Pursue Wisdom – Proverbs 8

wisdom more precious than rubies
per·son·i·fi·ca·tion
/pərˌsänəfəˈkāSH(ə)n/
noun
1. The attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.

The ability to make observations of all things whether physical or abstract and transform them into practical understanding that helps us to live better lives is an important aspect of wisdom and wisdom literature.  It certainly is a time honored tradition.  If you’ve ever read Aesop’s fables you are familiar with this kind of use of metaphor, here’ an example:

The Ants and the Grasshopper

THE ANTS were spending a fine winter’s day drying grain collected in the summertime.  A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food.  The Ants inquired of him, “Why did you not treasure up food during the summer?’  He replied, “I had not leisure enough.  I passed the days in singing.”  They then said in derision:  “If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter.”

It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.

Proverbs 8 is a textbook example of personification.  The writer takes Wisdom as an idea and personifies it all over the place.

Wisdom calls out and raises her voice.  Wisdom takes her stand.  She cries aloud at the city gates.  Wisdom speaks truth and rejects lies.  Wisdom is older than the earth, she was alongside God before the creation.  Wisdom has children and imparts blessing to all who listen to her.

I’m a big fan of metaphorical language and so this kind of personification of wisdom is very appealing to me and how I think and communicate. To me, the theme which rises above all in Proverbs 8 is that Wisdom should be highly valued:

  • “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold.  For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”
  • “My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver”
  • “Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.  For those who find me find life and receive favor from the LORD.”

The importance of wisdom can’t be overstated.  It’s essentially giving high value to common sense and good judgment.  The writer of the Proverb wants the reader to value common sense and good judgment so much that he or she looks for it every day.  Where can I find valuable insights that will help me to live a better life?

Here’s the problem, there’s an awful lot of foolishness in the world and our entertainment industry and now social media traffics in a lot of foolishness.  Now, don’t get me wrong- technology is a double edged sword and there’s a lot of wisdom to be found at our fingertips.  I’m not the most skilled mechanic or carpenter in the world, but when I have a household repair job I need to tackle, I can usually find at least a dozen Youtube videos showing me how to get the job done.  But there’s also a lot of stupid stuff on there that can be an extreme time waster.  We all have the same amount of hours in a day, we need to be wise in how we use it.  We can eagerly use it to search for wisdom where it can be found… or we can waste it on foolishness.  Do you value wisdom enough to eagerly pursue it like it was gold?

One gold nugget from Proverbs 8 to close “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” (vs. 13).  If we fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, then we need to love what God loves and HATE what God hates.  So pay attention to the things that God hates: “pride, arrogance, evil behavior, perverse speech.”  If God hates it, so should we. So we need to reject attitudes and actions in ourselves that are offensive to God.

So let’s learn to love wisdom (even if it isn’t a person).

~ Jeff Fletcher

Requirements

Titus & Philemon

Did you panic a little bit when you found you had to read two entire books of the Bible today? As you have hopefully found now both Titus and Philemon are pretty short books. In fact, Philemon checks in as the third shortest book of the Bible (only 2 John and 3 John are shorter).

First, let’s talk about Titus.  If you owned a business and were looking to hire managers to oversee the company what would you require?  Would your job posting read that the applicant needed silky hair, mad four-square skills, and a deep love of chicken nuggets?  If so your company would probably not be in business for long because there would be no purpose behind the requirements you wanted. Hopefully, your requirements might be along the lines of:  must be self-controlled, honest and just.  If so you and God have those requirements in common except these are the requirements that God asks of the elders of the church which is a person who “manages God’s household” (Titus 1:7).

He also has requirements for those who aren’t elders.  In chapters 2 and 3, Paul outlines what God expects from everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. It says in chapter 3 verse 1- 2 that we are, “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign (which means to harm) no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

Paul carries over the idea of being peaceable and gentle in the book of Philemon.  Paul writes to Philemon, who is a brother in Christ, concerning a slave named Onesimus.  It seems that Onesimus was full of passion for spreading God’s word so he ran away from his master Philemon to join Paul.  Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon and requested that Philemon would, “accept him as you would me” (vs.17).  Paul treats both parties with grace and love to resolve the issue at hand and so once again practices what he preaches showing that he is a fully committed follower of God just as we are to be.

-Lacey Dunn

How Daniel Sustained His Devotion (And How You Can Too)

Daniel 7-9

The same word has beep popping up each day in our last few devotions: devotion.  The reason for this is simple. Daniel was a man devoted to God. Each story we’ve read this week has clearly demonstrated this. 

In yesterday’s devotion I said that our devotion to God must remain constant despite the ever-changing world in which we live—just as Daniel’s did. Today I want to tell you how Daniel was able to sustain his devotion and how you can, too.

The word pray (and its derivatives) is found twelve times in the first nine chapters of Daniel. He prayed three times everyday. He was arrested and thrown into a lion’s den because he continued praying even though it was declared illegal. One of the most powerful prayers in all of scripture is recorded in Daniel Chapter 9—Daniel is its author. It is obvious that prayer was central in the life of this godly man. This is what enabled him to stay devoted to his God in midst of constant trials and changes. And a prayerful life is the key for us to maintain a devoted life today.

There are several reasons why prayer helps sustain devotion. The first reason is that it keeps us connected to God. The more you talk to someone (especially if you like them), the better the connection. On the other hand, if you don’t communicate, there will be little to no connection. This is case with God as well. Prayer—heartfelt prayer—creates connection, which leads to greater devotion.

A second reason is that prayer helps us understand the will of God. Prayer allows us (as much as possible) to get our minds aligned with God’s. The more we pray, the better we understand what God wants. His will is good, pleasing, and perfect. So when we understand God’s will (in all its goodness) it generates more devotion in us. In other words, we get a greater sense of how great God truly is and He becomes more alluring to us.

The last reason I’ll mention for why prayer helps us stay devoted is that it keeps us focused on what really matters. Our minds are truly amazing things, but they tend to get overcrowded—especially in the Information Age. We all carry smart phones, have personal computers, and own TVs. We are constantly taking in information—sometimes good and sometimes bad. I believe there has never been a harder time for individuals to stay focused than today. It is difficult to remain devoted when there are so many distractions. This is where prayer can help. When we put away our computers and smart phones and take time to talk to God, it clears the fog in our minds that prevents us from focusing on the one to whom we should be devoted.

Being devoted is not an easy thing. That is what makes Daniel so impressive. Only because of his prayer life was he able sustain such devotion to God. If we want to resemble Daniel in his devotion, we must strive to have a life filled with prayer. So go ahead, say a prayer.

– Joel Fletcher

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Even If You Don’t

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Daniel 2-3 

There’s a new song from Mercy Me that’s been playing on the radio lately called Even If. 

The chorus goes:

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

In Chapter two of Daniel king Nebuchadnezzar makes a tall statue of gold and calls for everyone to fall down and worship when the assigned music plays. If anyone refuses they are to be thrown into a furnace to meet a very unpleasant death.  For Daniel’s friends from Judah, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, this is unacceptable. They are Jews, and worshiping anyone or anything except Yahweh is contrary to their devotion to God. But if they refuse, they will surely suffer a horrible death.

They have a tough decision to make. 

Or do they.

When the music played, the three of them didn’t bow. Their devotion to God was so strong that the threat of death didn’t faze them. In fact, when confronted about their not worshiping the false idol, this is the response they give: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18) Their faith in God is admirable. And it infuriated the king. He ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than normal.

If the story ended with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah perishing in the flames of the furnace, their faith and devotion would still be a great example for us. They were willing to die rather than bow to something other than Yahweh. They knew He could save them, but even if He didn’t they said they would not serve false gods or worship a golden idol. But God did save them. He rescued them from the fiery furnace and this amazed Nebuchadnezzar. He praised God and promoted the three of them in Babylon.

You and I may never be faced with a situation where choosing to follow God’s way could result in our deaths, but our devotion to God may lead to others mocking us, having to make sacrifices, or, God forbid, putting us in an uncomfortable situation. God doesn’t promise to rescue us from these things. Our trust in God shouldn’t be affected by whether things go the way we want them to or not. Even if they don’t, our hope should be in the God who CAN rescue us. He is a good God, a great God, and the only God who can save us from the flames.

– Joel Fletcher

The Resolution that Stuck

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Daniel 1-2 

The book of Daniel is probably my favorite of the books we call the Prophets. It is filled with exciting stories (like the fiery furnace and lion’s den), captivating prophecies, and one of the best biblical examples of a godly man.

In the first two chapters of Daniel we begin to learn a lot about his character. The first story in Daniel begins in 1:8, which says “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” Daniel was a part of a group chosen by king Nebuchadnezzar to be groomed to serve in his palace. Daniel, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were chosen from the tribe of Judah. The group was assigned to eat food that apparently was against the food laws outlined in law given to Moses. Instead of doing the easy and safe thing, Daniel made a resolution not to defile himself with the decadent, tasty food. After some reluctance, the official in charge of Daniel agreed to let him and his friends eat his own diet. 

At the beginning of every year, people make resolutions to start doing something good (like work out more or read Bible more) or give up something bad for them (like fried foods or too much TV). What seemly happens every year though, is that after a few weeks or, if you’ve done well, a few months, you give up on your resolution and start back on what you were doing before. Keeping resolutions is hard, but Daniel kept his. Not only that, but he and his friends looked better after ten days of vegetables and water than the other guys on the diet of choice foods and wine.

Daniel’s resolution stuck and for this he was rewarded. God gave he and his three friends knowledge and understanding and Daniel the ability to interpret visions and dreams. They found favor with the king and entered his service. This led to the second story in this great book, the interpretation of the king’s dream.

What will be a constant theme through the first half of this book is Daniel’s devotion to God. This is what led him to resolve himself not to eat the defiled food and, even when faced with opposition, to keep that resolution. This devotion will keep him praying even when it’s illegal.

Daniel was devoted to God above all us. We should be, too. It won’t be easy. We may face opposition. We may be thrown to the lions. But in end, it will be well worth the struggles. As the great songwriter Bob Dylan said, “you gotta serve somebody.” Why not let it be the God who will set up a kingdom that will never end? (Daniel 2:44) Resolve yourself to be devoted to the God who won’t let you down.

– Joel Fletcher

Wisdom from The Princess Bride – And Solomon, Of Course.

Ecclesiastes 5-8

ecclesiastes-5-10

Wednesday, February 1

I promise, King Solomon is going to offer us wise, uplifting counsel.  It’s just not going to be in today’s reading. Today’s themes are the futility of work ( we’ve heard that before), the wisdom of solemn considerations, the overall unfairness of life.
Chapter 5 opens with a warning to not pretend to please God with foolish words or hasty vows.  Solomon then warns against hoarding riches.  In verse 10 basically Solomon is saying, Mo’ money, Mo’ problems.
He does end the chapter with the positive observation that finding joy in one’s work and activities is a gift from God. If we are occupied with gladness of heart from God, we don’t have time to reflect, sadly I suspect, on the days of our lives.
Chapter 6 restates what Solomon said in chapter 4. In fact, in both he states that it would have been better to never have been born (verse 3 in chapter 4 and verse 3 in chapter 6) than to live a futile life.
I love verse 7:1.  We always celebrate the birth of a baby, in part, for all the hope the baby represents.  We celebrate not the death at the end of a person’s life, but rather the fulfillment of that hope.  Solomon is saying this celebration is better than the one at birth. In addition to celebrating that person, it reminds us of our own mortality and the need to make our time matter.  The following verses add to this thought.
When I was at Ball State for a whole semester, I was terribly homesick.  I found verse 7: 8, “The end of the matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”  I wrote it on a piece of paper and pinned it to the wall.  It reminded me to be patient, the semester would end soon and it would certainly be better than the beginning. I would learn something from this awful experience.  I don’t remember where I thought the pride  part fit in, but it made sense to me at the time! This verse meant a lot to me and got me through that semester.
Most of Chapter 8 seems to suggest that King Solomon believed that if you do good, you will be rewarded.  But some of the verses (10 and 14) point to the fact that sometimes the wicked are rewarded and the good are punished.  I have several friends who go to tanning beds.  I have several friends who do not.  Would you believe two of my friends and I, who have never seen the inside of a tanning bed, are the ones who got skin cancer!!!! Talk about not fair! I am not saying tanning is wicked or that I want my tanning friends to get skin cancer, but it is frustrating to do all the “right” things and still suffer.  I think King Solomon understands my frustration. : )
I suspect Solomon would agree with the grandfather in The Princess Bride.  “Who says life is fair, where is that written?”  It certainly isn’t written in this chapter (or any scripture for that matter)!  God has never promised His children an easy or “fair” life.  Solomon knew that.  But he also knew that serving God is the only way to give meaning to life.  He will reassure us of this in tomorrow’s reading.
Until then, Maria Knowlton

When asked to give a short bio of herself Maria said, “I have one great husband, two wonderful kiddos, and will be a nurse in 12 months!”.  Those who know Maria would also add that she brings joy and life to every project she attacks (be it heading up the school science fair, providing first aid at Family Camp, being a spokesman for Indiana Donor Network, attending nursing school, or teaching at church in northern Indiana).  She is a model of faithfulness as she points others to her faithful God. 
 
 

(Photo credit: https://dailyverses.net/ecclesiastes/5/10/esv)