July 1, 2015 – Wisdom, Part 9


Every day I pray for wisdom.  I learned from the Psalms the importance of praying for wisdom. The Psalms has a perspective I embrace. I can do everything I can such as study, research, listen, and learn and the by product will be knowledge.  The Psalms are individually and corporately adamant that wisdom is a gift from God. God can give us wisdom in our seeking of knowledge but the Psalmists have come to the conclusion that only God ultimately gives wisdom. I have known very wise persons who do not have a lot of knowledge and I have a lot of persons who have a lot of knowledge and not much wisdom. There are very few who have an abundance of both. It is not that wisdom and knowledge are mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, two sides to the same coin, if you will. Wisdom, if you and I listen well to the Psalms, is a gift of the Holy Spirit for those who take the spiritual life seriously.

Therefore, for the next several weeks, I want to share wisdom with you. I know it is presumptuous for me to name something as wise. But wisdom is like the color green. You know it when you see it. It is like the taste of chocolate ice cream. Very difficult to describe but you know it when you experience it.

A pastor, for whom I have tremendous respect, Jim Jackson, recently retired. He has begun to take Scripture, life experience, professional perspective, and a whole lot of pondering to create a set of “laws.” These are not legalistic practices but principles upon which God has created this earth. Just like the law of gravity, there are spiritual laws at work in this universe and Jesus was always speaking about them using the language of the Kingdom of God. This is how God has arranged this world to work at its best and reality is, as Dallas Willard says, what happens when you discover you are going upstream, so to speak.

“Toxic Guilt”

The law of guilt: The main thing we need to know about the past is that it is past

Guilt is a poor motivator. It is a tragedy so much religion is focused on controlling people’s behavior through guilt. Guilt holds people in check for a while, but ultimately it is ineffective. Soon people do what they want to do, even when they feel bad about it.

Grace is a better motivator. When people are loved in spite of their unloveliness – accepted in spite of their unacceptable behavior – forgiven in spite of their gross misbehavior, it makes them want to be a better person.

But what are we to do with our guilt? We are to receive God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Then the main thing we need to know about the past is that it is past.

“Faith and Courage”

The law of fear and faith: Faith is the antidote to fear.

To the extent that we are plagued by fear, we are not living by faith. And to the extent that we are living by faith, we are not ruled by fear. Faith and fear are opposites.

By “faith” I mean more than what people say they believe. Faith is how we live out what we say we believe. It is acting in a believing way. Faith is belief wrapped in skin.

Courage is sometimes different from faith, but up close the two look just alike. Faith-filled people act with courage. They act on their convictions regardless of public opinion or social consequences. They do not shrink from friends or foes. The throw caution to the wind and do what their flesh is afraid to do. That is why the first category of people excluded from the heavenly city, according to the Book of the Revelation, are cowards. Cowards lack faith and without faith it is impossible to please God.

What is it you know you should do that you are afraid to tackle? Do not be afraid. Have faith.

“Faith and Mental Illness”

The law of believing the impossible: All things are possible to those who believe – and to those detached from reality.

Many years ago I served as a volunteer chaplain at a state mental hospital. During that period many famous people showed up for worship – Moses, Adam, Jesus, and Satan to name a few. Bless their hearts, they were delusional.

Truth be told, the proclamations and preachments of those detached from reality can sound remarkably similar to those with the gift of faith. Faith-filled people believe all things are possible. So do people suffering from mental disorders. There is a fine line between faith and insanity.

So what’s the difference?

The gift of faith is the supernatural enablement whereby the Spirit gives us confidence in God’s promises, power, and presence. These with the gift of faith inspire others to do things that they would ordinarily shrink from doing. In spite of great confidence, faith-filled people are humble and aware that what they are doing would be impossible without God.

When we think of delusional people most of us think of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.” But “the Man From La Mancha” was quite different from the mentally ill people I have known. People with pathological illnesses often imagine doing grandiose things through their natural gifts and talents. And they are usually loners who lack humility.

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