How To Grow Your Wisdom

wisdom-brings-harmonyDr. Luke is a great “noticer.” Twice he notices and records something about the early life of Jesus that gives us great insight for growing in a wholly healthy way.

First of all, Luke tells us how Jesus grows (check out my thoughts on this by clicking here), and then he begins to zero-in on the four areas in which Jesus grew. The first thing Dr. Luke notes is Christ growing in wisdom (see Luke 2:40 & 52).

Knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom. In fact, lots of people have knowledge without ever having wisdom. But we have to remember that you cannot get wisdom without getting knowledge.

The Greek language as a couple of different words for knowledge:

  • ginosko = head knowledge; information; belief that something is true
  • oida = experiential knowledge; belief in the knowledge you have

Let me give you a quick example. One time my facilities team was overseeing the reinstallation of our zip line from our 30-foot-high ropes course. This zip line stretched some 500 feet from the platform on top of the ropes course all the way down a big hill. After the zip line was replaced, our facilities guys believed that they had successfully connected the zip line. But only Phil believed in their work enough to put on a harness, connect to the zip line, and jump off the platform!

In order to grow in wisdom, we have to have good information (ginosko) to work with. Then we have to test this knowledge in our personal lives (oida). Only this will help us develop wisdom that can be applied to our every-day lives.

Otherwise, Oswald Chambers notes this: “We do not think on the basis of Christianity at all. We are taught to think like pagans for six days a week and to reverse the order for one day, consequently in critical moments we think as pagans and our religion is left in the limbo of the inarticulate.”

Often times the Holy Spirit will use the Bible, or a sermon, or the advice from a friend, or even a “slip of the tongue” to alert us to thoughts that aren’t healthy. Jesus tells us that the so-called “slip of the tongue” is actually a tip off to what’s really in our hearts (see Matthew 12:34). Solomon counsels us to guard our hearts and minds (Proverbs 4:23), and then Paul builds on the guarding theme to tell us to capture our thoughts and make sure they line-up with God’s Word (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This is what develops God-pleasing wisdom. If we don’t constantly grow in this area, we will hold back growth in every other area of our life—physical health, spiritual health, and emotional health, but growing in wisdom brings harmony to all of these areas.

So ask yourself:

  • Am I getting good information?
  • Am I capturing my thoughts to make sure they are healthy?
  • Am I applying what I am learning?

God wants to grow wisdom in you! May He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him (Hebrews 13:21).

Thursdays With Oswald—Is Your Religion Rotten?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Is Your Religion Rotten?

      No man can redeem his own soul, or give himself a new heredity; that is the work of the sovereign grace of God. Man has nothing to do with Redemption, it is God’s “bit”; but God cannot give a man a good character, that is not God’s business, nor is it an inevitable thing. God will give us what we cannot give ourselves, a totally new heredity (see Luke 11:13). God will put the disposition of His Son, Holy Spirit, into any man who asks, then on that basis man has to work out a holy character. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you….” [Philippians 2:12]

      If your religion does not make you a better man, it is a rotten religion. The test of true religion is when it touches these four things—food, money, sex and mother earth. These things are the test of a right sane life with God, and the religion that ignores them or abuses them is not right. … A man needs to hold a right attitude to all these things by means of his personal relationship to God.

From Shade Of His Hand

God gives Christians a new heredity—a new way of looking at life through a relationship with Jesus Christ—by placing His Holy Spirit in us. That, as Chambers says, is God’s bit.

What we do with this new heredity—this new way of looking at life—is our bit.

So… how are you doing? Does your relationship with Jesus Christ help you handle food, money, sex and mother earth in God-honoring ways? Is the Holy Spirit able to correct your attitude so it aligns with the biblical viewpoint on these topics?

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, your religion is true. If not, Chambers says you have “a rotten religion.”

Love Re-members

love-re-membersChristians often talk about God in terms of the “Trinity.” That is, the One True God revealed in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This is sometimes a difficult concept to grasp, especially since the word Trinity doesn’t specifically appear in the Bible. But make no mistake, just because the word isn’t there doesn’t mean it’s not true. Consider…

  • God’s Three-in-One nature is first exhibited when man is created (Genesis 1:26).
  • When the prophesy is given about Jesus being born in human flesh, He is given all the titles of the three Persons of the Godhead (Isaiah 9:6).
  • At Christ’s baptism we see Jesus in human form, we see the Holy Spirit descending as a dove, and we hear the Father’s voice announcing His approval of His Son (Matthew 3:16-17).
  • Jesus Himself said He would ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to the Christians (John 14:16).
  • And just as Jesus ascended into Heaven, He told His followers to baptize people into all three Persons of the Godhead (Matthew 28:19).

But I think the best expression of the Trinity is revealed in three simple words. John talks about how all three Persons of the Trinity are involved in the life of a Christian. And then he sums it all up in three words—

“GOD IS LOVE”

Each Person of the Godhead is encouraging and illuminating and pointing to the other Persons in the Trinity. Love is perpetually being received and given. We humans are created in God’s image … we are created to receive and to give God’s love. That’s why John tells us that we know and rely on the love God has for us (that’s the receiving part), and that whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him (that’s the giving part).

When Adam and Eve sinned, they were dis-membered from God. As a result, every human in their natural state longs for connection with God and others, but feels separated, isolated, unloved, and even unlovable.

Love re-members! 

Jesus came to be broken and crushed and to feel the pain of separation from God. It was out of this brokenness that He could do the work of re-membering us to the fullness of the Trinity.

When Jesus shared His last supper with His disciples, He took bread (which is made from broken wheat kernels) and wine (which is made from crushed grapes). He told us as often as we eat the bread and drink the wine we are to remember how He was broken and crushed for us.

Remembering Christ’s work on the Cross re-members us to the fullness of the Trinity. 

Sin and satan want to keep us feeling separated, unloved, and unloveable. But when we were the least worthy of His love, God—Who IS love—was broken and crushed to re-member us to Him.

If you feel lonely, separated, isolated, unloved or unloveable, I urge you to remember what Jesus did for you. He loved you enough to be broken and crushed for your re-membering to all of God’s love.

Check out this video where I explain this amazing thought in more detail…

Praying With The Authority Of The Creator

pray-boldlyJesus had a way of praying that sounds unusual to our ears because He didn’t pray “normal” prayers. His prayers were bold statements! But Jesus also taught us to pray just like He did.

Most prayers that Christians pray sound like they come from the same formula. We may start with something like, “Heavenly Father” or “Dear God.” Then we probably spend some time praising God for His greatness before we make our requests of Him. Often our requests include something like “If this is Your will, I ask You to please heal/help/answer/etc.” And then almost always the prayer concludes, “In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

When Jesus prayed, His prayers sounded more like commands than requests. He would say things like, “Be clean” or “Rise up and walk” or “Blind eyes, be opened.” He usually didn’t ask His Father if it was His will to heal/help/answer/etc. And He never concluded a prayer by saying, “In My name, Amen!”

In Luke 6 there is a story about a man with a withered hand. Jesus healed him by speaking to the man, not to God. He said, “Stretch out your hand,” and when the man did so, his hand was completely restored. Jesus spoke with the authority of the Creator. 

I believe this was possible because Jesus had an unbroken conversation with His Father and the Holy Spirit. Certainly He had set times of prayer (see Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45-46, and Luke 6:12-13 as examples), but Jesus also told us that He only did what His Father told Him to do (John 5:19), and He only said what His Father told Him to say (John 12:49).

I know sometimes people want to say, “Yeah, but this is Jesus we’re talking about! C’mon, He’s the Son of God, so of course He could do these things.” But remember that the miracle of Christ’s Incarnation is that He chose NOT to do these things out of His Deity while He was on Earth, but restricted Himself only to His humanity. That’s why the Bible says that everything we face, Jesus also faced in the flesh (Hebrews 2:14-18).

But perhaps another example from someone who had no Deity in his nature might help. Consider Joshua—this man spent more time in God’s presence, listening to His voice, than even Moses (Exodus 33:11). So when the time came, Joshua could pray an incredibly bold prayer: He actually spoke to the sun and the moon and told them to stand still in the sky, AND THEY OBEYED HIM!

Just like Jesus spoke to the man with the withered hand in the authority of the Creator, Joshua spoke to the sun and the moon in the same authoritative voice. How could these men do that? Because they were familiar with God’s voice, and when He told them to speak out boldly, they simply obeyed.

Jesus said we could pray the same way—Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it (John 14:12-14, emphasis added).

How can we learn to pray this boldly? We need to spend more and more time in dialogue with God. We need to become increasingly aware of the His abiding presence with us. Then we, too, can pray in the Creator’s authority.

Praying this way glorifies God!

Get together with a friend this week and work through these application questions:

  1. Am I spending time in planned prayer and Bible reading?
  2. How can I make myself more aware of God’s perpetual presence?
  3. What’s holding me back from praying more boldly?

How Do You Start A Conversation With God?

pray-through-the-bibleLast week I asked you to imagine how your relationship grew with your best friend. You probably found that this special friendship was formed during hours and hours of talking.

I’m going to guess that at first your conversation was a little on the superficial side. You talked about “tame” topics like sports teams, or your job, or the city you lived in. But at some point you took a huge riskyou became vulnerable by sharing something really personal. Perhaps you shared a time that you got hurt, or something that makes you anxious, or maybe a big dream you carry around in your heart. But if that friend is still your friend, that means they treated what you shared reverently. They didn’t laugh at you, belittle your hurts or dreams, nor did they share with others what you said.

The relationships became deeper and more special because you now knew each other on a more intimate level.

Prayer is a conversation with a Friend. Of course that Friend is God, so some people wonder, “What do I talk to God about?” The simple answer is anything and everything!

Time and time again God calls us to come closer to Him (see Isaiah 55:1-3), to discuss with Him things we don’t understand (Jeremiah 33:3), or to be assured that He is intimately tuned in to what’s happening in our life (Psalm 139:17; 1 Peter 3:12).

How do we get there? A good place to start is with our Bible. Dwight Moody said:

“The two first and essential means of grace are the Word of God and Prayer. … If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.”

Scripture was written to point us to Jesus. So we don’t read the Bible just to read it; we read it to get to know God.

We don’t want to know the Word of God; we want to know the God of the Word. 

A great place to start is in the book of the Psalms. Many of these were written as prayers, so it’s a good way to start our conversation with God. You can also search in the New Testament for all the places that biblical writers said, “I pray…” or “This is my prayer….”

I share a personal example of this in this video, especially if you want to fast forward to the 36:00 minute mark.

Don’t just read through the Bible this week—pray through the Bible. Use it as a means to have a conversation with the very Best Friend you could ever know!

I encourage you this week, as you think about this topic, to get together with an earthly friend and discuss these questions:

  1. How can I use my Bible as a “conversation starter” with God?
  2. How can I get into the regular practice of talking to God as a Friend?

Talking With Your Best Friend

john-14-16I would like for you to get a really clear picture in your mind of your best friend. This is someone you have opened your heart to, and they have opened their heart to you as well. This is the friend that encourages you when you’re down, but never when you’re on a self-destructive path. This is the companion that cries with you when something is broken, but who also challenges you to accept responsibility if you are the one who broke it.

Do you have that friend clearly in mind?

Now I’d like you to imagine if your interaction with your friend went something like this. Every day around 7 o’clock in the morning, you call your friend and say…

“Good morning! I’m so grateful you took my call. Listen, I’ve got a few things that I’d love for you to help me with today. I’ve been fighting a cold and I’d really like you to help me feel better. My Aunt Sally is in the hospital, and it would be great if you could stop in to see her. Also, that guy at work has really been on my nerves lately and so I need some insight on how to deal with that. It would so great if you could help me with all of this. If you do, I’ll be singing your praises to everyone I meet. Have a great day. Thanks!”

And then you hang up and never talk to your friend again until the next morning when the exact same scenario is repeated. How do you think your relationship would progress? Do you see your relationship getting deeper over time, or becoming more distant? I’m guessing that, like me, you don’t see a future in this relationship.

Sadly, this is how many people treat prayer! We come to God once a day with our list of concerns, ask Him for His help, then say “goodbye” and never think about Him again until the next day. Or until we find ourselves in desperate need.

But we forget: God never leaves us!

We also forget something even more vital—God wants us to talk with Him, and He wants to talk with us, as a friend to a friend.

Abraham was called a friend of God—Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend (James 2:23).

Moses, too, was also God’s friend—The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11).

This isn’t something that was just for them, but it’s relationship that’s available for ALL of us—For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God (Romans 5:10-11).

From the moment we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, His Holy Spirit took up residence in our heart. Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He promised us, “I will talk to the Father, and He’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16).

Amazing! Astounding! Mind-blowing! But totally true—Prayer is conversation with a Friend!

How would your day go differently if you kept up a conversation with your Best Friend all day long? How much more wisdom do you think you would receive? How many mistakes could you avoid if He was telling you which way to go and what to say?

You don’t have to live with the “what ifs.” He IS your constant Companion, your most loyal Friend, your wisest Counselor. All you have to do is keep the lines of conversation open!

Application questions:

  1. How can I know God wants to be my Friend?
  2. Have I been introduced to God?
  3. How can I make the time to deepen my friendship with God?
  4. What does it mean to me to have God as my Friend?

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

john-14-1That first Christmas was supposedly a silent night and a holy night. Maybe there was some singing angels involved, but at least their message was about “peace on earth.”

Sometimes that idea of “peace” at Christmas time can make us feel like hypocrites. Sometimes it seems as if there is more turmoil than peace, and more ill-will than goodwill.

Even Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem called I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day starts out in celebration, but then shifts to the dark words, “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”

If you have had a hard time finding peace this Christmas, this short message will bring you hope and encouragement, so that you can truly say, “Merry Christmas!”

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