The Wisdom of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:19-20)

23 12 2010

Proverbs 3:19-20

19The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
20by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.


This passage does something very important for Christian doctrine and theology; it places wisdom at the genesis of creation. It gives wisdom a role in the beginning of the beginning whether it was an active or observatory one; wisdom gets a role.

The language “by wisdom” makes me think of a path, a passageway, a way. My mind hears “I’m in Virginia by way of Nigeria” or “This wonderful meal was made by Tomi” and so on and so forth. “By” denotes a means to arrive at a certain result or destination.


What is amazing about wisdom is that it is the Lord’s way to creation and new things. It is a witness to the foundation of the earth. It is the means through which God’s creation lives. Wisdom is rooted within the earth. It is beginning of creation. When God said to “Let there be light”, wisdom was not only present, but had a role in her presence and existence. By way of wisdom, God founded the earth. This lovely masterpiece that we touch and taste called earth was made by wisdom.


And wisdom doesn’t work alone, understanding is her revelation on the earth. The Lord, by way of wisdom and understanding created creation. Wisdom and her revelation to those on the earth is the life-Creator. Doctrine pushes back against this: only God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were present during creation. And this is still true. Without getting into the  debate of whether Jesus is wisdom (which I heard before) or the Holy Spirit is, perhaps we can agree that wisdom had to be with and work with the Lord, and that the Lord works through wisdom to bring creation into fruition.


Perhaps Jesus is wisdom and our seeing Him walk on earth, the genesis of our understanding of the God He is and points to. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is wisdom and our learning how to listen to her, understanding God through the pneumatic whisper of God’s guidance, comfort and correction.


Whatever we may believe or hear or learn about Who wisdom is or could be, one thing is clear: the land, the skies, the universe and seas all respond to the Lord and the Lord’s wisdom. God is power. God is control. God is genesis. God is the beginning. God has the ability to be before being itself.


And wisdom was present with God in God’s being. To me, wisdom has to have some power too to exist when existence came to be. And if we are urged to follow, heed, and embrace wisdom, I think we are given a scary but beautiful assignment. I believe that we are given the assignment to accept God’s self into our daily decision-making and existence. Which is amazing!


God wants to be a part of our everyday, our mundane and monstrous events and decisions and feeling. God wants to be in every single moment of rejection for God’s sake, every time someone loves us genuinely, every single bit of this creation called life. God, by wisdom, wants to be involved in our lives, to be the loving Parent of children who are just now beginning to realize who we call Father and Mother.


Prayer: Lord, be in our everyday so much so that we can’t make life choices without seeing You. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Wisdom of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:16-18)

22 12 2010

Proverbs 3:16-18
16Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
18She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called happy.
I missed my reflection yesterday due to a combination of factors including limited computer access and laziness (I still had the option to hand-write it if I were super-serious, but since there’s no use crying over spilled milk I’ll move on). Later on today, I get to reflect twice!
In verse 16 God’s wisdom holds things in her hands that we do not need but that we desire. Oddly enough when I read this passage, my mind automatically roams to a rap song from the late 1990s that narrated the antithesis of this three-fold blessing. The song was called “Money, Power, Respect.” It named money, power and respect as the trinity of penultimate happiness, love and success. It named these three things as important to be added to a person in order to make it. But this trinity of success is best supported by aggressive action, instinctual defensiveness, and a tough mentality that survives on “I need to get you before you get me.” It thrives on paranoia.
And it thrives on paranoia because is it self-attained. It is not given; it is taken. Therefore, it must be defended to the death, guarded from everyone, and it can never be truly enjoyed because it was acquired only to be briefly flaunted and largely guarded.
Verse 16 presents a different trinity of success similar to but different than MPR. They are transformed from ordinary desires to spiritual desires. They offer expanded definitions of longevity, wealth and respect. They take on a fuller meaning than immediate comfort and typical demonstrations of success. Long life, riches and honor are advertised as the possessions wisdom so gracefully carries in her hands, offerings of some sort ready to be released in a worship space or at the foot of some altar.
But not at our feet. At least that was not what I was expecting. I didn’t expect the offering to be something available to me, but I expect it to be something I would have to hope for, wait for, but most importantly something reserved for the perfect saints. Not me. But it is for me.
There’s something holy about the right hand. It is a place of distinction and honor, and it holds long life. It holds longevity, legacy, continuation. Like a prized possession and a treasured gift wisdom’s place of honor lifts up life.
The left-hand is important too for it holds two things, riches and honor. It holds wealth and distinction. It holds an abundance of stuff and love and many other things coupled with respect from others, being looked upon and considered highly. It holds things given to us by family and strangers, the earth and by God. It enhances what the right hand holds.  
But wisdom not only holds intricate and life-changing details about ourselves, our calls, and our destiny’s. Wisdom paves ways. Verse 17 describes wisdoms ways as pleasant, and her paths as peace, not peaceful, but peace. Ephesians 6 paints this delightful picture of the Gospel as the Gospel of peace that our feet are shod, or covered with. Our feet are covered in the preparation of the Gospel of peace, of the way it has made for myself and for others. Wisdom treads down that same path and we are to follow her. The ways of wisdom are pleasant and the paths of wisdom are Gospel-like. They are peace.
Wisdom carries life-changing desires, creates paths towards peace and is a life-source. If we cling to her, her life runs through us and empowers us. If we become rooted in her, we gain life and we gain happiness.
Prayer: Lord, we want to be happy. Give us Your wisdom. Lord, we’re desperate for Your wisdom. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

The Wisdom of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:13-15)

19 12 2010

Proverbs 3:13-15

13Happy are those who find wisdom,
and those who get understanding,
14for her income is better than silver,
and her revenue better than gold.
15She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.

Wisdom is supposed to do something to us. It’s supposed to change our demeanor. It’s supposed to invoke in us a sense of divine satisfaction where we submit to this feeling called happy. It has this power to determine our mood and how we think about life from that moment until the next moment. It lives in time and does something to how we receive life where we enjoy it and relish it and cherish it. It’s supposed to make us smile.

But that’s only if we find her.

Happy are those who find wisdom. It’s almost as if we’re happy because of the action of finding. It’s almost as if we take more satisfaction in achieving discovery. It’s almost as if the journey creates the path towards our joy when we finally reach this destination called wisdom. When we finally find her, other emotions may very well exist within us, but the dominant trait we bear is happy. The journey towards happiness witnesses to something great within us, the ability to search albeit not consistently, but nevertheless we search. The destination attests to our determination to discover something we do not already have. We look for it in hopes of one day having it. Just like with school where we work for years for the end-result degree, this journey towards wisdom may take years of work, some good and some bad, but in the end, work. We are constantly moving in a direction to have something that, in my opinion, we’ve already started getting all along the journey. Like the building of knowledge in school, our wisdom is built upon day to day repetition of journeying and searching.

We meet her on the way, we realize we’ve been alongside her when we fall and we shudder, partly in fear and partly with amazement when we realize that we had been journeying without her guidance for so long.

The same applies to understanding, revelation, realizing reality—wisdom unfurled.  

We go get her. We take the active steps of retrieval and end up successful because we resolved to make the journey in the first place. To me this is fabulous news, that we are rewarded for the effort, not the performance but for wanting her and going to get her. Because this requires discomfort and not having control, and not searching perfectly, and not saying all the spiritual things we think we should, and not having an organ or three-part harmony because our wailing and crying out in desperation isn’t supposed to harmonize or match up perfectly or play out smoothly. But we encounter real, raw life and errors and the daunting reality that our spiritual journeying is ugly and dirty and soiled and soaked in our human efforts, but honored by the pure Holy Spirit.

We are honored as we seek the honor of finding and getting wisdom and understanding.

Our work is honored. The income of wisdom (and understanding) is more than what money can bring or imply. The income is more than the things we work our entire lives to get so we can live in or with them, but the income is something that lives in and with us. It never leaves us. It never leaves us broke…although we had to be broken to earn her.

Wisdom’s return in our lives earns more for us than gold could ever earn. The knowledge, keenness, awareness, smart-mindedness etc. gives us more than what we think we need to survive. We need wisdom to survive, not gold, not silver, not a big church, not a four-bedroom house we don’t use properly, not more clothes than we can ever wear, not attention from men who we know will never love and respect the way God does…we need wisdom, not stuff or attention from certain people, for wisdom tells us what to do with stuff and people and feelings and touch circumstances and mourning and lament and joy and happiness. Wisdom has the wherewithal to keep us one step ahead of the best dreams we can conjure up for ourselves.

We have to give up the dreams of others that we’ve adopted for ourselves. Cliques cant do for us what God’s wisdom has done, continues to do and can do. Doing whatever we want can’t give us anything better than what God’s wisdom can. Hating people and parties and races and classes can’t give us anything that will help and heal us like wisdom can. Music can’t touch wisdom. Our perfect spouse, our perfect selves, our “I’m not imperfect” attitude that we’ve made into an idol can’t outdo wisdom. For wisdom and understanding doesn’t put up with that. She calls it out; she calls us out, out of wherever we are struggle into a struggle with purpose. We battle ourselves and God and the devil and wisdom teaches us when and how to fight and when and how to surrender.  

Wisdom is on another level than our desires. Our desires fall short, look bland, and appear miniscule in the face of wisdom. When we understand and realize that the wise thing to do trumps what “we feel is the best thing for us” then we’ve begun to allow wisdom to journey with us as the leader through this uncertain life. In this journey we will know for certain that our happiness didn’t come from us, but in our decision, in our will to trust wisdom and to follow God.

Prayer: Lord, we want Your wisdom. Kill whatever You must within, around, above, and chained to us so that we may submit to a Perfect Will ultimately working towards our happiness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

The Wisdom of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:11-12)

18 12 2010

Proverbs 3:11-12

11My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
12for the Lord reproves the one he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.

The fun themes keeping coming, don’t they? If you skimmed the first line before reading the entire passage, you probably had the same reaction that I did, “Great, another discipline/correction passage.” The dread is searing and heavy. But reading through it carefully, the passage causes us to do the oddest thing. It causes us to pause. It causes us to stop. It causes us to rest our racing minds and busy hearts and think about what it’s saying. That’s the great and hard thing about reflecting and meditating on a short passage of scripture; it forces us to finally consider what we’ve been avoiding, to finally address what we’ve been running away from, to stop and face our fears or uncertainties, questions and confusing doctrine we’ve been taught or even came to conclude ourselves. It forces us to face the uncomfortable, the “I’ll take a rain-check on this” spiritual moment that affects us everyday but that we avoid consistently. It forces us into a realm of reality and truthfulness that we have no choice but to encounter. In pausing, we cannot rush past what we don’t want to encounter but we see it and then encounter it head on. We do the adult thing and face our realities. We move past the childish tendencies to bypass challenges and face them directly.

And in doing the adult thing, we find our child-status reasserted. God’s voice in God’s wisdom is heard gently but clearly heard. God calls us “child,” we are tenderly reminded we are God’s child in this teaching moment. And when God addresses us with such tenderness, we can hear the love and the concern and the desire for our well-being. What’s more, the love is evident, especially in the warning issued forth: we should not ignore God’s correction; God only does it because God loves us.

We know God’s correction in two ways it seems, discipline and reproof. Discipline is the withholding of privilege or even physical correction. It’s residual action. It sounds like “I’m doing this because I love you/this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me/you’ll understand why I’m doing this when you’re older,” something a parent would say while issuing a time-out, grounding or spanking. Reproof is the intense present moment of correction which, nine times out of ten, directly precedes the discipline. It sounds like “You know you’re not supposed to open the door for strangers/eat dessert before dinner/talk back to your teacher/watch TV before you finish your homework.” It is the verbal narration of what was done wrong. Sometimes it includes an explanation why it is wrong, and other times, we already know why before we do it and our parents know that we know, hence the lack of explanation why.  

Although discipline and reproof may conjure negative images or nightmarish recollection, we have to admit that, to a certain extent, it worked. It caused us to do a number of things: 1) understand that our parents had power over us and our decision-making (whether we liked it or not); 2) relate differently to our parents; 3) relate differently to people, concepts and ideas (whether it’s with caution, suspicion, trust, respect etc.); 4) think before we acted.

Somehow because of correction’s place within our lives as the third parent, we were made smarter, better, wiser, sounder, keen. The correction that may have been hurtful or painful to our little childish hearts, ways of thinking, reasoning, and desires is now extremely helpful. We don’t follow strangers down a dark alley, we don’t touch hot stoves, we don’t pay too much for car insurance, we don’t cook with too much butter, we don’t go for days without brushing our teeth, we don’t steal from our co-workers, we don’t overfeed the fish – we are smarter because of all the warnings we received, all the “ah, ah, ah’s”, “don’t even think about it’s” and “remember not to’s.”

We have to admit it, we got a lot of good advice from our parents or guardians because they simply experienced things first and more and were gracious enough to pass along the wisdom. Where else would we get wisdom if not for someone else? Sure God can give wisdom but God sends the people to alert us to something, warn us of this person or to listen to this or that. God uses people to channel God’s love and wisdom. Good guardians or good parents are the closest avenue to experiencing God fully in that way.

God takes action, God verbally warns because God loves us just like our teachers, parents, guardians, older siblings, friends or family do when they teach us something about life because they have run into the struggles life presents. God does not parent us in this “I’m now going to point out everything you’re doing wrong so you can be the perfect person” manner. God’s love is a holy love that I honestly don’t think we’ll ever be able to grasp nor understand. We can feel like we understand, but I really don’t think we do.

God delights in us.

We make God happy; we give God joy. We, sinful human creatures, make our Creator happy. I don’t understand the depth of love that would allow that to happen.

But God does. God is that love. If God didn’t offer us correction, we would have to wonder if God cared about us. But if we feel that God is always closing doors, not speaking, staying away, maybe we should examine what is going on. Maybe God is closing doors because God has something else, but maybe God is closing doors so that we can get back to the basics and realize Who created those doors. Sometimes I think we use the “closed doors” metaphor to describe our benefit, but we overlook the fact that God is closing those doors from the inside waiting to be alone with us so that we could again realize in wonder Who this God is that loves us so and wants to be with us. Maybe God is not speaking because we didn’t ask the right question. Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Lord, what am I supposed to do with the rest of my life? I know You know and am trusting You will reveal it to me.” Maybe it should be “Lord, what do You want me to do today?” Maybe God is staying away because we wandered outside of God’s holiness; that’s pretty scary. It’s scary to move so far away from God that the God who is more vast than vastness itself is far from us.

When we realize that God corrects us not only for our well-being, but ultimately to serve our purpose in worshipping God through being who God has created us to be, then we’re getting somewhere.

What does God delight in about you? Are you existing within that space of God’s pleasure? God wants you to, that’s why correction is necessary and pleasure-producing for our betterment and for God’s enjoyment.

Prayer: Lord, enjoy us. May we all realize and live what this means for us and for You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

The Wisdom of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:9-10)

17 12 2010

Proverbs 3:9-10

9Honor the Lord with your substance
and with the first fruits of all your produce;
10then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.

These verses remind me of the prime texts some preachers would use to preach a Prosperity Gospel that doesn’t really honor God. Their sermon or lesson begins off as something legitimate but then quickly turns into something that exerts “God has to fix your credit”, “God will give you a check in the mail”, “God shall eliminate your debt” and the list goes on and on. These things aren’t entirely bad and I’m sure they are the wish of every single person who has some sort of school loan or mortgage to pay (I have gone through periods where I literally prayed that God would send me a check in the mail to cover this or that. But over time I realized that this type of testimony is most likely the exception more than the rule which says something awesome about our God that God doesn’t do the same thing for everyone). Trusting God to be present and active, working out our problems is not a bad thing at all, but the misrepresentation of God and the misunderstanding of our purpose through our misunderstanding of God is a bad thing, a moral mistake.

If our hearts are so consumed with stuff like debt, aesthetics, or buying the best Christmas gifts so we can get praise and feel good about ourselves for five minutes, then we’ve succeeded at honoring ourselves but we haven’t done a good job in honoring the Lord. Sure, we can argue that our concern and love for our appearance and the material well-being of others is not about us, but it’s about making others happy. But at best this is a weak argument avoiding the deeper layers of true motive and honest intention.

Where Prosperity preaching goes wrong is the order in which they approach the text. They speak about God first. To be fair, it doesn’t always begin with money. In fact, it begins with exploring God within the text, but then what God does for us takes over and becomes the focal point of being God’s child, worship, church, tithing, etc. God doesn’t remain the focus but we place ourselves as the focal point of God’s word.

With this text even the Prosperity preacher would engage God first: “Tithing is a form of honoring God with our substance. We pay respect to, we worship the Lord fully through what we have. Giving to, supporting, and upholding the church should be your first priority if God is first in your life. And even if you’re new the faith or church hasn’t clicked all the way for you yet or if you’re still learning the word of God, tithe now and God will build up something in you in time. God will honor your sacrifice.”

And this is legitimate, but it is ultimately a set-up for our reward, what we receive as a result of honoring God. The rest of the sermon may entail exhortation that “Tithing opens up the floodgates for financial reward! You will be blessed with more than you can imagine! You will receive material and financial blessing that only God can give! God multiplies spiritually so that we reap those rewards when we honor God and give ten percent! God sees the little that you are willing to give and multiples it beyond what you can count. God will turn that seed you sow into the church into a plant that you can feed off later. Like the widow who gave her last in 1 Kings 17, God will not let your oil and flour run out!”

And this is true, but again, this is not the focus. When we praise God for what God is going to do more than we praise God for just being God, something is amiss. When we question that God has randomly provided $100 for our electricity bill rather than sending a check in the mail to pay our $15,000 credit card debt, something is wrong. We are not the focus. We need to remove ourselves from the center. We need to get off the throne and reposition ourselves at the foot of the throne. The text says that if we honor God with our substance, the stuff from us, what lies at the heart of our cherished things, and give God the best of it, then we will have plenty. If we give the best of our time, writing, art, singing, cooking, administrative skills, business savvy, warmth, smiles, hugs, prayer, love, and even stuff like clothing and money, then we will get enough to eat and drink, enough to live off of. We will get enough, we won’t always get it all, but we will get enough.

Perhaps we need to shed the “exception” mindset and preaching that we wish for and thus place within God’s word and embrace the “rule reality”. The reality is, God works amidst our working and 9 times out of 10 it won’t be with what we dreamed of.

God gives enough. If we ask for a 3 story house, God gives us a three-bedroom one story condo. If we ask for a Mercedes-Benz, God will give us a Honda we can name Mercedes. If we ask for $200,000 to pay off loans, God will give us a job that makes enough where we can begin to pay off those loans over the course of time. If we ask for a husband or wife, God will keep us single another 10 years to be sharpened and made wise, kind, loving, and ready for that person (if that is what God even intends for us…maybe we should ask God to show us what we are supposed to be doing and get busy doing that instead).

I think pastors who make hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year are an exception; they are like kings who owned tons of land and money and had influence were. Perhaps this pastor-king parallel provides a warning of us moving away from God towards governance by people (let’s learn from Israel).

I think that true prophets and prophetesses are exceptions; they do not claim their title with joy but remorse for their life is a continuous cycle of rejection because of the message they not only give but carry within themselves. Their office isn’t one that was designed to be exploited for conferences, but their office imprints on their lives loneliness and pursuit. As they pursue God, they are pursued. They are chased, hated, stoned, and killed. They aren’t accommodated, they are exiled. Modern day exhorters claiming to be prophets should consider this; the prophetic office is not one to be utilized for fame or feeling that you’re finally existing within a “purpose”. We have to be very careful about this…  

I think that checks can come in the mail, but that they will most likely come as a salary reimbursement God withheld from you until you needed it. I think that your debt can be paid, but that it can be done the old-fashioned way, with a job. I think that you can get a nice car or house if God gives you the wisdom to save and pay for it yourself. God holds, changes, draws from and utilizes things we first step out and do. God blesses our commitment to live faithfully, not lazily. God blesses the foot we put forward by giving us more stable ground to walk on. But we must walk, sometimes run, sometimes limp, but it is us making the decision and taking the action to move forward. I believe that God never lifts us up on a cloud to fly above and way from our problems; we’re not Elijah. And we don’t want to be. Elijah received this rare event after a life-time of fulfilling his difficult prophetic calling. Hard work is involved in the blessing, heck, work is involved in the blessing.

I know what I’m describing isn’t exciting blessing, but it is the blessing of “plenty and bursting”. God gives us plenty and this plenty bursts forth so that others may see what God has done and inquires about our God. And God is introduced as a faithful Father, a loving Provider, and a Keeper of our minds and bodies so that we may honor God with our beings. God is not the debt-eraser, but the sin-eliminator. God is not the house-giver, but the mercy-granter. God is not the love-doctor, but God is love.  

Don’t get me wrong, God owns everything. I’m sure God could give us money and a comfortable lifestyle, but I’m not sure God would want to. If getting what we want means that we look to God as Provider only, that we curse God to be Jehovah Jireh alone, we’ve moved away from the purpose God created us for, to worship God. Our purpose isn’t to exist comfortably, but to be God’s, not to belong to money or comfort. If getting what we want implodes a religious pluralism within our beings where the money-god and comfort-god take root alongside God, then it’s not worth it. God can’t be limited to financial healer or “blesser” alone. God is too God to be limited. So I ask that God not give me what I want, but only what I need. I ask that God give me “just plenty” so that I may burst forth with joy and gratitude that a loving God who already did it all in dying for me and my sins loves me enough to still give me anything at all.

I guess it’s about perspective. But I’m afraid that humanity is too fickle to promise not to worship what we get. Therefore I don’t want us to get it all, but just some of it. I want us to do what we are supposed to do anyway giving God our substance and produce: our time, family, and talents and anything else that means everything to us. I want us to give back to God what God has already blessed us tremendously with.

Maybe we would preach a Prosperity Gospel that emphasizes tithing 100% of our best qualities, our best abilities, our time, our love, our concentration and attention. We would preach a Gospel that sees our best as unable to be enhanced with money, but with and through God. We would preach giving God us first and foremost and what it would feel and be like to experience this; what joy, happiness, love, and kind-heartedness we would not simply feel but be. We would be like God. What if Prosperity was a process of becoming God-like? One thing is for sure, there would be enough for everyone.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that our transformation to be like and look like Jesus doesn’t come to us through the mail or a debt cancellation or a tummy tuck, but that it comes quickly and slowly all in the same moment into our hearts, a peaceful and painful process that yields a different kind of wealth unhindered. Lord, may we rejoice in enough. It’s in the name of the Savior who is enough and more than enough, Jesus the Christ, Amen.

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