As Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17, knowledge, wisdomAs iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another – Proverbs 27:17.  We all need to be sharpened and we all need to grow in our faith and knowledge of the Lord.  In doing some research for my writing I came across several excellent articles that really sharpened and helped me immensely and I want to share a few of them with you.  But before I do so, let me say this:

Although I fall short in many areas God has richly blessed me with an intense curiosity and a strong desire to learn.  If I want to know something or solve a problem or if I am having difficulty in a certain area of my life then I will always try to figure out what the problem is and how to solve it.  Most of the success that I have had in my life is due to my seeking out those who are wiser and more successful than I and modeling their behavior.  This is good advice no matter who or where you are.  If you want to be a smarter, wiser and sharper person, find the sharpest and most successful folks you can (and the internet is a fantastic resource for doing this) and learn to think and act like them.

(For two great Biblical examples of this, see the writings of King David in Psalms and the writings of Paul in the New Testament).

Now to the articles!

On the topic of Christian liberty and with an excerpt that should really get you thinking:  https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-11/the-true-meaning-of-christian-freedom

What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?  Walk is the idea of daily conduct, daily conduct, routine life pattern.  And how do you walk in the Spirit?  Very simply, where does the Spirit reveal His will?  Where does the Spirit give us His direction?  In the Word of God, right?  I don’t think walking in the Spirit is mystical or ethereal, I don’t think it’s some kind of heavenly thing, I don’t think it’s some kind of ecstatic emotional experience. Walking in the Spirit is very simple, it is walking in obedience to the mind and will of the Spirit of God.  And that means to be saturated with the Word of God so that the Word of Christ dwells in you richly and that then, that word then becomes the control factor used by the Spirit of God to lead you into obedience.  It isn’t enough to become a Christian and then stand around in a vacuum of knowledge without any information out of the Word of God and hope everything turns out right.  We have to be saturated in the Word of God on a day-by-day basis so that the Word of God implanted in the mind and the heart becomes the control vehicle by which the Spirit of God leads us as we live day by day.  And when we’re filled with the Word of God, controlled by the Spirit of God, walk in obedience to that revealed will of God, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh, but we will fulfill the law by loving each other.

The whole sermon is quite a read but is well worth your time and effort!

 

And on the Christian perspective of boredom (do you get bored?  I do, and from what I read here I need to be very careful about that!)  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-s-beauty-for-the-bored-busy-and-depressed

“What immediately leaps to our mind when we see the word holiness?” asks Dane. “Austerity. Coldness. Grim-faced. Jaw-set. In one of his early sermons Edwards says, ‘Holiness is a most beautiful, lovely thing. Men are apt to drink in strange notions of holiness from their childhood as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour thing.’ But Edwards says there is nothing in holiness but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely. Sin is mire and filth. Holiness is sweet, lovely, delightful, serene, calm. That corrects me. Holiness is calming. It is the only route by which I can actually enjoy my life, because I am not delighting in the world’s fraudulent offers of happiness. Holiness is quietly thrilling. Where else would you want to live but in the brightness of holiness?”

How does not being bored fit in with holiness?  Well, you’ll just have to read the article to find out!

And finally, still one more fantastic resource on the Christian perspective of boredom.  This one really convicted me!  http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/overcoming-boredom/

This week I was asked if boredom is a sin. Good question. After contemplating the matter, I think the answer is that sin and boredom go together, but I would rather say that boredom is a disease of the soul. It is a warning sign from God that there is a “dis-ease” in your heart that must be faced. Boredom is a sign that your life is moving in the wrong direction.

How can we overcome boredom? It requires a reorientation of the way we approach each day. I’d like to combine two very familiar verses—Ecclesiastes 9:10 and Colossians 3:17—in order to find a biblical answer to boredom.

Using the above resources God really opened my eyes about some things in my life.  You may not need the specific lessons that these articles are trying to teach but I would still encourage you to be a knowledge seeker and a wisdom searcher in all that you do.  God has provided everything that we need to be strong and complete in Him but it is up to us to learn and apply those resources.  No matter what you are working on or where you happen to be in your search, my prayer is that God would richly bless your efforts as you go.

 

The Search for Wisdom and Knowledge

wisdom,mentor,JesusI have begun an earnest search for wisdom and knowledge.  I have always possessed a strong desire to discover, to ask why and to understand but lately I feel a sense of increased urgency.  Something, no, some One has built a fire inside my heart that is leading me in directions I never thought possible.

I believe that it is no accident that as I have prioritized my relationship with God, my search for wisdom and knowledge has intensified.  Indeed, the Bible tells us that God is the author of wisdom and has much to say on the subject of wisdom itself:

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5-6)  Solomon, the writer of Proverbs and one of the wisest men who ever lived, declared the value of wisdom and understanding in no uncertain terms.  Here, Solomon describes wisdom as protector and guardian and asserts that no price is too high to pay its acquisition.

“Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” (Proverbs 13:10)  I take satisfaction in how the Bible confirms that wisdom and pride are opposites.  Wisdom and humility, however, go hand in hand and work well together.

“To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:26)  The Bible has some strong words on the matter of wisdom and in this case wisdom (along with knowledge and happiness) is given to him who pleases God.  Any search for wisdom must begin with the author of wisdom and He must be glorified by my search or I search in vain.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)  Our Father loves us so much that he always desires to give us good things.  God wants for us to be wise and He is waiting for us to ask!  I now begin each day by asking Him to grant me wisdom and understanding as I am able to receive it.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)  Earlier in his letter, James tells us that God grants wisdom to those who ask.  Here he describes the kind of wisdom that God gives.  I can’t speak for you, but I want more of all of these attributes in my life.

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)  Where is wisdom found?  Who provides the full riches of complete understanding?  Wisdom is found in God through His Son who is the Christ.

That makes the search for true wisdom the search for God Himself, the search for true knowledge the search for His ways and the search for true understanding the search for His love and mercy.  

As I learn to be a blogger, as I learn to be a faithful steward, as I learn to be a good husband, and as I learn to be all that I am meant to be I must hold fast to Him.  Let us commit, together, to a renewed zeal and a renewed sense of purpose for discovering “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” that are found in Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Words Of Wisdom From The Wisest Man Who Ever Lived

wisdom, God's Word, the BibleTradition holds that Solomon, son of David and King of Israel from about 970 – 930BC, was one of the wisest men to have ever lived.  Several Old Testament books were authored by him (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, also called Song of Songs) and he is also said to have been the wealthiest man to have ever lived.

Despite all of that, the Bible records as many of Solomon’s failings as it does his successes and is very clear that for all of his wisdom, he was a real person with real human flaws.  What is very interesting though, is that when Solomon’s conduct lined up with true Biblical wisdom, he was always successful and prosperous but when he acted selfishly or foolishly it always brought trouble and heartache.

The same holds true for us today.  When we think and act in ways that are wise and true, we will be prosperous and successful.  When we think and act in ways that are selfish or foolish, we will bring trouble and heartache on ourselves and others.  With that in mind, can we look back to some of the wise sayings of Solomon and glean instruction and truth for our lives today?  Absolutely we can!  Because Solomon’s wisdom was actually Godly wisdom that was granted to Him as a result of prayer (See 1 Kings 3: 6-14) and Godly wisdom never changes or gets outdated.  In short, if God said it then we can count on it and build our lives around it.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of my favorite verses from the first few chapters of Proverbs.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7) – Right away Solomon lets us know that our fear (respect, admiration, acknowledgement) of God is the beginning of our search for wisdom and truth.  No wisdom or truth exists without Him and a wise person is the one who has placed their life under the authority and instruction of God Almighty.

For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course. (Proverbs 2: 6-9)  Much of the wisdom of Proverbs is given in “if – then” statements.  As in, “if you do the right thing, then the right result will occur”.  Proverbs 2:6-9 shows us that God grants the knowledge and understanding that we need from His Word.  Furthermore, if we walk in integrity (honesty) He will be our shield and guard and will preserve our way.  And if we do all of that then we will be granted the ability to discern what is right and good every single time (every good course).

Honor the Lord from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.  (Proverbs 3: 9-10)  Does it ever feel like that you are in a hole financially speaking and that you will never be able to climb out of it?  Take heart, here’s your recipe for success!  Give to God off of the top of everything that you bring in, no matter how little it might be.  God will then fill your barns and vats (places of storage, up to and including our savings accounts – you do have a savings account don’t you?) with plenty until they overflow!  So many of us miss this simple commandment and suffer financial misery.  The good news is that it is never too late to start doing the right thing.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.  (Proverbs 3: 5 – 8)  Relationships are founded on trust.  To the degree that we trust God, we will follow His instruction and to the degree that we follow His instruction we will be blessed and in turn bless others.  And not only should we trust God with everything but we should do all that we do with an acknowledgement of God as our creator and the source of all wisdom and knowledge.  If we can do that then God will take care of us and fight our battles for us (make our paths straight).

 

Biblical Instruction For A Good Night’s Sleep

wisdom, instruction, ProverbsThe Bible is an amazing document.  It contains the words of God and was authored under His divine instruction and inspiration.  For a Christ-follower it is the guide and the road-map for life.

The Bible contains everything that we, as believers, need to succeed and to grow in our relationship with God.  It also contains vast amounts of wisdom and knowledge for daily living.  Here’s an example that you might have forgotten or overlooked; it is the Lord’s instruction on how to have a great night’s sleep.

21 My son, let them not vanish from your sight;
Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22 So they will be life to your soul
And adornment to your neck.
23 Then you will walk in your way securely
And your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Do not be afraid of sudden fear
Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;
26 For the Lord will be your confidence
And will keep your foot from being caught.  (Proverbs 3: 21 – 26) NASB

Notice verse 24, which is in bold type.  When you lie down you will not be afraid and your sleep will be sweet.  What a great promise!

Now I don’t know about you but my sleep isn’t always sweet and there have certainly been times when I have been anxious about something and it has kept me awake and I have not gotten a good night’s rest.  You would think that to the God of the universe and the creator of all that our sleep wouldn’t be high on His list of problems to address.  Yet here is His instruction in the book of Proverbs, given to us all so that we might attain proper physical rest.

God loves us so much that he cares to address common, ordinary human problems right in His Word.  And if you look at this verse in the context of verses 21 through 26 you will see very quickly why this is.  Proverbs is a book about wisdom, knowledge, instruction, understanding and diligence.  When we search for God’s wisdom and instruction and when we seek to understand Him and His ways and apply these things with diligence to our lives then the result will be security, stability, confidence in the future and the best night’s sleep that you could ever have.  In other words, God cares to address how we are sleeping because when we aren’t sleeping well it is usually a sign of some other larger problem.

Whether it is a problem of our own making or one that is brought on by outside circumstances matters not.  When we choose to focus on the problem and our lack of resources to solve the problem then the result is always anxiety, restlessness, anxiousness and often times fear and a lack of good sleep.  However, if we know who holds all of the resources and we have been diligent in following God’s Word and His instructions then we have nothing to fear and everything to gain.

Furthermore, even when we haven’t been diligent and we have made a complete mess of things we have a God who is faithful and just to forgive if we will call on His name and ask for forgiveness.  When we repent of our sin and error God can take the mess that we have made and still work it out to the ultimate good, if we will let Him.  This is something that only God can do!

Ultimately, even though God loves us so much and has given everything He had to save us and make us His own children He still leaves the relationship details up to us.  He has provided every instruction and bit of wisdom that we could ever need in the Bible but it is up to us to seek it out.  Like Proverbs 3:22 says “let them be life to your soul and as adornment for your neck”.  We need to be so serious and put so much effort into seeking God’s instruction for our life that His Words are lodged in the very center of our being (our souls) and worn on our person in the same way that someone might display a beautiful jewel or precious stone.

What I Wish I Could Tell Myself Twenty Years Ago

Wisdom, Knowledge, GodThis is my thirty-ninth year.  God has been very good to me and every day I realize just how blessed and favored that I am.  As I start to count my blessings and thank God for His provision I can’t help but look back and see how far He has brought me.

Twenty years ago I was nineteen and in a state of transition, as many at that age are.  I had just started college, a semester late and a semester behind most of the other kids my age.  I was away from home for the first time and every day was a new learning experience.  Although I greatly enjoyed my college years I can look back and recognize mistakes I made and habits that I developed that I wish I hadn’t.

They say wisdom is gained through experience.  I pray that I gained wisdom from my errors and have learned a better way.  Even so, if I could take a few things that I know now and tell my nineteen-year old self back then, this is what I would say:

1. A life lived in complete surrender to God is the richest and fullest life you can have.  This is the absolute most important truth that I could impart to anyone, at any age.  Surrender is such a difficult concept for us humans and I believe that it gets tougher as we get older.  The younger you are when you decide to fully surrender your life to God and start to take the necessary steps to live a Godly life, the better off you will be.  The reason why?  Because God takes our surrendered lives and produces love, joy and peace in us and through us, something we can never do on our own.

2. You can’t take it back.  I’ve said some things in my life that I wish I hadn’t.  And as sorry as I might be after the offending words have left my lips, I have never been able to call them back.  My words have hurt people, led them astray and many times have been full of foolishness.  If you are like me, you can identify moments in your life when you wish you had said something different or just kept your mouth shut.  My goal at this point in my life is to try and make sure my speech matches up to Colossians 4:6 which says “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  Speak grace (unmerited favor) and wisdom and you can never go wrong.

3. Don’t live in debt.  Financially speaking.  Don’t spend more than you make.  Live below your means.  Live well below your means because that is the truest and best path to prosperity.  Don’t waste what you earn and what you are given on fruitless pursuits and on things that don’t bring glory to God because you will only regret it later.  It’s so easy to use a credit card and to buy things that seem like fun now only to realize that you can’t afford to pay it off at the end of the month.  It’s easy to dig yourself into a financial hole and very difficult to dig yourself out of one.  Learn to handle money wisely, respect your resources and get into the habit of saving money.  That way you can give your tithe and offerings to God with a clear and unburdened heart and know that God will bless you for it.

4. Be patient.  All things happen in God’s time.  Despite what our society is telling us, you really can’t have it all right now.  Some things can and should be waited for.  Be patient and pray for faithfulness while you look for your cue from God that it is time to act.  Wait for sex until marriage, it really is worth it.  Wait until you’ve grown up a little bit before you buy a really nice car or other big ticket item because without the benefit of maturity, you won’t appreciate it properly.  Wait for experience and study of God’s Word to teach you wisdom and knowledge of the truth.  If you keep your focus on God then you won’t miss anything good that God has coming your way.  Getting impatient and doing things out of order just causes problems for you and for others and can bring you heartache and pain.

5. God can fix it.  Inevitably you will mess up.  I have actually failed at all of these in one way or another!  Amazingly, God still loves me and there isn’t a mess that I have gotten myself into that His love and His grace haven’t been able to get me out of.  That isn’t to say that we should ever take God’s grace lightly or forget what it cost Him.  Sin is serious and there are always consequences for our sin.  But praise God that His grace is always greater than my sin and He can work any problem, error or mistake out for ultimate good.  Only an awesome God could do something like that and I know that when I fail I can always turn to Him for His help.  If you’ve messed up, let God have it and let God fix it, because only He can.

These are the five things that I would tell myself twenty years ago, if I could.  Although it isn’t possible for me to deliver this message back in time, I can deliver it to you and ask you to deliver it to anyone that you think it might help.  I want the best possible life for everyone I meet and if someone else can benefit from my experiences then I will thank God for that.

If You Know Nothing Else, Know This One Thing

the character of GodOk, I admit it.  I am not as well-adjusted as I look.  I am prone to bouts of worry and I tend to over think and over analyze just about everything.  I regularly spend so much time focused on the thoughts and ideas that are banging around inside my head that I miss what is going on right in front of me.

I’ve also been known to fall victim to my own fears and doubts.  I fear failure, both for myself and my endeavors, and I doubt my ability to do what’s required of me.  Can I really be the faithful follower that God has asked me to be?  Can I really love my wife as I should; unconditionally and without reservation?  And can I really continue to write and speak about the Truth when I am so often persuaded by a lie?

Spoken more plainly, why does God choose to use us to carry out His plans when we are so weak and prone to failure?

The answer, I am learning, has far more to do with the nature and character of God than it has to do with anything about us.

From a personal perspective, the more I get to know Him, the better I see His nature and understand His character.  And if there is one awesome truth that God has given me a glimpse of lately it is that He cannot fail, He cannot lose and He is always faithful.  He is constant when I am wayward.  He is loving when I am unkind.  He is victorious through the most horrific of circumstances and there is absolutely nothing that He cannot do.

God is not surprised.  God is not overwhelmed.  God is not tired.  And God’s purposes are always accomplished in His time and in His way.

To know that I am privileged to be a part of His divine plan for redemption and that He is patiently working through me is a marvelous thing.  Although there is still so much that I don’t understand I am beginning to realize that as I am faithful and obedient, God will  provide me with exactly what I need to do His work, when I need it.  Instead of focusing on my weakness, my fear and my doubts, I will instead focus on His strength, His glory and His love.

This is a fundamentally important and necessary shift in my perspective that must take place if I am to walk in a manner that pleases God.  What does the writer of Hebrews say?

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

We must have faith in the character and nature of God.  The only way to have that faith is to get to know Him and to let Him be Lord in every area of our lives.  We must continually seek Him and never stop following hard after Him.

“Lord, may we strive to know you ever better.  May we be faithful followers.  May we seek you first and always.  And may the desire of our hearts be to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ our Savior.  Amen.”

Hidden Wisdom from 1987

wisdom,truth,advice

Thanks, Dad!

During a recent visit by my parents, my Dad handed me a small piece of paper.  He found this piece of paper while cleaning out his Bible recently and the date on the top of one side said “January 28, 1987”.  On the back side are sermon notes from that night’s message.

Dad said he remembered taking these notes and deciding to keep them.  They obviously meant something to him and reading the list he made I can see why.  I doubt he had me in mind while he was taking these notes but I am grateful that he thought about me when he rediscovered them.  Isn’t it amazing how God can use something we do to bless and encourage someone else even 26 years later?

Here is what Dad wrote all those years ago.

1. Love others just the way they are.

2. Love yourself just the way God made you.

3. Forgive yourself and free yourself from guilt.

4. Forgive any and every person that has wronged you.

5. Take the initiative in solving problems.

6. Seek to learn valuable lessons from conflict.

7. Develop a healthy sense of humor.

8. Refuse to accept defeat.

9. Set a limit on down time.

10. Be thankful, always.

11. Turn lemon frustration into lemonade opportunities.

12. Refuse to let little things ruin your day.

This is a list to live by.  Reading it now, in 2013, just goes to show that wisdom and truth do not change with the times.  What was true for God’s people then is still true for God’s people now; we just need to continue putting that truth into practice.

I hope that reading Dad’s list has blessed and encouraged you the same way that it blessed and encouraged me.  Let’s continue to gain wisdom and understanding together and commit to living a life that pleases God.

Are you currently practicing all of the items on Dad’s list?