because He apparently didn’t give up on the disciples. He kept working with them until they got it. Then He used them to set the world on fire for Him. What has God chosen to do through you by the presence of His Spirit, through His wisdom and might? Underline and highlight this question; write it on the first page of your notebook. Hold onto and ponder this question. Ask God to reveal the answer to you before you finish this study with me. We are not going to focus on finding our God-given purpose because Rick Warren has done a magnificent job of this in his book “The Purpose Driven Life.” I highly recommend you read or reread it as we need to be ever mindful of His plan and purpose for our life as we seek to understand His power(s) available to us to fulfill our God-given purpose.

The more we learn about how He works, the more confidence we will have in Him and what He is doing in and through us. So let’s take an in-depth look at His wisdom, His might, and His presence. Let’s try to understand how God wants to use all that He is, through you and me, to impact the Kingdom for eternity.

I’ve organized the study into three sections for obvious reasons: His omniscience (wisdom), His omnipotence (might) and His omnipresence (presence). Since they work together it will be hard to separate them, so don’t assume I can’t stick to an outline if they seem to be intertwined at times. Be assured we will learn something unique and new about each of these attributes of God’s power. We will seek the key to activating each of the powers of God in our lives.

Join me again next week as we delve into His wisdom.

Understanding God–Our Power Source: Part II

light-bulb-376922_1920I wrote Part I over a year ago fully expecting to write Part II the next week. . .then life happened. Let’s just say the enemy doesn’t want me to share with you who God really is because if we all learn how to tap into His power, it’s going to unleash us on this old world to make a difference for eternity’s sake. So I apologize. I was sidelined, but not cast down. Let’s keep digging in.

If we want to experience His power, we first have to understand it. For example, you can have the prettiest lamp and the best bulb around but if you don’t screw the bulb in and actually plug in the lamp, they won’t work. Now I’m not suggesting you have to know everything about electricity to make it work; you’ll never know everything about God either. But we can understand Him enough to have the confidence we need, and an understanding of how to plug into His power.

So let’s tackle a little theology. Don’t fret–I know that sounds lofty, but I’m a common, ordinary housewife so we aren’t going to lose anyone here. Theology is just a fancy name for the study of God. We can handle a little of that together.

In his book, “Knowing God,” J. I. Packer describes the attributes of God, dividing them into three subsets:

  • QUALITIES (the things that mark the difference between the Creator and His creation): His self-existence, His infinity, His eternity, and His unchangeableness.
  • PERFECTIONS (aspects of His moral character manifested in both His words and deeds): His holiness, His love and mercy,His truthfulness and faithfulness, His patience and justice, His goodness and grace. You and I may have some of these attributes present in our life but He has them to perfection.
  • POWERS: His omniscience (wisdom), His omnipresence (presence–God with us), and His omnipotence (His might). Let’s call these God’s super powers.

To this list I’m going to add another important aspect of who God is:

  •  WILL:  He uses all of the first three attributes to accomplish His will.

So let’s look at this in chart form (visuals always help me and we want to see God).

**Note that God’s will, qualities, and perfections influence the way He uses His powers. Those three powers are intertwined for a reason: they can’t exist apart from one another. Think about it: if God showed up today to help you with a problem but only brought his wisdom (no power), what good would that be? He might empathize with you but He wouldn’t be able to do anything about your situation. Likewise if He showed up with His power but forgot to bring His wisdom, He might do something but would it be the right thing? And face it, if He doesn’t show up, there’s just no way His power and wisdom are hanging out with you today. His super powers come as a package deal.

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So many times we are satisfied to stand in awe of who He is and what He has created or to simply dwell in His presence–we just choose to hang out on one of those circles. None of those things are wrong, but it’s not what we were created to do. We were created for a kingdom purpose; He has work for us to do. It is our goal to live and walk in the center of His will–which means we must be in the very center of His three powers. Yes, God intends for us to have His powers available to us for each and every step we take.

Think of the lame man Peter and John told to rise, take up his bed and walk. He’d never used those leg muscles once in his life, so no doubt he didn’t have the strength or ability in his legs and feet to walk. . .even babies need time to learn to balance and walk. But the Word tells us he leapt to His feet–God’s healing includes giving us the strength we need even though we’ve been sidelined for a long time. It was time for this young man to accomplish his purpose. Likewise, when God tells you it’s time to rise up and walk in His power, you’ll have everything you need to accomplish the task you’ve been assigned.

When God chooses to use His power(s), His will, qualities, and perfections both advise and constrain any action. As His is an eternal nature, He is interested in His long-term goal: He is not willing any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). Christ demonstrated this when He chose to endure the cross for you and me for the glory that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:12). Even though He was mocked, scoffed, and crucified, He didn’t use His power to call a legion of angels to rescue Him nor did He deny the Father for selfish gain when tempted in the desert. His actions were determined by His eternalness, unchanging will, love, mercy, grace, and omniscience. God cannot separate His powers from who He is; He embodies His qualities and perfections in every action. Furthermore, God uses all of His qualities, perfections, and powers to accomplish His will. This is why it is so important we pray within His will, for He alone is sovereign, just, and the embodiment of love. Our plans are finite and flawed; His actions are pure and perfect.

As I look at this chart I realize God has all the power He needs to accomplish His will. It’s then I fall on my knees because He has chosen to do His work through me. . .and you. When He told Peter He was giving Him the keys to the kingdom He was entrusting the work that needed to be done to Peter (and likewise to us who believe He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God), to do His work. What an awesome and yet terrifying thought. Me?He trusts me/you? His answer is yes; He works through you and me. See why it is an imperative that we understand and tap into His power(s)?

Come back–we’ll tackle His each of His three super powers so we know what they are, how they work, and how to plug into them.

Understanding God–our Power Source (Part I)

If God is your partner, make your plans BIG!—D.L. Moody

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Carrie Underwood’s song, Jesus Take the Wheel, topped the charts. Why did these lyrics strike a chord with listeners? Could it be because we want to believe when the going gets tough, we can turn things over to a higher power to rescue us? If God is so wise and powerful, why do we ask Him to sit in the passenger seat while we drive? Why do we wait until we can’t handle things to ask Him to take the wheel?

When confronted with impending peril, it has been reported both the faithful and faithless cry out to God, hoping for a manifestation of His power. Certainly this was the case with the disciples in the storm. We are going to look at them off and on in our study. Here I want to point out that Jesus (all power) was on board. They didn’t wake Him and ask Him to steer. They woke Him because they were irritated they were struggling and He was sleeping. They wanted Him to get up and help them with their plan: bailing water. Of course, we know how the story goes: His ways and plans were just nothing like theirs. He simply spoke and stopped the wind and waves, and they sailed safely to shore. I can picture Him wiping His hands, saying, “Done!” as they stood in amazement. The Bible actually records that they were virtually scared to death. Who was this man who commanded the elements? Get ready. If you ask Him to show up with His power, the outcome won’t be anything you had in mind. You are going to be overwhelmingly amazed at His power at work in you. Like Peter, when He bids you to come in His power, you’ll walk on water.

As we get started, use your notebook and let’s tackle some hard questions (you can be honest because only God and you will know what you write down):

  • When do you cry out for God to show up in your life?
  • Do you wait for a crisis or walk so closely with Him that there is an easy expectation He is ready to work on your behalf?
  • Is the essence of your prayer time a recitation of all the things you want God to do for you, preferably with the outcome you have envisioned?
  • Do you ask God to help you with your plans or do you seek to have Him fulfill His plan for your life?
  • Does letting go of your plans for His purpose scare you?
  • Do you seek and actually expect to see God’s power in your daily life?

Unfortunately, most of us tackle each day in our own strength. We set goals we feel we can reach if we apply ourselves. We tackle problems for which we either know or feel we can find the answer. Unfortunately, we are happy to have God ride along with us, but we prefer to drive: at a safe speed, and on a familiar road.

The safe road certainly has some merit; but as God’s children, we have access to His power. He tells us He can do exceedingly, abundantly more than we even ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). He also says we have not because we don’t ask; and when we do ask, we ask for the wrong purposes (James 4:3). For most of my life, I’m ashamed to admit James described me. Does he describe you, too?

I asked around, “Would you say that you have experienced the power of God in your life?” The majority recited times they had experienced the goodness of God; however, when pressed, they could not say they had personally experienced the power of God. Many could tell stories of seeing the power of God manifested in the lives of others, particularly Bible characters.

One friend shared a moving story of how God had rescued her from an abusive situation. She had felt His presence poignantly, experiencing Him truly rescue her from the jaws of death. Through tears she testified of His power in her life. As she finished her story, she looked up at me and said, “Now that I know He is truly real and have seen His power, I want to experience His presence and power every day. My heart longs to know Him more, to feel His presence, and to experience His power in a sustained way in my life: not because I need rescuing, but because He is working in and through me.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. She just described my longing heart. I’m assuming she described your heart as well. In my work in recovery, I learned the first step is to acknowledge you need help. The second step is to acknowledge God is your source. These actions place you in the exact right spot, a place of humility that prepares you for the change ahead. So in humility before Him is the right place for us to begin this journey: knowing we need His help, knowing our way isn’t working, and trusting Him to show us His way.

If you have experienced the power of God in your life, you don’t want it to be a one-and-done sort of thing. Doing things you know are impossible for you is good, very good. It’s as if you have joined Peter as you walk on deep waters. Your heart begins to pant after Him. I can identify with Paul who was compelled to run the race for the high calling of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:14). When He answered my plea and let me catch a glimpse of His power, He also planted a desire in my heart to know Him fully. He gave me a desire to know Him, to understand His wisdom and His power, and to find a way to live in that sweet spot every day.

As we learned, Jeremiah 29:11 explains God has a plan for our lives and Ephesians 3:20 assures us He is up to any task. Indeed, He is indeed able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine, according to His power that works within us. Have you unleashed the power of God to work in your life? Are you tired of your way and ready to see His plan? If not, why not? Is it because you don’t know how to do so or because you like control? Do you want to sit in the driver’s seat?

Peter, James and John didn’t really understand who Jesus truly was. Then one day, on a mount, He was transfigured right before their eyes. The Apostle Paul also saw Him on the Damascus road. When confronted with the glory of God, none of these men were ever the same. Why did Jesus hold back the veil so they could see Him, His glory, and His power? Seeing Jesus for who He is will change us completely. What about you? Are you ready to see Him work in your life? He says if we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). So spend some time on your knees asking Him, as Moses did, to reveal Himself to you. He answers prayer.

Light takes a power source. Candles need fire, light bulbs and lamps need electricity, a flashlight needs a battery, a gas fireplace needs gas, and fireworks need explosives. Unfortunately, most of us spend our lives assuming we can light up the world all by ourselves if we just work harder or smarter. This is man’s way. As human beings, we might make a name for ourselves in this old world. However, I can tell you from experience, those trophies and certificates lose their luster and make great dust catchers. They are recognition of a job well done from a worldly perspective. They dazzle and distract our attention for a season, but they don’t add up to a radiant life.

If you are looking for ways to obtain worldly accolades, unsubscribe to my blog now. We aren’t seeking an ordinary light. We are seeking light for our lives that is powered by the Almighty, and His ways are not man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8). We want our lives to shine radiantly, like the noonday sun (Psalm 37). We are asking the Great I Am to take this vessel of ours and turn it into something spectacular for His glory.

If you want to activate His power to fuel your life, let’s start with a primer on God’s power for He is our source.  We are going to tackle a little theology. Don’t be frightened: it simply means the study of God. So we’ll start with the basics. I learn and retain information if I can see it visually; you’ll love the chart.

How did I end up writing a book–of all things (Part II)

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If you read Part I, you know as I did that there was a God thing going on. When my company moved out of town, I thought my involvement was over. I wasn’t sure what God was doing. It wasn’t long, however, before I got a call and (long story short) I became the VP of the Greater Richmond Chamber and Executive Director of Workforce One ( a regional workforce development initiative). I held this job for three years and then became a national workforce development consultant to cities and states. To say I was busy would have been an understatement.

In my spiritual life I was never more aware of my need for God’s leading. I’d become enamored with the wisdom of God because I knew that I had knelt in the same spot as Solomon, had asked God for favor, and received it just as He had. WHY? What formula had I somehow magically gotten right? If my prayer that night by my bed moved the hand of God and engaged the power of God, I wanted to stay right there. My ears were pricked if the word wisdom, understanding or knowledge showed up in conversations, a lecture, a sermon–anywhere/anytime. I made scribble notes of verses and quotes and stored them in my PC as soon as I could transcribe them. I also started  noticing the 7’s in the Bible and started recording them.

Then on a very ordinary Wednesday night I showed up in a small room at church to meet with a group of ladies for Bible study. They informed me they didn’t have a teacher but wanted to study Proverbs. AH! Proverbs. Well, it didn’t take long before I was sharing what I’d been learning, so they asked me to teach the class. There was no way I was taking on teaching a class; there just wasn’t time. But I had another idea; I told them of my interests in the book and some further research I wanted to do. They agreed to join my efforts and we became a research team. Each week I’d make assignments and they would come back and share their findings. The Word began to unfold itself right before our eyes and it became the most exciting Bible study I’ve ever done.

Several weeks into this effort, my pastor calls and asks me to come in to see him. Of course, I thought I must be in trouble. He assured me that was not the case. It seems his wife was in our group and came home on Wednesday nights excited about what we were learning. So, he just wanted to hear it from me. With a deep sigh of relief, I began to lay out before him what we had found. He sat back and said, “That’s amazing! Most people think Proverbs is a lot of great, but mostly disconnected, thoughts and sayings. But you have found a framework for it that ties it all together. In fact, I think it is probably a framework for all of Scripture. There’s not much written on Proverbs. I think you should write this book.” I was still breathing a sigh of relief that I hadn’t done anything wrong, but book writing? Well, it just wasn’t anything I had an interest in. And for sure I didn’t have time for something like that; I didn’t even have time to teach this class. So I dismissed his comments.

As I walked into class on Wednesday night the girls were all abuzz about me writing a book. It seems the pastor’s wife had shared his thoughts with them. I tried to quiet their enthusiasm because there just really was no way I was going to write a book. Over the next couple of weeks, they continued to press me about it. We were signed up to attend a women’s conference in Lynchburg, VA. They insisted that we should all pray and ask God to reveal to me at the conference if I should write a book. I assured them we didn’t need a conference or prayer. I wasn’t writing a book. I didn’t know how to write a book, I didn’t want to write a book, I didn’t have time to write a book. But they were not to be discouraged. Finally, I agreed to at least pray with them but warned them that it was going to take an audible voice from God for me to entertain writing a book.

We arrived at conference on Thursday afternoon and had sessions that evening and all day Friday and until noon on Saturday. Each time we gathered they couldn’t wait to ask me if God had shown me anything, and I was just as eager to assure them He had not. When we took our seats in the balcony for the final session, Stormie Omartian was the keynote speaker. We were really looking forward to hearing her. She had ten minutes to answer questions that had been submitted and about 45 minutes to speak. The first question she drew out of the box was, “How did you know God wanted you to write a book?” She began answering the question and about 30 minutes later she was still answering the question. In frustration she threw up her arms and said, “I know you see me looking at my watch. I’m trying to figure out how to stop answering this question and transition to the material I’ve prepared for you today. But I’ve never felt such a pressing of the Spirit of God. I know there is someone sitting in this room whom God is calling to write a book. Maybe you came with your women’s group praying whether or not you should write a book. All I can tell you is that your audible answer from God is YES!”

Well by this time my heart is beating about a thousand beats a minute, and I’m beginning to sink in my chair. She continued, “Now I know you are sitting there and your mind is racing with all the reasons why you shouldn’t write a book: ‘I don’t know how to write a book,’ ‘I don’t have time to write a book,’ ‘No one would read a book by me,’ or ‘I know nothing about the publishing industry.’ There was a man in Scripture whom God called at a burning bush. He gave God similar answers. Let’s all stand and read Exodus 4:14 to see how this made God feel.”  So 3,000 women stood and read “And the anger of the Lord burned against him.” She continued, “Do you want the anger of the Lord to burn against you?” My heart whispered a very quiet “No.” She continued, “Then you must. . .MUST. . .write this book.”

Silence fell across the room as everyone looked around to see whom God was calling. She continued, “Now I don’t know who you are, but you know who you are. . .and more importantly, God knows who you are. Write that book.” And with that she asked the women to bow their heads as they stood to pray for the one God had just called out. I was dumbfounded. But apparently I had just told God I’d write a book. There was some brief negotiations with God: He would have to show me what to write. I’d be faithful to study, but He would have to guide. More importantly, it was His job to get it published and to do with it as He pleased.

That session was thirteen years ago and I’ve been studying and writing ever since. After all, you wouldn’t just throw something together over the weekend on the wisdom of God. To this day I still grapple with the concept that I, of all people on earth, would presume to write about the wisdom of God. In desperation, I found that same sweet spot on my knees before God, humbly begging Him to show me Himself and His wisdom.  Well, James promises if we ask God for wisdom He will give it abundantly–He will hold nothing back. All I can say is that while I am sure no one can fathom the depths of His wisdom, He has opened my eyes to amazing truths about Himself. Two years ago I thought I was done and could put the final period on a book about the wisdom of God. But He said, “Not so fast. Wisdom is only one of my powers.” This led me into a deeper study of Him and His powers. Now I understand how they work together. Now I understand why I tapped into those powers when I found that sweet spot on my knees before Him.

When Jesus healed the lame man He told him in John 5:8 to rise, take up his bed and walk. This is a beautiful analogy to what God wants from us once He has healed us from our sins. He wants us to get up and get moving–to walk in power; power that He gives to us. I can assure you it can be frightening, while at the same time exhilarating, to walk on new legs.

When Jesus showed up to teach the fishermen, He told them they would need to launch out into the deep and cast their nets on the other side. In other words, you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone, go further than you’d planned, and do things His way and not yours. They were tired, but at His word, they launched the boat. And we all know the story: their nets were soon filled and breaking. But that’s not the end of the story. They brought back the largest catch of their lives and they just walked off and left it and their boats. They quit their job and walked away from their boatload of fish (which would have been a lot of money) to follow Jesus. And those smelly, drably dressed, unsuccessful fishermen became His disciples and the pioneers of our faith. Is God calling you? What does He want to do through YOU? Are you ready to find out? Get out your notebook and write that question at the top of the first page. Pray over it as we study together. God created you for His kingdom purposes. He wants to reveal them to you and to use you. And, I believe once you see Him and His power, you’ll walk away from the temporal and pursue Him as never before. If you are lucky He won’t ask you to write a book, but I know He has something very special in mind for you. It’s something you cannot do without Him. He can’t wait to show you, so get ready!

Well, I’ve written the book, but why wait for it to be published? Let’s begin unpacking what God  has shown me. In my next blog we’ll start with a quick reminder of who God is and how He works. You won’t want to miss this one because it is important to understand who He is and how He works if we want Him to work through us.

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So how did I end up writing a book…of all things!

typewriterNot on my bucket list–no way! Not a fond dream or even a distant fantasy–never! Yet I’ve spent 13 years writing a book. I was working one of those 60-70 hour a week jobs and had a husband and four children and grandchildren. I didn’t even have a housekeeper to help. There was not a free moment in my life. So how on earth did this book writing gig happen? Better yet. . .WHY? Did I lose my mind?

Let’s go back 25 or so years. I had just turned 40 and was working for James River Corporation. We had adopted an inner city high school and had done great work with the staff to turn around their teen pregnancy issues. Once those young people began to see that there was a life beyond poverty, they wanted jobs–good jobs. But there was a great divide between them and the path to education, training and experience that would lead to those good jobs and the life they wanted so deep in their souls.

My CEO heard about our work with them and called me into his office. We had a good conversation and he challenged me to bring him the answer for solving this problem for these kids. He had a heart for them, but he also said that with a retiring workforce and the dramatic expansion of technology, workforce development was going to be the #1 issue in our country. IF I could solve it for this inner city group of kids, I’d solve it for our business and our country. Could I just say that this concept was way above me. I just needed help getting some inner city kids a chance at life.

I went home that night and was completely overwhelmed. My husband was stirring the spaghetti sauce on the stove. As I set the table I told him of the challenge given to me and that I had a week to get back to him with a plan. Weren’t there government agencies working on this sort of thing? A week? Me? That was just insane. Would he fire me if I couldn’t deliver? In frustration I exclaimed, “You’d need the wisdom of Solomon to figure this whole thing out.” Not taken aback as he listened to my rant, my husband Hank said, “Well, I’ll finish getting dinner on the table so you can go upstairs and tackle Proverbs.” He was being flip, but I had not an ounce of humor left in me. So I went upstairs; I needed to get alone–alone with God. I got down by my bed and poured my heart out to God. I told Him I needed wisdom, buckets of it, and I needed it now. I didn’t need it for me, but those kids needed help and my boss had promised money and support they would need IF I could figure this out. I couldn’t afford to fail. Their futures hung in the balance. In humility and tears, I begged God for wisdom.

As I got up off my knees and dried my tears. It was if God told me to take my husband’s advice and get into Proverbs. I picked up my Bible and started in Proverbs 1. There were all those big words that all seemed to mean the same thing. Why all those words? What did they really mean? Not having anything else concrete to try, I decided to look closer at them. I put each of those words on the top of a page from a yellow tablet. Then I began to read. If one of those words showed up I wrote out the verse and reference on the corresponding page. It took all night. That was ok. It wasn’t like I was going to sleep that night anyway. At least this activity kept my mind busy.

When I finished Proverbs, I had filled yellow pages everywhere. So I began to read them, one after the other. Suddenly it jumped right off the pages. There was a progression to wisdom: knowledge, then understanding and finally wisdom. I was so excited. I had my answer for my boss. I got to my typewriter (yes, this was before we had personal computers in our home) and typed out a proposal. In essence it said, IF we gather all the knowledge holders together, we will find understanding; and once we all move to understanding, we can find wisdom for these young people.

My CEO loved the concept and agreed we should move quickly. He opened doors for me to the President’s office–yes, the President of the United States. He in turn introduced me to the Secretary of Education who invited me in to talk with him and his staff. We sat at a big table in the Department of Education in downtown DC. They were excited because indeed they were that government agency working on this, and to have a Fortune 100 company and a local school willing to pilot ideas was just what they needed. Next thing you know we have the blessing of the Governor of Virginia, who gave us the Commissioner of Labor & Industry and the Superintendent of Schools to serve on our little ad hoc group. We already had a local school but the school board got involved. The university gave us a rep to join the table.  And we began to meet. As word spread, other knowledge holders joined in the conversation. shared knowledge, we grew in understanding, we created and implemented strategies we thought would work. . .and they did. Right action. WISDOM!

I was the Joseph in the room. I didn’t have doctoral degrees after my name like ALL of them. I had a Bible college degree. I didn’t have some big title or fancy office. I was even new to the area. But I had a very BIG GOD.

These inner city kids graduated and went to college; they got good jobs. They were on the path to success and we were so excited. Our efforts started spreading to other inner city schools in the region and other companies started getting involved in the strategies and even provided financial support. The school dynamics changed; the community began changing. It was working and spreading. Long story short and compressing years of work, Congress provided School to Work funding for states to allocate to localities, and our team was invited to Pittsburgh to meet with two reps from each state’s education department to do a show-and-tell of of our pilot. So for two days we spoke, distributed PowerPoints, and answered thousands of questions. They were told IF they would come back to the Department of Education with their state’s plan for implementation of these strategies, their allocation would be released for distribution to their local school districts. I had gotten down on my knees and asked for Wisdom, followed God’s plan, and it impacted a nation. This is my Joseph story.

I gave God my heart. I believed Him for a miracle. I followed His plan and God did the rest. Miracle after miracle–too many to put in a blog. Watching God do all of this simply because I asked amazed me day after day. Oh, what a great God who is ready to answer prayer and work for and through us.

This story continues. . .next blog. God began to reveal more and more of Himself. And I’ll share Him with you. Don’t miss it. Get your family and friends to join this story–it will change their world as it has mine. But for today, let’s share our Joseph stories with the world. Has God done something totally impossible for you? Maybe He opened doors you couldn’t budge. Let’s testify of our great God. I’d love to hear your story before we continue on with mine. Start testifying in the comment section. Let’s brag on our great God.  (And if you have a dilemma and you need God to show up, we’ll pray with you.)
Let’s start community.

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