Wisdom Is a Tree of Life

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⌊Wisdom⌋ is a tree of life for those who take firm hold of it. Those who cling to it are blessed.

By Wisdom the Lord laid the foundation of the earth.

By understanding he established the heavens.

By his knowledge the deep waters were divided, and the skies dropped dew. (Proverbs 3:18-20 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 3:13-20 GW)


What's your great pursuit in life? What do you put most of your energy and interest into? Success... fame... love... pleasure... honor... respect... fulfillment... peace... contentment...?

Short-sighted pursuits are easily short-changed, even leaving a person empty. Taking the longer view may lead to discouragement and impatience along the way.

When the focus of our pursuit has an enduring and essential value, benefits come with the pursuit. This is the benefit and promise of pursuing godly wisdom.

Countless people who've attained lofty goals and pursuits experience an emptiness that seems unfillable. This is the honest admission of many athletes, entertainers, and successful business people.

Why? Their goals and accomplishments—no matter how significant—were neither enduring nor essential to life.

The value of godly wisdom exceeds any treasure or riches someone can possess and outstrips any desire known on earth. And yet, fulfillment and a measure of wealth, even contentment, are benefits promised along the path of a life that pursues godly wisdom.

The wisdom of God is a tree of life that grows and spreads its branches as its roots deepen in a person's heart and mind. It grounds a person in the very foundation and origin of all creation.

This wisdom enables a person to endure and weather the storms of life while drawing life and nourishment from the sun and earth of God's goodness. It's a worthy life pursuit.

Reflection—

Is your life grounded in godly wisdom or are you pursuing other things? Those who pursue, take hold of and cling to the wisdom of God will reap great benefits and fulfillment in life.

Prayer Focus—

Be willing to lay your goals, desires, and hopes in God's hands. Ask for and trust Him to guide you each day by His wisdom planted in your heart and mind.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Honor and Respect

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Do not consider yourself wise. Fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first and best part of all your income.

Do not reject the discipline of the Lord, my son.... (Proverbs 3:7, 9, 11 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 3:7-12 GW)


How would you describe respect? Three different types of respect come to mind for me.

Probably the most common one could be termed surface respect—it's shallow as the term implies. It's shown when the boss comes around or when trying to impress someone of importance.

Some respect is born out of sheer fear, dread, or fearfulness. It's an anxious fear that tends to cause people to flee or freeze up.

Respect can also be earned or gained through honorable deeds or character. This is a respect of admiration and may even be mutual.

The fear of God can be defined as respect but it's a different kind of respect. It reflects a sense of awe, honor, and wonder. Reverence—the out-dated English word—is sometimes used as a synonym but falls short of its biblical meaning.

The fear of God is not born out of anxiety but love and trust. It's a healthy and wise sense of respect, awe, and wonder for the Creator and Sustainer of life.

A blessing is promised to those who honor their parents in one of the ten commandments (Exo 20:12). This holds true for those of us who know God as our Father. When we honor Him, He honors our respect and blesses us with His favor—His kindness.

When believers learn to honor and thank God as the provider of our wealth and possessions, it works to our benefit even further.

Likewise—as parents guide and warn their children for their good—God provides discipline for us in our lives through the trials, tests, and temptations He allows. When we reject and resent them like pouting children, we lose out.

When we live our lives in humility with honor and reverent respect for the Lord, we keep the door open for His fatherly care in ways beyond our understanding as His children.

Reflection—

What benefits have you experienced in life from respecting and honoring the Lord in the ways described in these verses? When things don't go your way, do you get angry and bitter? Or, do you ask God for perspective on things that need to change?

Prayer Focus—

Start each day seeking the Lord and His guidance for the day. Ask for His help to walk in humility, graciousness, thankfulness, and surrender to His guidance and correction in your life.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Leaving the Worry Chair Behind

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Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths smooth [straight].

 (Proverbs 3:5-6 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 3:1-6 GW)


As a young believer, I had to learn how to trust God. It wasn't natural for me. It isn't natural for any of us. Just as toddlers exert their free will before they can say it clearly, we like to "do it by our self!" American culture only reinforces this innate self-willed resistance to trusting God.

We had a wing-backed, turquoise chair I called my "worry chair." It was vintage modern furniture from the sixties. My dearest grandmother gave it to us when my wife and I set up our new home and life together. 

It was the first piece of furniture I'd see when I walked through the front door. I would sit down and worry about things, sometimes for hours. I got up from the worry chair more burdened than when I sat down—focused on whatever problems I faced at the time.

On the wall facing the chair was a calligraphy of Proverbs 3:5-6. It became God's way to remind me what to do about worry. Slowly but surely, God taught me how to leave my worries with Him rather than wrestle with them in that chair.

Over the years these two verses became my bedrock and guideline for walking by faith. I learned to trust God with childlike faith that sustained me and our family through decades of full-time ministry in the US and overseas.

The first verse says what to do and not do. First, trust in the Lord with your whole heart. This isn't easy in our distraction-filled lives and risk-aversive culture but it's essential. The second is don't try to figure it all out. This requires trust—childlike trust.

This is the very thing Jesus spoke and taught people including His closest followers (Matt 6:25-34). It's a lesson in faith that requires commitment. The Lord has a way of helping us do this with reinforcing reminders also called trials, testings, and temptations.

The next verse helps us see how to trust God and what to expect. This lines up with my favorite description of faith in Hebrews 11:6. Acknowledging God in all our ways simply means to bring Him into our life choices before we try to figure it all out.

God promises to direct us along the way of life, as we walk hand-in-hand with Him like a young child with their father crossing a street or in a crowded area. He won't let go of us, even when we wriggle our hand out of His to go our own way.

God is faithful and trustworthy even when we aren't.

Reflection—

God is trustworthy. We can choose to trust Him in daily life or go it alone in our own strength. Trust is active faith. It requires acknowledging God for who He is and our need for Him. When we become His child, we learn this step by step.

Prayer Focus—

Learn to bring your concerns and worries to Jesus on a daily basis. Commit your dreams and plans to Him before launching out to make them happen. Daily read the reminders of God's faithfulness in His Word to help direct your prayer and to remember throughout the day as you trust in Him.

©Word-Strong_2018


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An Internal Plumb Line

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Then you will understand what is right and just and fair— every good course ⌊in life⌋.

Wisdom will come into your heart. Knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Foresight will protect you. Understanding will guard you. (Proverbs 2:9-11 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 2:9-22 GW)


People have pursued wisdom since the beginning of time. Philosophers have filled the air and books with millions of words and thoughts with a variety of viewpoints. But philosophy is typically abstract, hypothetical, and theoretical, not practical wisdom.

The wisdom in Proverbs is far more practical than philosophy. It's grounded in truth from God and intended for daily life. This wisdom is to be taken into the deepest part of a person—their spirit and soul—to help them navigate relationships and live a life of integrity.

We all need a trustworthy reference point of truth and wisdom because we live in a world awash in relativism. We need a plumb line—an internal plumb line.

When hanging a picture on the wall, if the ceiling and corners of the wall are not square, what is actually level seems off to the eye. This is the value of a plumb line or level. A plumb line is a weighted string that gives a true vertical line. The weight on the line is held steady by the gravitational pull of the earth.

The wisdom of God is an internal plumb line for daily life. It provides direction and protection for a person's life through wise warnings and practical guidelines. God's wisdom isn't presented in fanciful thoughts but proven insight based on life experience.

God desires integrity of character as a safeguard for a person on a personal level and as a benefit for families, communities, and nations. Looking at our world today, I'd say we're in need of people with integrity in education, leadership, and government at all levels.

Integrity of character starts with each of us. Each person is responsible to pursue integrity for our own benefit and our relationships with others. The truth and wisdom of God is our internal plumb line—grounded in the character and nature of God.

A Final Thought

The Book of Proverbs contains general truisms rather than iron-clad promises or guarantees (see Proverbs Study Guide). The key to gaining the benefits of wisdom is to have knowledge combined with understanding.

The Proverbs are not just rules or theories for having a good life, but practical guidance for a better life. These guidelines lead to understanding for making wise choices in life.

Reflection—

What is the plumb line for your life? What enables you to stand firm and move forward in a good and true way? Integrity is a life choice. It's not complicated but requires honesty of heart. God alone is the source for true integrity of heart.

Prayer Focus—

Prayerfully pursue godly wisdom and integrity of heart through honest prayer, reading and meditating on the truth in the Scriptures, and seeking ways to invest God's truth and wisdom into your daily life.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Take My Words to Heart

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My son, if you take my words ⌊to heart⌋ and treasure my commands within you,

if you pay close attention to wisdom, and let your mind reach for understanding,

if indeed you call out for insight, if you ask aloud for understanding,

if you search for wisdom as if it were money and hunt for it as if it were hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord and you will find the knowledge of God.

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair— every good course ⌊in life⌋. (Proverbs 2:1-5, 9 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 2:1-9 GW)


We take some things to heart in ways that aren't helpful. Criticism—especially when mean-spirited—can crush our heart and break our spirit. Whether accurate or not, criticisms tend to play like a never-ending tape in our mind.

Flattery taken to heart is a trap. It's self-deluding and sets us up to fall when we crash into reality. Like someone who can't carry a tune trying out on the American Idol stage because family or friends tell them they sing well.

An unprotected heart is vulnerable. Who and what you trust is important. If you listen to and go by the opinions of others, your heart will be unsettled and confusion will fill your mind.

As foster parents in the US and in caring for abandoned and abused children and young women in the Philippines, my wife and I saw the importance of parenting first hand. Parents who care for, nurture, and protect their children are essential for a healthy, stable family.

As mentioned in previous devos and posts, mentoring is also important for personal growth and development as an adult. The advice presented in Proverbs from a father's point of view is a literary device—figurative language—to convey a sense of trusted authority.

This fatherly advice underscores the value of maturity and experience passed on to younger generations. One simple need it fills is the establishment and restoration of trust. It also lines up with what is said at the beginning of Proverbs about God, wisdom, knowledge, and life.

Here is simple encouragement and trustworthy guidance for living a wise life.

Reflection—

How have criticisms or flattery caused you grief or shame? Consider carefully what you take to heart. When you filter what you hear through the lens of "what is right and just and fair," you can save yourself from much grief and shame.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for God to give you discernment so you can apply the filter of "what is right and just and fair" to what you hear, listen to, and consider to protect your heart and mind from grief, shame, and hurt. Ask God for His help and wisdom for daily life.

©Word-Strong_2018


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