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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

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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.

Graphic Bordered

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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MILESTONES

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Milestones serve two purposes for me:

  • Mapping out the journey ahead. When planning a trip, a project, or even just my day, I set out markers that let me know I’m making progress. Sometimes this looks like a to-do list. I’m pretty good about this exercise because I love to check off things I’ve done. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve even been guilty of adding things I’ve done to the  list just so I can fell the rush of checking it off. This type of marker keeps me focussed and eliminates distractions so I don’t get lost on my way
  • The second purpose of a milestone is for remembrance. How far we have come? What twists and turns, valleys and mountain tops, rivers and gulches have we made it through? Sometimes a task on my journey seems difficult and endless. Each step forward seems inconsequential to the whole. But if I set milestones on the journey I can look back on, then when the going gets tough and discouragement becomes my companion, I know that with consistency and perseverance I will get to the goal.

I need to visually see that I am making progress. Without these trusted tools, I feel I’m treading water. . .standing still. In the New Testament Jesus instituted baptism and The Lord’s Supper as reminders of His faithfulness. He understood we need reminders for our journey. I’ve been thinking of setting markers of my faith journey with God. In the Old Testament, we find our heroes of faith setting markers. Most often these took the form of an altar built to remember God’s faithfulness. I think this might be a tradition we should resurrect in our homes and churches.

I was blessed to be part of a simple ceremony when a young man completed a recovery program. Friends gathered for food and camaraderie in celebration of the impact this young man had made on their lives. Each was asked to bring a stone inscribed with a memory dear to them and the guest of honor.  As each presented their stone, the tears flowed. The stones were received with hugs and tears and were set in a pile. As the last stone was set, we gathered around this dear one and prayed for his future as he departed. We asked God to be with him and to use our stones to remind him of his commitments, of his progress, our love, and of God’s presence. As he left, suitcases were loaded along with his precious stones. I have a feeling those stones will be present in his home for a lifetime. Remembrance.

Life isn’t easy. The journey includes many hurdles we have to overcome. As I look back, my stones would represent the times He has taught me to trust Him more.  They would be my markers of increased faith in His faithfulness to me: when I thought I could not go on, when my burden was too heavy to bear, when my sorrow overwhelmed and threatened to pull me under, when enemies surrounded me, when I was lost and confused, felt rejected or failed, when my heart hurt and felt it would burst (or at least drown in my tears). Oh He has been faithful to gently put His arms of love around me. He has been the lifter of my head and has set my feet on a solid rock.

I’m thinking of adding a pile of carefully selected and inscribed stones on the front porch. I want them to be a sign not only to me, but to my children and to all who enter in, of the faithfulness of God.

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LOCAL CUSTOMS

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Families have traditions for all kinds of things; so do communities. It  has been fascinating to see the commonalities and the divergencies of local cultural as we settle into our new locale.

Some of the common things we’ve noticed include:

  1. Pride in their community. When we lived in Montpelier, they touted that they were the center of the universe. Here in Lascassas/Murfreesboro, they raise statues to the fact that they are the dimple of the universe.
  2. Sports fans abound everywhere. The local Cracker Barrel carries the local team duds and paraphernalia. Big, bright, orange jerseys have made their way into our wardrobe. Given Central Tennessee has at least two SEC college teams, an NFL team, and an NHL team, we are full up on the sports front. In Richmond, they cheered passionately for a favorite team from DC or North Carolina. But here in Nashville, they just cheer for home teams.
  3. There are streets and/or suburbs that everyone argues over their pronunciation. You’ve got to get with a true local to get the scoop. We have finally learned how to pronounce the name of our city–Lascassas (as if figuring out how many “s”‘s it needed weren’t enough).  Just think of the most southern, drawling way possible to say it….LASS CASS US–emphasis on the second syllable.

Some of the differences include:

  1.  In Richmond, the RIVAH and the Outer Banks were big doings. No one here has a clue what that is all about.
  2. Seafood abounded in Virginia…the closer to the shore, the more likely it was to be on the daily menu (even part of your breakfast menu). In Tennessee we like seafood, but steak is the meat of choice (we are closer to Texas where beef is the ONLY choice).
  3. The houses in Tennessee are all bricked all the way around. It is just standard regardless of the size of your home. In Virginia, siding and a Williamsburg influence was standard–dormers optional. You might get a brick front, but you’d be hard pressed to talk a builder into including brick on all four sides. I might mention that builders here are also more customer focused. We showed up to find they had painted the entire inside of our home in my colors, built us a Christmas closet because they heard I had a lot of Christmas decorations, enlarged the patio because we had mentioned we love to live outdoors, enlarged our driveway because we have three cars to park, upgraded my hardwood and even put it in my closet, and gave me a custom island that I’d shown them a picture of. . .just because (no charge). The builder stops by fairly often just to make sure we still love our home and there’s nothing we want him to do. Who does that? Business is just done differently in the Boro.
  4. Virginians fly flags–cute, celebratory flags on their front porches, by their mailboxes, in their gardens. In Tennessee you erect a flag pole and fly the American flag AND the confederate flag–they are Southern to the core. It’s about the Mason Dixon line, not about a war. In Richmond, they were still fighting the Civil War; they even burned confederate flags. While Tennesseans don’t fly a birthday or Christian flag by their door, I’ve noted my Christian friends have carefully selected a meaningful verse of Scripture or a verse from a hymn and have had it engraved on rocks in the garden, carved into a wood sign or cut out of metal for the walls. And, many have had their choice created in those rub off letters they can put on their walls. My next door neighbor chose “He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing.” It just touched my heart. So I’m looking for the Holy Spirit to give me my special verses to add to my home–I have just the right spots all picked out.
  5. Virginians pride themselves in their ancestry. There’s a hierarchy of First Families of Virginia. And, if you aren’t in that bloodline, well. . .you are just a “come hither.” You may have money but you don’t have bloodline. Here in Tennessee they are rednecks and proud of it. The uppity folks that come from elsewhere are considered money grabbers; they don’t know anything about real roots and family. It’s not about money, it’s about commitment. Neighbors and friends may not be in your bloodline but they can most definitely be in your “family.”
  6. In Virginia everyone has those stickers on their cars that are nothing but three letters. No one in Tennessee would have a clue what that was all about.

All of this made me think about heaven. What will be the commonalities there to life here? What will the new customs be like? For starters:

  1. There won’t be any hospitals, rehab centers, urgent care facilities. The medical community will be out of work.
  2. There are no cemeteries; no funeral homes. Praise God!
  3. There are no clocks there. No rising and setting of the sun for He will be our light.
  4. There won’t be any race issues. We’ll all be born of the same Father and love will abound.
  5. There are no jails, no police.
  6. Money won’t be an issue. The streets are made of gold so even the street sweepers are sweeping up gold dust.
  7. Praise God we won’t have elections. No commercials, no placards in yards, no billboards. We’ll all just praise the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In fact, there will be no politics. We’ll just do things His way.
  8. There are no slums. Mansions abound
  9. There’s no night there. We won’t need to sleep 1/3 of our life away.
  10. Everyone will know everyone. And we’ll have an eternity to sit and chat. How fun will that be?
  11. There will be beautiful music everywhere–praise music! So Music City. ..get ready to be replaced.

I was shooting for a top ten–I’ve always been an overachiever. Share your local doings. And what would you add to the list about heaven?

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