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Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Wonderment is a valuable thing. It causes you to ask questions and seek answers. But where might one find answers? For meaning and life, the best and reliable source is the Bible. For beauty and function the best source is the second book of revelation, nature (see “Two Books” for why).

I have been contemplating the idea of wisdom lately. As a grey headed grandfather of seven, I reckon I am supposed to have a bit of that. I have a bit perhaps but feel woefully lacking. By contrast, Proverbs 3:19 says, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens.” Certainly He has no lack of wisdom and did not have to acquire it, deepen it, or perfect it. Out of His abundance of perfect wisdom “the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) Therefore, belonging to Him, I have hope of obtaining a measure of wisdom.

But what is wisdom, why do we need it, and how do we get it?

As I began to look in Proverbs, I observed in chapter two the use of four words in rapid succession, as if repetition meant they were different words for the same thing: wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and understanding. I wondered, how they are related and how they are different. Do they build upon one another or are they different words for the same idea?

I like to come to some level of completion or satisfaction in the study of an idea. I looked up definitions and key passages. I checked the Hebrew words for the various words. And that was when I realized that I was beginning a study that I will not soon finish. The same Hebrew word was frequently translated as different English words. Knowledge seems to be separate, but the other three somewhat interchangeable. I like for words to have exact meanings. Of course, language develops by usage and exact meanings are never going to happen. Even if someone prescribes a meaning, say Noah Webster for instance, the common misuse or connotative use can destroy any simple, straightforward use of a word. So I set out first of all to define terms as would be helpful in my study of them. Following are definitions I am developing for these four words drawn from dictionaries, the Scripture, and experience. 

Truth is information that aligns with reality. It is the basis of all pursuit of wisdom. “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Proverbs 12:17) I have added this word because of its foundational status. If there is no truth then seeking wisdom is a fool’s game never to be accomplished. We live in a culture that argues that there is no truth, but then all other discussion becomes meaningless. No one actually operates on the basis of no truth as seen in the fact that most people do life preservative avoidance moves to continue living (you know, things like stopping at red lights and not jumping off of cliffs without aid of parachute or wingsuit).

Knowledge is awareness and familiarity with truth, facts, skills, and propositions. Proverbs 18:15 says, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Prudence is acting now in a way that prepares for the future. Knowledge is useful for the future.

Understanding is the ability to grasp the meaning and value of knowledge and its relationship to other ideas. Proverbs 9:6 says, “Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.” It is the man of understanding who may acquire and act by wisdom. Contemplating knowledge and how it should be applied leads to understanding. For this reason, it is rare for those who do not consider and muse to gain understanding.

Discernment is the process of evaluating the causes and outcomes of an event. Proverbs 1:2 says, “To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding.” Instruction is a word meaning discipline and is part of a disciple’s knowledge. In the verse, discernment is making use of understanding.

Wisdom is appropriate action fitted to the situation based on consideration of prudent and right judgement. “Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her. ‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.'” (Proverbs 8:10-12) Wisdom is the goal because it helps the wise and those under the wise person’s care and gives glory to God, the Author of wisdom.

I have defined these terms in this order because I think that they build upon one another in this particular order. Truth is the basis of knowledge which may lead to understanding, allowing for discernment in a situation, upon which wisdom for action is developed.

Or more simply      T -> K -> U -> D -> W

Obviously, these skills develop in fits and starts and various orders as a situation, study, prayer, or illumination occurs, but I think they are well thought of in this order because of increasing complexity and need of the preceding ones to accomplish.

If I develop clarity on how they are differentiated and taught in Scripture, I will try to share that here. Until then, may God give us wisdom for the living of these days so that we might be like “the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times.” (I Chronicles 12:32)

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This poem is quite simple

Similar to a pimple

Which has really a short life

Full of passion and much strife

 

It causes a stir and pain

May nearly drive you insane

But soon will come to a head

Then burst, forgotten and dead

 

But note how it leaves a scar

The complexion ever mar

Cover it to make it small

Or accept me warts and all

 

Best to never have begun

From quarrels and strife you run

Better bring kindness and truth

Than discord and be uncouth

The first two verses of this poem came to me one day when I was considering strife and its ill effects. I knew generally where I wanted to go with it, but could not see how. Just this morning when I brought it up from my drafts file, the way forward began to dawn upon me. In one sense I might like to have developed the kindness and truth way of doing things more. On the other hand, the first and third lines preclude such a tome, and the short version seems to have punch.

The truth I see behind my verse comes from Proverbs:

17:14 “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.”

3:3 “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

26:17 “Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.”

15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.”

See also Proverbs 6:14,19; 10:12, 13:10, 16:28, 17:1,19; 18:6,18; 20:3, 22:10, 26:21, 28:25, 29:22, 30:33. Evidently, avoiding strife and those who promote it is a valuable consideration and pursuit.

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I haven’t blogged for one month now. I dislike not putting my thoughts down, but the last month has been an wholly unexpected whirlwind. Added to my absence from the blog was the 3-week loss of my journal. I use composition notebooks of the kind you might use in a science lab. This morning I found it. I decided that as time allows I will read back through it. The second entry was concerning a Bible study I had done about Jesus reading in the synagogue, His inaugural speech as it were. He read Isaiah 61:1-2a:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…”

Then He stops, mid-thought, mid-sentence, and hands the scroll back to the synagogue official, saying, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). Jesus was proclaiming the purpose and purview of His ministry. The reason He stopped at this exact place in the passage was “Today”, namely His 1st advent to Earth, it was “fulfilled”. The next parts, “And the day of vengeance of our God, …to comfort all who mourn, …they will rebuild the ancient ruins, …everlasting joy will be theirs,” (Isaiah 61:2b&c, 4a, 7d) refer to His second advent, followed immediately by the Millennium and Eternity Future. 

Now, I know that this points to a certain theological perspective, but I am neither ashamed of it nor have any particular doubts about the general outline of it. In fact, my more than usual intense reading of the minor prophets this summer solidified and deepened my conviction that God still has a plan for physical Israel both to judge the majority and to save the remnant in order to fulfill all of the promises He has made and not yet completed. Many of these prophecies are just too clearly oriented to the blessings of land and nation to be spiritualized away. We who are spiritual Israel, which I believe includes the saved remnant of physical Israel, will participate in those blessings during the Millennium.

I had a small diagram in my journal that shows how prophecy frequently teaches us about future events. It is not at all new to me, but I like to put things down and add detail as I am able.

Prophetic View

No diagram, analogy, type, or metaphor can ever be a complete explanation of  the reality, but they may be accurate to the extent they are intended to explain the reality. The prophet is thought to not be able to see the valleys, because God is just revealing the mountaintops of future events. However, some of the events of the Inter-testamental Period (Silent years) are revealed in Daniel’s vision in chapter 11. Antiochus Epiphanes (though not named) is given as a type of the the Antichrist. So, the Inter-testamental Bad Guy and the “Day of the Lord” Antichrist are featured in the same prophecy.

This is a frequent pattern in prophecies. There is a near or historical (from our perspective) fulfillment and a future and/or spiritual fulfillment. David can truthfully groan, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1), and yet be simultaneously and more completely revealing the crucifixion of Christ a thousand years later. So, the prophet Isaiah proclaims that “The Spirit of God is upon me,” and God is saying that Jesus will say and do these things later over several periods of time.

To place this Isaiah 61 passage on my diagram above, I would understand to to look something like the following:

Prophet          Near Fulfillment        1st advent           2nd advent     Millennium        Eternity

Isaiah 61:1-9      good news to the   “The Spirit…          “day of           “comfort      “everlasting
afflicted              favorable year”      vengeance”      all who mourn…    joy” .          portion in                                                                                                                                                 their land”

If I were to add or change anything in my diagram, it would be to add some labeled glasses on the prophet which read, “Holy Spirit vision”. We all need discernment and discretion and these come solely from God (Proverbs 2:1-12).

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“Write it down so that you won’t forget.” My son replied, “You write it down for me. You’re better at making list.” I had never thought about it. I just write lists because I have to get chores done and fit in recreation. So, it is true that I have developed somewhat of a list making procedure. It is not complicated or profound, for if it was, it would only make getting things done less likely. I understand calendars, planners, cellphone notifications and the like, but for various reasons they don’t quite work for me. Mostly they don’t work  for me because they are cumbersome and elsewhere when I need them.

I make lists on little pieces of paper that I cut from recycled paper. I have the privilege of using a paper cutter and a little filing box in which to store blank ones that sits on the kitchen counter. I have three types of lists: daily, weekly (mid-range), and long-term. I don’t always have all three or even two, depending on what is happening, but frequently I do. Now, you may not see the wisdom in this separation of lists, thinking, “How does that exclude complexity and facilitate availability and convenience?”  Well, I make the list on the run, stick it in whatever pocket of whatever pants or shirt I happen to be wearing and update it as tasks are completed, change, or need to be added. Just as you transfer keys and wallet when you change clothes, I move the list, too. For easier viewing of the list, so I don’t overlook an item, and in order to show progress and completion, I bullet the items with a blank. Additionally, I indent sub-items with a blank, “grocery lists” and the like.

I give an example by way of a recent daily list in the picture below. As an item is completed, I place a check in the blank, as shown for weeding, P, and going on a run. If an item is in progress, for example, an attempted phone call or message left, I place a tally mark in the blank. You can see that on the second attempt I mark complete and the time of the appointment, which I transferred to the family calendar on the kitchen counter at the first available opportunity. The same sequence occurred for the e-mail. I must have wanted a reply before I marked it complete. Zeph had two tallies on this Monday, as I was in the process of studying for a sermon (which you may listen to at “The Day of the Lord in Zephaniah” ). I had one tally mark next to comfrey,  because I had begun to root a cutting so that someone else could benefit from the healing properties of comfrey by having a plant just outside their door as I do. I am not a slave to my lists. I did not continue to tally this item because the circumstances quickly enabled me to remember to water the cutting daily. In two weeks it was standing upright in the pot and I took it to its new owner with instructions for planting it. It rained that day and I was not able to mow, so I decided to try again on Wednesday. I could not make an appointment with Dr. O because she was out of town for the whole week. 

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A Daily List

By the end of the day, I had more items on the list completed, but rarely do I complete all items. On occasions when I do finish a list, I celebrate. I’m not into purposefully making short, easy list so I get to celebrate more. I simply have too much to accomplish. Therefore, to reduce clutter, I make a new daily list that will include the few items that did not get done. Items like Dr. O get put on a mid-range list for later completion. Bills that need to be paid by some due date, perhaps within a month or longer, and maintenance items are listed on the long term list, part of the infamous “honey do” list, which is either the calendar or a slip of paper with the calendar. If very little of list is done, I just add a few items and reuse it the next day.

Some readers of the this blog entry will think the whole idea of writing about lists is silly. However, a few people may pick up some hints about how to organize their lives. It is not the exact method that is the point but what works efficiently for you. Use what you can; ignore what you can’t. Secondly, I decided quite some time ago that I would blog about what interested me and about daily life. This blog entry satisfies both ends. Thirdly, I intend my blog to be a journal and open book of who I am and who I am becoming. I frequently give glory to God in my blog entries, not because I think it is an “ought” or “should”, but because I am so thankful for God’s work to regenerate, redeem, and reform me. Becoming a a disciplined, efficient, thoughtful person are characteristics I hope He is working in me for His glory and the mutual good of my neighbor and me. A life well thought out is well lived, and that is best done with a starting point of “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10 

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Time to graduate some students. It is a time for smiles and celebration and happy tears. The education we give our young is too focussed on knowledge and understanding devoid of moral evaluation, too lacking in wisdom for living and discernment for awareness of various dangers. I hope that I may be a mentor in thoughtful and careful living.

Knowledge leads to understanding
This path will serve you very well
To your mind and heart rewarding
In interactions it will tell

Acquire wisdom in your youth
Always prudent to do what’s right
Acting kindly along with truth
With wisdom overcoming might

Many deceived by false knowledge
Seek that you may discernment find
That at home or work or college
By truth delivered, sharp of mind

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I awoke this morning with a number of thoughts rolling around in my mind. Of the ones that rose to the top, I skimmed off the following in a poem that came fairly quickly:

Running fast was once a thing
But now I have grown old
Working ’til the break of dawn
But now I early fold

Once I walked with heavy pack
Many miles in a day
Now I sit in rocking chair
Recalling hard won play

Recovery was quick then
Endurance that would last
Injury slight problem when
Healing would come so fast

Now there is strength in wisdom
Knowing when best to stop
Working smarter not harder
No need to be on top

Much there is I’ve yet to learn
New vistas I would see
But lack of energy
Means that I am not free

My good days are not done yet
Though now I slow the pace
My hope is not in sprinting
But finishing the race

If it were in my own strength
Long since I would have failed
For God is my provision
Or long since I’d have bailed

As life begins to wind down
Vigor begins to wane
Glimpses I see of heaven
Through a dimly lit pane

One day before God I’ll dance
I’ll sing and serve and praise
In His strength forever there
His glories I will raise

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It’s Marvelous Monday! Just before I stepped back out into the refreshingly crisp and slightly breezy 32 degree morning, I spied the signed that read “…Learning Commons, Encouraging collaboration, exploration, and creation. Supporting lifelong learning since 2007.” I proceeded to my parking lot duty station to stand watch just after 7:15 AM, making my school a kinder and gentler place to be. My mind began to stir with thoughts and comments I had with a student the Friday before concerning the way we do school. As the Sun rose above the small ridge behind the school into a nearly cloudless sky and a songbird repeated his song, my thoughts came together. 

Lifelong learners
They tell us we should be
But how do you touch the heart
By compulsion and decree?

Critical thinking skills
Synthesis to high degree
But without facts in their toolbox
What hope that they will see?

College is a must
AP courses, advanced degree
But where is creativity
Without time to explore and be free?

Learning is for high pursuits
For wisdom for you and me
But when will we understand
Growth of the spirit is key?

Look the look, play the part
Be all that you can be
But have you learned of heaven
To be eternally set free?

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My pastor asked me if I would share about my writing and how it has benefited me spiritually. I have been writing for many years by many means. I have journaled with pen to paper and fingers to keyboard in order to capture my thoughts. I have written newspaper articles and research papers supporting God’s view of Creation and salvation. I have written poetry and songs and short stories about struggles and joys of everyday life. I have written about family, friends, and colleagues. I have designed diagrams to explain ideas. Writing has been a long-term blessing in my life.

But why writing? Speaking to friends is easy. It’s real time, interactive, and engaging. You clarify and correct as you go. Facial expressions and voice intonations make understanding easier. Writing is harder. It has to make sense without the opportunity to correct misunderstandings. Writing speaks long after you are gone, for posterity or ridicule. Therefore, writing forces the writer to be more careful with words.

Why do I write? I write to focus, organize, and deepen my thoughts. I write in order to understand better and to make myself better understood by others. I write to hone arguments for truth and simplify complex ideas. I write to remember what I thought when God imparted understanding and wisdom to me. I write to quiet fretful, fearful, and frantic thoughts, to put my mind at rest by musing on truth. I write to plead with God, praise God, and thank God.

Psalm 139: 17-18a says, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.” His thoughts are indeed precious and numerous. The more I consider His thoughts, His works, His beauty, and His person as seen in Scripture, in Creation, and in my experience of Him, the more I realize the truth of Johannes Kepler’s words: “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.” So, I write to record and mull over observations I have made of God and His work in His Word, the world, and my life.

Writing may help you to think more biblically, more deeply, and more clearly. I would urge you to give it a try. If writing seems distasteful to you, it may be because it is difficult for you to do. I don’t claim to be a very good writer, but I have considered what has caused me to improve. Following are my tips for writing. (“P” is such a handy letter for the the tautograms and alliterations of poets and preachers. I went a little wild.)

1) Practice. Focused attempts to write will bring improvement.

2) Write with a purpose. Writing simply to record information is useful, but there are better reasons to write. Tell a story. Organize thinking. Simplify complex concepts with new analogies. Pursue your interests.

3) Pretend you have an audience. This procedure forces you to make yourself understood and tends to induce you to put more effort into delivery.

4) Be precise. Choose words and turns of phrase that convey what you intend. It takes effort.

5) Prune your writing. Concise thought is more organized, better understood, and better remembered.

6) Proof-read your writing several times and have others proof-read it. Make at least one pass for grammar and spelling, one pass for clarity, and one pass for readability.

7) Make your writing personal. Even if you are explaining difficult theological or scientific concepts, tell how it matters to you, why you want to know, what prompted your search, and how it will effect you.

8) Give praise to God for His providence in pleasant and problematic circumstances so that His goodness and power will be seen as active in the present as it was in the past.

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Why Me? There are generally two ways to answer that question.

Why me? Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?

         Or…

Why me? What is God trying to teach me? How is He using these circumstances to guide me?

On a very pleasant, sunny afternoon my wife and I were preparing to go for a walk on our local Greenway. We were talking and enjoying conversation and she was understanding well. You see, she is a stroke victim and most days communication is poor and ponderous. We went to the car, talking away as we went. I distinctly remember enjoying the moment.

I pulled out of the driveway, looking both ways. In my blind spot a car had pulled up on the opposite curb. I looked in my rear side mirror and reacted just soon enough to dent his passenger door no more than about four inches. Two inches less and a toilet plunger would have fixed the problem, but the main beam was damaged and irrepairable. It was an expensive mistake.

Now two months later I was at the body shop paying for the repair. I had planned other business nearby. When I came out of the shop, my truck would not start. After a half hour cleaning the battery cable, I was underway, too late to do the other business I thought so important.

Why had all of this happened? Why was I prevented and redirected? What chain of events is God orchestrating for His glory and my benefit through these less than pleasant events?

I may never know, but I do know that the Scripture says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) I lived a good portion of my life frustrated by annoying sidetracks and roadblocks, but I have come to understand what the Psalmist means when he says, “It is vain to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2) I want to end my days trusting God, as the Psalmist says, “The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:9-10)

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It shall not grow if the soil is not prepared. It shall not be caught if there is no net in the air. No reason, no logic based in truth will occur without the moral component.

What is not caught is not taught
So they say
Lead them to water add salt
Make it play

But how do you break the hard pan
Unfriable soil
Minds for which learning is ban
Refuse slightest toil

Closed to logic and reason
Parroting thought
Flocks of birds out of season
Nothing new sought

Where are those seeking learning
Knowledge sponge
Understanding discerning
For truth lunge

True wisdom comes from above
Two-sided gift
Truth one side, the flip side love
Between no rift

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