Wisdom Seekers

If God appeared to you in a dream tonight and offered you ANYTHING you desired, what would you ask for? Would it be wealth? Status? Long life? Good health? The end of the pandemic? So many choices!

Solomon became king of Israel after the death of his father David, and this happened to him one night. Can you guess what he asked for?

1 Kings 3 (Common English Bible)

Now Solomon loved the Lord by walking in the laws of his father David, with the exception that he also sacrificed and burned incense at the shrines.

The king went to the great shrine at Gibeon in order to sacrifice there. He used to offer a thousand entirely burned offerings on that altar. The Lord appeared to Solomon at Gibeon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask whatever you wish, and I’ll give it to you.”

Solomon responded, “You showed so much kindness to your servant my father David when he walked before you in truth, righteousness, and with a heart true to you. You’ve kept this great loyalty and kindness for him and have now given him a son to sit on his throne. And now, Lord my God, you have made me, your servant, king in my father David’s place. But I’m young and inexperienced. I know next to nothing. But I’m here, your servant, in the middle of the people you have chosen, a large population that can’t be numbered or counted due to its vast size. Please give your servant a discerning mind in order to govern your people and to distinguish good from evil, because no one is able to govern this important people of yours without your help.”

When you think about it, it takes a smart guy to request to become a smart guy…kind of like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. His request was for a brain, yet all along the journey to Oz, he was the one who figured things out for the group. Perhaps his wisdom was evidenced by the fact that he knew his limitations and asked for help.

Merriam-Webster defines wisdom as “having the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships; having insight and good sense; and having good judgment.” These are not only important qualities for a king, but for us peasants, too.

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had made this request. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked for this instead of requesting long life, wealth, or victory over your enemies—asking for discernment so as to acquire good judgment— 12 I will now do just what you said. Look, I hereby give you a wise and understanding mind. There has been no one like you before now, nor will there be anyone like you afterward. 

This is a good reminder to us today that discernment and good judgment are precious to God. We are correct in asking for wisdom and doing the things necessary every day to obtain it. When we study, question, LISTEN, and open ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are wisdom-seekers who will be rewarded with God’s instruction.

13 I now also give you what you didn’t ask for: wealth and fame. There won’t be a king like you as long as you live. 14 And if you walk in my ways and obey my laws and commands, just as your father David did, then I will give you a very long life.”

Solomon’s wisdom-seeking resulted in receiving much more than wisdom. When we seek to be wise, God will also reward us with the wealth of a deeper relationship with him. And look at you, reading daily devotionals! May God grant us his wisdom and discernment for our efforts. Good on us!

Walk in the Light of God’s Wisdom by Kathy Schumacher

Impoverished Confusion

What do you do when you feel very frustrated with the plethora of misinformation that has flooded our world? I have tried to turn a blind eye to the ridiculous, harmful, and devastating stream of lies, innuendo, and manipulation that is coming from institutions and media outlets that were designed to protect and serve the people. Truth is hard to find. “Both sides” are guilty of pushing agendas that serve only themselves. I don’t know about you, but I have had enough. Staying off social media and not turning on the news helps a little, but it is not enough.

Case in point: a friend who is a local school teacher recently attended a school board meeting that was called to decide about student mask-wearing in the public schools. The debate went back and forth quite loudly and in the end, it was decided that it would be the “parents’ choice.” On the way out, my friend, who chose to wear a mask to this meeting, was likened to being a Nazi by a parent…for exercising his personal right to chose…which is what the parents were demanding.

Where is the truth? Where is humility? Where is respect?

Where is wisdom?

Our lectionary this week addresses the subject of wisdom. As we pursue this topic, we are treated to a short passage from Proverbs on the subject. It is a somewhat fanciful account of “Lady Wisdom” inviting those who are struggling with “impoverished confusion” to come into her home for a special banquet meal:

Proverbs 9 (The Message)

1-6 Lady Wisdom has built and furnished her home;
    it’s supported by seven hewn timbers.
The banquet meal is ready to be served: lamb roasted,
    wine poured out, table set with silver and flowers.
Having dismissed her serving maids,
    Lady Wisdom goes to town, stands in a prominent place,
    and invites everyone within sound of her voice:
“Are you confused about life, don’t know what’s going on?
    Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me!
I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread,
    roast lamb, carefully selected wines.
Leave your impoverished confusion and live!
    Walk up the street to a life with meaning.”

I have to say that this brought me up short today. I want nothing to do with the “impoverished confused” at this point. But that is wrong, and not the way God calls us to deal with people. When people are impoverished, they need to be fed the Bread of Life. When people are confused, they need to be taught the Word. This is our job as followers of Jesus.

Scripture always points to the loving inclusion of the Kingdom of God. Lady Wisdom was wise enough to realize that the way to combat those who lack knowledge is to welcome them in, serve them the finest things, and invite them to walk out to a life with meaning….in other words, be patient. Be kind. Be less judgmental and more open to conversation.

This is a hard lesson today. May God grant us grace in our frustrations, wisdom in how to deal with things, and may he bring the Truth to bear down on all of us equally.

Help us, Lord.

Let Streams of Mercy Flow by Trish Lawlor

Turn, Turn, Turn

Sometimes I get a song stuck in my head and it lives there for days. Every time I read Ecclesiastes 3, I hear a folk rock song that was released in 1965 by a band called the Byrds. It was called Turn, Turn, Turn and I bet many people were surprised to learn that it comes directly from scripture.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven.

Now you can have this song stuck in your head, too!

The timeless wisdom of this passage is meaningful in every circumstance of life. Births, deaths, graduations, weddings, wars, and occasional pandemics are all seasons we can experience in a lifetime. The writer reminds us that with every season, God has a purpose:

Ecclesiastes 3 (Common English Bible)

There’s a season for everything
    and a time for every matter under the heavens:
    a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
    a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
    a time for killing and a time for healing,
    a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
    a time for crying and a time for laughing,
    a time for mourning and a time for dancing,

This is incredibly helpful to remember when you are in a season of sorrow. A friend who recently lost her mother describes it as “sorrow sitting with joy.” If you have experienced the death of a loved one, you know the terrible disorientation that falls over you. When my mother-in-law died, I remember thinking that it was just stupid that she was not in the world with us anymore. It made no sense. It was a big mistake and we just needed it to be fixed. But in time, mourning faded as dancing with happy memories took over. Eventually our season of crying turned into a season of joy when we welcomed her first great-grandchild into our family. A daughter became a mother, a mother became a Nana, a sister became an aunt, and suddenly God restored balance.

    a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
    a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
    a time for searching and a time for losing,
    a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
    a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
    a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
    a time for loving and a time for hating,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

We get out of balance when we forget that everything has a purpose under the heavens. Your life was designed for something meaningful and long-lasting. What will your legacy be? Do you live according to God’s purpose? Or have you lost your way and somehow wandered into a meandering, pointlessness existence?

When I have gone through seasons of wandering, I have found it helpful to immerse myself in daily scripture reading and prayer until I found my way home. The Psalms are especially helpful for wilderness walking and if you read one a day, you’ll have 150 chances to discover yourself again.

Whatever season you are in right now, turn, turn, turn back to your purpose. No season lasts forever, but God has a call on your life in every season. Turn around and listen, and God will remind you.

A Time for Laughing by Bonnie Bennett

True Wisdom

What is true wisdom? How is it defined? Is wisdom a matter of Mensa memberships, IQ scores, and success that is determined by wealth, achievement, and status? Or is wisdom something else…perhaps a combination of natural intelligence, the ability to learn, and the capacity to show compassion to others?

In other words, who is wiser…Elon Musk, the creator of Tesla and SpaceX, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, or Mother Teresa, who spent her life in poverty ministering to the sick and poor of Calcutta?

Merriam-Webster defines wisdom as “having the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships; having insight and good sense; and having good judgment.” Notice that this definition has nothing to do with IQ scores, economic achievement, or innovation.

The book of James is a fascinating exploration of the subject of wisdom. It becomes clear that God defines wisdom much differently than the world defines it.

James 3:13-18 (Common English Bible)

13 Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. 

Immediately we see that worldly wisdom falls short of this standard. James made a deliberate connection between being wise and having a humble lifestyle.

14 However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic.

That last sentence surely catches our attention. James delineated the difference between wisdom from above and wisdom of the earth, which he called demonic. That’s bold! Perhaps this is a straightforward matter of “considering the source.” Those who live, work, and strive for wealth in a state of separation from God cannot hope to achieve the peaceful, gentle, and genuine wisdom that comes from heaven:

16 Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. 17 What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. 

When we seek wisdom from above, it leads us to places of justice and peace. Those who have employed their intelligence for sheer profit and gain will often sell their soul, or at least their product, to the highest bidder. When wealth is the goal of wisdom, people on the lower economic spectrum are left behind. The poor will never enjoy a Tesla or a ride in space. Those who toil their lives away working for Amazon are underpaid and desperately overworked. But the people who received the wise counsel and ministrations of Mother Teresa, though they were the poorest of the poor, became the richest in the world because she gave them God. Mother Teresa sowed seeds of justice in an unfair world with her acts of humility and goodness. That is true wisdom.

18 Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.

Are you an example of wisdom that comes from above? How will you pass it along to others? True wisdom, according to James, is revealed in acts of mercy, justice, peace, and fairness. Go and share the wisdom of Mother Teresa with someone today.

Sow Seeds of Peace by Kathy Schumacher