A Word About Wisdom

This week in my devotional time I read a lot of verses that talk about wisdom. Take a look”

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5

“Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it.” Proverbs 8:33

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” Proverbs 19:20

“Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” Proverbs 9:9

I also looked a bit into the story of Esther. If you remember her story (there’s a whole book of the Bible written about it), as a young Jewish girl she’s drafted into possibly becoming queen of Persia, she actually does become queen, she saves her people (the Jews) from massacre because she pleads with the king and reveals the villain, and ends up living happily ever after. One of the supporting characters in the story is Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, who helps her with knowledge about the impending massacre. But the story reveals that Mordecai sharing knowledge with the King goes back further than the main story of the Book of Esther about the planned massacre, to a time when Mordecai revealed that there was an assassination plan targeting the king (Esther 2:21-23). The king is saved and the story apparently goes on. But some time later (in the middle of the story about the planned massacre) the king had trouble sleeping so he read back through the logs that were kept of the goings on in the kingdom and was reminded of this assassination attempt and he asked an important question about what was done to reward him for his dedicated service (Esther 6). It turned out that nothing had been done, so the king followed up and rewarded Mordecai.

I share all of these verses and this story from Esther for several reasons. First, there’s no reason whatsoever to ever think or assume you know everything. Everyone forgets things and everyone can only remember or know or be exposed to so much. It’s one of the reasons the internet is so powerful and such an important tool for our lives today. Second, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help or a second opinion. Since we’ve already established we don’t know everything, it follows that someone else certainly knows something you don’t and you can tap into their knowledge. Third, keep learning! I keep notes about lots of stuff because I want to make sure I take care of things or to remember things, and as we saw with the story of Mordecai and the king, notes of those kind can make sure that you’re following through on the important things in your life, as well as to keep a record for those who come after you.

One final thought: wisdom only does good if you do something with it. It’s important to keep learning and to connect with others, but only if you’re going to do something with that knowledge because there are people out there in the world who could greatly benefit from what you know. For example imagine learning all you can about cancer and never doing anything with that knowledge, it sounds silly, right? Whether you do more learning or sharing this week doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you’re taking time to both learn and contribute your wisdom to the world.

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Courage Like Daniel

With it being graduation season as well as Father’s Day and last month Mother’s Day, one topic that comes to mind is courage. It takes courage to step into the next chapter of your life after graduation. It takes courage to step up and really be the parent your kids need you to be. It takes courage to step up and be the partner that the mother/father of your children needs you to be. Some people do try to give a partial effort, and they’re partially successful, which usually ends up being more frustrating and ineffective than anything worth giving credit to.

One of the Biblical figures that often is thought of when the topic of courage comes up is Daniel. Daniel’s this larger-than-life figure who has an incredible passion for God, is called into the presence of kings and leaders regularly, and gets himself into some incredible situations including being thrown in a lion’s den (and coming out alive).

Daniel showed courage in several different ways, including being courageous enough to tell the truth when it was asked of him, to stay faithful to what he believed, to continue to practice his faith even when it was considered illegal, and to trust in God when his life was threatened. He also had one of those incredibly close relationships with God, and God revealed much to him because he listened to God. The book of Daniel also records one of the longer prayers in the Bible, a prayer of confession, humility and a seeking of forgiveness.

We may never have the relationship with God or live on the national stage that Daniel did, but that doesn’t mean that our lives are any less important, or that it takes us any more courage to live them that it did Daniel. This week I would encourage you to work your way away from fear and into courage and live your life with the power and confidence that come with being a loved Child of God.

A Summer of Love

One of my favorite topics, and a favorite topic for many, is the topic of love. We’re getting closer by the day to my favorite season, summer, we’ve already celebrated the holidays of Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, and we’ve got Father’s Day this coming weekend, for some of us all of those are reasons to feel love and share love, even if there’s a bit of bittersweet reminiscing going on over those we’ve lost. But love continues after death. It doesn’t end, it changes. We still love them, we just love them differently.

One of the greatest examples of love is that of God’s love for us. Over the years He has shown us in so many ways how much He loves us. From the start of Creation to Noah’s Ark to crossing the Red Sea to Jesus birth and later death and resurrection, not to mention all of the individual men and women, boys and girls whose lives are well-known throughout the Bible, God’s been telling a story of love for years.

But what’s in the Bible doesn’t begin to tap into all of the evidence that there is that God loves us. It’s in the way the breeze blows, the sun shines, the plants grow, the pets wag their tales, the joy of two people in love seeing each other at the end of a day, the innocence and yet amazing insight of a child, the little unexpected blessings that show up in your day, the good news, the coworker who offered to help with the big project, the satisfaction at the end of a good book or movie, the laughter with friends, the friend who stopped to talk with you, the reminder that just popped into your head, or the health to get up another morning. The ways that God can show up and show love are endless.

If you’re looking for something to challenge you over the summer, I would challenge you to make this the summer of love. Work on the relationships that mean the most to you but are a little (or a lot) broken. Work on yourself and accepting yourself and/or improving yourself. Do good things for the earth. Donate your time to organizations and people in need. And I would encourage you to ask God what ways He wants you to work on loving this summer.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16

God with Us

It’s that time again, the time when young people move on in their lives to the next thing.  The many people graduating this year and every year is a reminder of success for each of us, we’ve managed to help yet another generation through another year.  But that final college graduation should not be seen as the last graduation that we’ll go through.  In fact we all go through times in our lives that are graduations.  No, in all likelihood there won’t be a big celebration or lots of people attending those future graduations, but they’re not any less important, or any less scary than graduating high school or college.

At different times throughout our lives we’re asked or forced to move on.  It’s never easy and takes lots of courage to truly move on in a way that doesn’t damage us permanently.  If we hold onto the negative emotion of being let go or dealing with death we’ll never be able to get to that next step in our lives.  The good news is we’re not alone.  In Exodus 3 as God is speaking to Moses about the graduation He has planned for the Israelites Moses naturally shares that he’s got some fears about the whole situation.  God says

I will be with you.

Yep, that simple.  And it’s the same for us too. God promises to go with us through the different challenges and trials of our lives.  He doesn’t promise it will be easy, but He does say He’ll go with us.

If you’re facing a change or graduation in your life today, don’t let the fear take control or take over.  Know and trust instead that God is right there with you and will be the whole way.

On a Mission of Peace

Yesterday here in the US we took the time to remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice and died in the line of duty to their country. It’s a solemn and serious day, one that many suffer through because we reached an unavoidable situation where it was necessary to fight and go to war and put their lives on the line. Don’t get me wrong, I know that some people only can listen when they’re practically smacked in the face by the strength that can only be stated through violence/the military. I fully support the soldiers past, present and future, and their families. But I wish that we didn’t have to resort as often to violence and war.

So as I was working on my weekly devotional over the weekend, I ran across a couple of verses that spoke not only to the real work of the men and women of the military (the men and women of the military are typically known as those who fight, but what they’re really doing is working towards peace for more people), but also to how the large percentage of the rest of the world who aren’t in the military can help us advance peace in the world too.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6

Romans 15 is an encouragement to choose to live in harmony with each other. I really think it is a choice, it’s something we could easily skip (and many do), but I think that we would all find we enjoy life more when we’re working together on life rather than fighting or being stuck in our own ways and not considering the needs or health of others. We’re also reminded that it’s our opportunity as followers of Christ to be the ones to start that journey and turn things from potentially adversarial to supportive. But because of that relationship with Christ we also have some extra tools when it comes to making peace:

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18

James 3 lays out a whole lot of ways we can create better, healthier, happier, more peaceful relationships, using the wisdom and heart we get from God. It is a lot to take in or try to do all at once, so I would pick one or two and start with that and work up to adding more in, or if you like more variety in your life you can pick 7 and alternate through them on a daily basis each week. Even if you just picked one and worked on it for the rest of your life, you would be making a positive impact on the people you connect with and helping to create more peaceful communities. What will you do to honor our military and advance peace in [your corner of] the world?

A Choice of Burdens

I read a quote recently that I think really lines up well with the Biblical passage of Matthew 11:28-30 but also sheds light on it. Let’s start with the Bible passage:

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””

It’s a very well-known passage, one that is repeated and turned to during times of stress, fear, confusion, challenge and weakness, maybe one you yourself have said or read recently.  It’s one that we turn to because Jesus is clearly saying that although there will be burdens in life He is here to help us with them. Which is where the quote I mentioned comes in:

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” Lou Holtz

It’s very rare in life that we truly are out of option or that we have no choices. Typically we just can’t think of them or don’t like the ones that we can think of or see. But both the passage and the quote remind us to rethink that and be encouraged that the burden we bear doesn’t have to be the burden we see it as, and that there are options and hope, if only we would open our eyes.

Today I would encourage you to not only bring your current situations to God in prayer, but also take the time to really do your research and consider your options.  You’re only out of options and hope if you believe it is so or stop looking.  Maybe the one you’ve been avoiding is the answer.  Maybe it’s something you haven’t heard of before.  Maybe it’s something a friend has heard about and would be able to share with you if you share your burden with them.  Maybe today will be the day that brings hope back into your life.  But even if it isn’t, I know that God has everything under control and has a plan for everything, and He is here to carry your burdens with you.

People of Courage

Today I’m thinking about the topic of courage. One of my favorite verses on courage is Deuteronomy 31:6:

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Sometimes the path that your life travels on calls for only one thing, and that’s courage. There’s very little that you can do other than be courageous and have faith that God goes with you and will get you through this time that you’re facing. This is how we sometimes have to deal with sudden deaths or major losses in our lives. Yes, we would be willing to take action and move in a direction, if only we knew what direction that should be and if we weren’t so blindsided by the turn of events.

It takes courage to rebuild and move on. It takes courage to try to navigate a path you can’t see. It takes courage to step into a new role or relationship. It takes courage to do what you think God is leading you to do even if it doesn’t seem possible or realistic. But if God is going with you and He won’t fail, why shouldn’t we be courageous and try?

So today I encourage you to step into life with all it’s challenges, failures, opportunities, triumphs and celebrations. Don’t let the past hold you back or limit you from dreaming and living courageously. If you’ve forgotten what it means to dream or really live, I encourage you to take steps to get out there and become that person once again, the person God’s created you to be, a person of courage.