Words of a Particular Kind

154451011How long would it take you to make a summary statement of your life?  How many words do you think it would take?

Robert Frost said he could sum up everything he had learned about life in three words: “It goes on.”  There’s a lot of truth to what Frost said, but it’s also true that what you say can determine how far you go in life and how your life “goes on.”

Mother Teresa was more concerned with the nature of your words than she was with the number of them: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  David, like Mother Teresa, was well aware of the power of the spoken word, and he prayed: “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”

When I think about David’s prayer, I’m left with a couple of questions:

  • Are my words and thoughts acceptable to God?
  • If not, what can I do to make them more acceptable?

Joshua gave the answer to these questions, when he said: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).”

When you think about your words and thoughts, I encourage you to contrast them to the principles of God’s Word in general, and these words of Paul in Particular: “Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29 ~The Voice).”

Wisdom: Guidelines and Lifelines For Life

life-preserverI have never thought of myself as one of the smartest people in the world, and my GPA from high school is the evidence that proves it.  This may be why the book of James is a favorite of mine.

Like the book of Proverbs, James provides guidelines for life; and, for those of us who lack wisdom, it extends an invitation: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).”

Later in the book, James lists seven characteristics of wisdom: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical (3:17).”

I find it interesting that when Solomon spoke of wisdom he also listed seven and referred to them as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom: “Wisdom has built her house; she has carved out its seven pillars (9:1).” Solomon’s list is found in Proverbs 8:12-14:

  • Prudence
  • Knowledge
  • Fear of the Lord
  • Counsel
  • Sound Wisdom
  • Understanding
  • Strength

The Message describes these seven attributes:

“I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity; Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street. The Fear-of-God means hating Evil, whose ways I hate with a passion—pride and arrogance and crooked talk. Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics; I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out. With my help, leaders rule, and lawmakers legislate fairly; With my help, governors govern, along with all in legitimate authority. I love those who love me; those who look for me find me.”

Wisdom has been defined as the right use of knowledge, and, in the biblical sense, it’s the ability to judge correctly and to take the best course of action, based on your knowledge and understanding of God’s principles.

This concept of wisdom is in complete harmony with Solomon’s conclusion to Proverbs 8:

“Blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction so that you may be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching at my doors day by day, waiting beside my doorway. For the one who finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But the one who does not find me brings harm to himself; all who hate me love death (32-36).”

I’ll close with three thoughts, and I hope there enough to keep you thinking:

  • Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who obtains understanding. ~Proverbs 3:13
  • An intelligent man believes only half of what he hears, a wise man knows which half.
  • Knowledge is knowing the difference between a donut and a life preserver. Wisdom is knowing which one to grab when you are drowning.

Life Principles: Square Knots and Loose Ends

aid59208-728px-Tie-a-Square-Knot-Step-1-Version-4Proverbs is the one word suggestion I made last night.  The first Wednesday of each month is a night I have reserved to meet with the Elders of the church, and last night I suggested that we focus on reading through the book of Proverbs during the month of February.

The practical wisdom that is found in this book provides life principles to help guide your life.  Some of them act as “knots” that provide strength and security, while others are “nots” that warn about loose living:

  • Principle 1–Let Not: Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart (Proverbs 3:3).
  • Principe 2—Lean Not: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5–6).
  • Principle 3—Lust Not: Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids (Proverbs 6:25).
  • Principle 4—Love Not: Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread (Proverbs 20:13).
  • Principle 5—Labor Not: Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven (Proverbs 23:4–5).
  • Principle 6—Look Not: Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moves itself aright. At the last it bites like a snake. Your eyes shall behold strange women, and your heart shall utter perverse things (Proverbs 23:31–33).

Proverbs is a gold mine that is rich in principles, and it is worthy of your attention.   Join me in reading through this book during February.

My child, if you receive my words, and store up my commands within you, by making your ear attentive to wisdom, and by turning your heart to understanding, indeed, if you call out for discernment—raise your voice for understanding—if you seek it like silver, and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand how to fear the Lord, and you will discover knowledge about God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up effective counsel for the upright, and is like a shield for those who live with integrity, to guard the paths of the righteous and to protect the way of his pious ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity—every good way. For wisdom will enter your heart, and moral knowledge will be attractive to you.  ~Proverbs 2:1-10