Monday, August 29, 2016

Expert or Apprentice?


Solomon wrote about wisdom...again and again:
   For wisdom will enter your heart, 
   And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
                                                            --Proverbs 2:10

This statement is an explanation of a result. It gives the very clear indication of transformation. Transformation is not about possessing wisdom as if to suggest that at one time a person did not have wisdom. Rather, the contrast is in the person who has wisdom, but will later possess it in their heart. They possess knowledge now, but it will be pleasant to their soul. The transformation is from merely possessing wisdom to internalizing that wisdom into one's heart.

Consider an illustration: The difference between an expert and an apprentice is the transformation from possessing knowledge and skill to that knowledge and skill becoming a natural part of the individual. An apprentice, though successful, may have to stop and think; he may struggle through some tasks. The expert performs a task effortlessly, seemingly with no thought, as if he was born with the knowledge and skill.

Knowledge and skill are embedded deep within the expert so that we describe them as “second nature.” Yet, they become second nature only after years of careful observation and experience.

What about wisdom and knowledge?
Before thinking about our ‘efforts’ we would do well to recognize the source of wisdom and knowledge as described earlier in Proverbs 2:

   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.
                                                                               --Proverbs 2:6-7

God’s wisdom and understanding are not for just anyone. It is not by breadth of experience, depth of study, or sheer strength of will that man attains wisdom. God is the source. He gives; and He gives to the upright.

Man does have a part, after all, God does not simply pour his wisdom into a person’s head while they sleep. Consider man’s part in attaining the wisdom offered by God as described in Proverbs 2:

  • Receive my sayings (v. 1);
  • Treasure my commandments (v. 1);
  • Make your ear attentive (v. 2);
  • Incline your heart (v. 2);
  • Cry for (v. 3);
  • Lift your voice for (v. 3);
  • Seek as for silver (v. 4);
  • Search as for hidden treasure (v. 4).

God offers true wisdom. We can prepare ourselves by being upright. Then we must pursue wisdom. The result is the difference between the apprentice and the expert.

   For wisdom will enter your heart, 
   And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Expectations


What do you expect when you read the Bible? Do you have the same expectation when reading different books of the Bible: The Psalms as compared to Genesis as compared to the gospel accounts? What about The Proverbs?

Unlike many books of the Bible the book of Proverbs announces its purpose within the first several verses. A person might generalize the purpose of Proverbs by describing it as a book of wisdom, but what should a person expect?

Solomon described the expectation for the reader:

   To receive instruction in wise behavior,
   Righteousness, justice and equity.
   --Proverbs 1:3


When a person reads a nugget of wisdom in The Proverbs, it is often applied to a specific event in one's life in a kind of 'moment by moment application.' The purpose of the entire book applies to the scope of one’s life. The Revised Standard Version accurately suggests this broad purpose:
   [That men may] receive instruction in wise dealing....

'Wise behavior' or 'wise dealing' is defined in three areas: Righteousness, justice, and equity. Together these describe the full development of ‘wise behavior': conduct in a morally right way, conduct in a legally correct way, and application in all things rightly, or evenly.

Applying the Proverbs to your life, you can expect to be equipped:

  • Morally; not as a moral perfectionist, yet not immoral;
  • Legally; not as a legalist following the letter of the law, but law abiding;
  • Practically; not being a hypocrite, but applying things properly to yourself and others.

Of all the accusations levied against Jesus, no one ever said that he was overly pious or ‘holier than thou.’ No one accused of Jesus of being a morality policeman or judge. He applied the instruction of God perfectly as a true example of ‘wise behavior’: Full of righteousness, justice, and equity.

Have you ever considered that the Proverbs will equip you to be more like Jesus?

Read Proverbs.
Ponder Proverbs.
Apply Proverbs.
Expect wise dealings.

Monday, August 15, 2016

In My Heart of Hearts...

People are funny...in a peculiar sort of way.

The way we say things often tells more than what we say. You have undoubtedly heard someone use the expression, "In my heart of hearts...." Then the person goes on to explain a deep truth.

It has been my observation that 'some' folks lie. Their mouths tell one story but their lives tell another. Someone claims, "In my heart of hearts...," and then a serious and deeply personal statement follows, yet it does not match up with the way they are living.

I think it is good from time to time to stop and look within and evaluate our hearts. What is truly important?
  • Is it money?
  • Is it material possessions?
  • Is it a position in an organization?
  • Is it entertainment?
  • Is it family?
  • Is it spiritual things? 
I don't think you have to pause long to make an evaluation; just listen to the way you speak and then look at your actions. How do they compare? What story do they tell? The things in your heart come out of your mouth. Your general behavior, public and private, exposes your heart. What do you see?

All of this has led me to believe that for some folks 'in my heart of hearts' is genuine. Yet, for others it is more of a wish. It is a statement that really translates to, "When I stop and think about things, this is what I see as really important. I do not live that way right now, but I sure wish I did. It is a noble goal, an ideal."

Here is a simple thought: Would you pray for the thing that is in your heart of hearts? Would you ask of God that he grant you that desire, even if it is not really the way things are at the moment?

A wise man wrote in just such a way. It was like a prayer to God and I think it was a desire that was deep on his heart.

   Give me neither poverty nor riches;
      but give me only my daily bread.
   Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 
      "Who is the Lord?"
   Or I may become poor and steal,
      And so dishonor the name of my God.
   --Proverbs 30:8-9

It is easy to read such a statement and understand the rich wisdom of such a request...an ideal. Yet, when you look at your career, your house, your cars, your clothes, your food, your belongings, could you make that request of God in prayer with complete honesty?

Read the verses again. When you stop and think about it, could you pray:
In my heart of hearts...

Monday, August 8, 2016

Insight into Insight...


     The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor,
     The wicked does not understand such concern.
     --Proverbs 29:7

The one who is righteous is engaged in behavior that is descriptive of the nature of God. So, he adopts the character of God as his own character.

Let me illustrate:

When I was in my teens and twenties I worked for my dad a few summers building houses. Dad would give me instructions on how to accomplish tasks, but also how to care for my tools. He also told me his expectations with regard to his crew of carpenters. I did what 'the boss' said.

I began to see the wisdom of dad's instruction through practice. Over time the things he taught became habits. I began to think like he thought about my tools, about the guys that worked for him, and about the expected quality of work. The values dad taught are now a part of me, "The job is not finished until the tools are put away..." just like dad said.

Not only did I learn valuable lessons, I learned something about my dad. I gained insight into his character by doing the things he taught!

The revealed word of God, Scripture, reflects God’s character. God has not given mankind instruction that in any way opposes his divine character. So, when a person follows God in righteousness, he speaks like God speaks, acts like God acts, and even learns to think like God thinks. Through the practice of righteousness he gains insight into the character of God.

Reflecting on the proverb above...
God is deeply concerned for the poor. The righteous person is concerned for the rights of the poor, not because he is a natural humanitarian, but because of his insight into God’s character through righteousness.

The wicked person is baffled; no insight; no concern for the poor.


Pursue righteousness; gain insight into God's character.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Something You Should Know about Generosity


How do you weigh the truth of the proverbs?

In my experience the vast majority of discussions, Bible classes, and sermons on the Proverbs have been more evaluative. What I mean is that the tendency is to read a proverbs and then try to validate it by personal experience and subjective reasoning. For example:

A Bible class teacher reads a proverb:
   A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
   But the slow to anger pacifies contention. (15:18)

He then comments by relating a story about a hot-tempered acquaintance that started a fight. Following that example he relates another story about another acquaintance who showed patience and restraint in a difficult situation; tempers were calmed.

There is nothing wrong with using illustrations, but I have a question: “What is the purpose of the illustration: to clarify or validate?”

What if we read a proverb and cannot think of a real-life parallel, is it still true?

Solomon did not introduce the Proverbs as some sort of game. He did not say, “Let me propose some thoughts. If you can validate them with your own personal experience or the experiences of others, then the sayings must be true. If not, then discard the saying.”

Solomon begged his son to listen because the proverbs contain the wisdom of God. They are true regardless of my experience or yours. They do not need validation. In fact, anyone who relies on modern-day validation is the fool. The purpose of the Proverbs is to offer wisdom through verbal instruction so that WE do not have to learn ‘the hard way': Experience.

So, what do you want to do with the Proverbs?
  Test each of them?
  Refrain acceptance until you can validate?
  Trust, listen, apply?

----------------

Now, here’s the proverb for this post:

   He who gives to the poor will never want,
   But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.
   --Proverbs 28:27

Would we be so foolish to think that ‘curses’ only applied during Bible times? Would we dare think that God would not curse a person today?

We pray for and expect God's blessings...his 'good words' for our benefit. Do we really think that we are somehow immune to God's words of discipline or anger if we oppose the things He values?

If you are a skeptic, perhaps you should 'open your eyes' and err on the side of generosity.

Be wise.