Wisdom From The Father

There is a school of thought that says the devil doesn’t like it when you work for the Lord. He tries his best to sidetrack you … to change the message … to divert your attention.

Well, he went into overdrive over the past 24 hours as I prepared for a trip behind the pulpit at West Fayette Presbyterian Church.

First, as I was putting the finishing touches on the sermon, my program shut down and — of course — a key portion disappeared during recovery.

Then, as I printed out the bulletins, my color ink ran out {not a big problem, just the graphics looked a little weird}. As I printed the readings, the black ink disappeared.

This morning as I got ready to go to church, I put my reading glasses down … and promptly forgot them at home. Fortunately I print my sermon big enough for me to read without the assistive specs.

The copy machine at church wasn’t working and I couldn’t find the cord to hook up my phone for the prelude and postlude music. I couldn’t read the bulletin very well and the hymnal? Forgetaboutit!

I didn’t set up the digital hymnal right and after we {the saintly women from church} got it set up, I stepped on the plug during the second song … so we had to start over.

And that’s all BEFORE we actually got to sermon.

Now, I’m not saying these words scared the beegeebers out of satan, but I know he did quite a bit to derail the message. He didn’t succeed {Can I get an Amen!} See, at our church, we are, should we say, flexible to apparent calamities. We certainly are not perfect … but we are forgiven!

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

First of all. The title of today’s reflection is not a shameless plug for my blog. Let’s get that straight. Mine is “Wisdom From a Father.” This is “Wisdom From the Father.” That’s “a” like one of many, not “the” like the head honcho, the big guy. So, no plug (wink, wink).

Wisdom is a strange thing. As I started preparing for these words, I was reminded of a story I heard many years ago.

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.

The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

I’ll come back to the story a little later. Wait for it.

Wisdom. That’s the theme we read about today [Psalm 1; Proverbs 31:10-31; James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37]. The wisdom to walk with the righteous. The wisdom of the virtuous Proverbs 31 woman. The pure Wisdom that comes from heaven. The wisdom Jesus continually tries to teach His followers.

The characterization of the wise person is summed up in the phrase “fear of the Lord.” This is the beginning of wisdom, and the process by which wisdom matures the individual. Not surprisingly, fear of the Lord also becomes the end of the process.

I hope you were all attentive to Steve’s message last week. He stole some of my thunder, although he emphasized Wisdom with an upper case W … God’s Wisdom. I’m going to focus on wisdom with a lower case w … human wisdom. It’s sort of like the difference between “a” and “the”.

The two certainly are related. Our lower case wisdom should be a reflection of upper case Wisdom. It’s what we seek.

However, we’re not infallible. We’re not omnipotent. We don’t live in an absolute vacuum. We were made in the image of God but we are far from being God. We have limitations God simply does not have.

That doesn’t mean we can’t adapt our thinking to mirror God’s Wisdom. In fact, it is precisely that trait that leads to our understanding.

I always get weary whenever anyone speaks in absolutes on any subject including theology. True, there are immutable laws of nature … or are there?

There was a time when people thought the world was flat … when educated people felt the heavens revolved around the earth … when life expectancy was 20 years in the neolithic age to 31 worldwide in 1900 to 48 in 1950 to 67.2 in 2010.

Over the course of time, we learned — or gained insight or wisdom (lower case w) — that led to remarkable changes. Just look at our lifetime. How is life different today, Sept. 20, 2015, from what it was just 25 years ago, Sept. 20, 1990? Don’t do it now, but look at your cell phone. And when you get home, try to find your land line phone …

This is a sermon, however, not a history lesson, so let’s try to connect the dots spiritually.

Wisdom is referred to from Genesis to 1 John 83 times. That’s just spiritual wisdom with a lower case w. There are 65 references of wisdom (lower case w) coming from God and 24 instances of prayers for spiritual wisdom. There are an addition 38 references to worldly wisdom.

I would say the writers of the biblical texts were trying to capture a message.

Our lower case wisdom is not something we are given. It is something we learn and process as we mature … although I’ve known some pretty wise whipper-snappers in my day. We learn the basics in our formative years as Christians, but it is only when we take the next steps to study God’s words more deeply, to square fact from fiction, to understand the context of the written Word, to recognize faith in action is more important than book faith, to see and appreciate the world around us as God’s creation and its inhabitants as fellow sojourners … perhaps given different circumstances and experiences but fellow travelers on our journey nonetheless. We are all intertwined. That recognition is how our lower case wisdom merges closer to God’s upper case Wisdom.

To be sure, as our gospel reading shows, the merry band of apostles were as clueless as we often are. Jesus is trying to explain His pending crucifixion and resurrection — for the second time — But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it.

Two thousand years later and nothing has changed.

Instead of trying to figure it out or ask questions of the Lord, the apostles on the road to Capernaum are engaged in an argument about who is the greatest.

Two thousand years later and nothing has changed.

Just so you know, Mark has a tendency to focus on the faults and failings of the disciples. But are we all that different?

There are far too many Christians who also are often afraid to ask questions for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they believe they should already know the answer and they don’t want to look dumb. Sometimes it’s because people are nervous their question isn’t “okay,” maybe there is something wrong with their question or with questions in general or maybe questioning itself is a sign of lack of faith.

Wrong … on all counts. Questions are not the mark of a lack of intelligence but of a curious and lively spiritual mind. Or as David Lose said, “Faith, in fact, grows in the soil of doubts and challenges. Absent doubt, we may talk of knowledge, but given that faith is ‘belief in things not seen,’ doubt seems to be an essential ingredient.”

Jesus’ wants us to share our questions, our struggles and our doubts so He might help us understand His teaching one on one and in this way draw us closer to God. Perhaps if the apostles had asked, they would have understood more quickly and easily what He was trying to teach. Which leads us to the second half of this week’s passage — greatness does not lie in power but in compassion and it is not achieved by status but by service.

Perhaps, the same is true of us. If Jesus’ kingdom is understandably difficult to comprehend, we should ask questions. If Jesus’ death seems meaningless or His resurrection hard to accept, we should ask questions. If we wonder how Jesus can be with us or where God is when it hurts, we should ask questions.

So here’s an experiment. Write down a question you have about faith, God or the Bible and drop it in with the offering. That’s it. You don’t have to name the question or discuss it or put down your name. Just write down one question you have about Scripture, God or faith and drop it in with the offering. That last part is important. Just as we give God our time, talents and money, so also do we gratefully give God our questions, challenges and doubts.

The best part is Steve gets to answer them.

See, questioning with an open mind is a step toward wisdom with a lower case w.

Which brings us back to our opening story.

“I’ve been thinking,” our man in the story said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me something more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”

That, my friends, is a discerning heart. Or in a word … wisdom with a lower case w … born and nurtured from Wisdom with an upper case W.

May we all find that. And the people say, Amen!

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About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
This entry was posted in encouragement, Faith, God, inspiration, Life, relationships, sermon, West Fayette Presbyterian, wisdom and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wisdom From The Father

  1. dawnlizjones says:

    “Questions are not the mark of a lack of intelligence but of a curious and lively spiritual mind.” THANK YOU! How often we succumb to the fears you mentioned in your article, er…post. Question, ask, seek, knock, etc.

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