Day Thirty One: Other-Wise

Psalm 148
Proverbs 1:1-7
James 3:13-18

The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings which distil God’s truth for good living. Short, insightful, and often humorous, they cover every aspect of human experience – from marriage and parenting to government and economics to lifestyle and habits – presenting the choice that is ever before us:

to act (and react) wisely, OR foolishly.

These sayings (attributed often to Solomon, the wisest of Israel’s kings),
were written down
so that we know how to live right and well;
so that we can get a firm handle on what is right
and just and fair;
so that we (and our young people) can get a grasp on reality;
and those already well-schooled in the ways of the world can find that they have yet something valuable to learn
(Proverbs 1:1-6).

Yet they are not the only proverbs on offer. The English language is strewn with wise-sounding sayings like:
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
“Fortune favours the bold.”
“God helps those who help themselves”
(which many people mistakenly believe is in the Bible).

Self-help books, empowerment seminars, business gurus, and marketing moguls have added to these an assortment of slogans, catch phrases and positive affirmations that influence – sometimes consciously and sometimes subconsciously – our values, perceptions and responses:

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
“I embrace my power.”
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

“Start small – finish big.”

List any proverbs, quotes, affirmations and/or sayings that you catch yourself saying or that you think may have an influence on how you think, speak, act, spend, live. 

With so many powerful, positive, wise-sounding “proverbs” shaping our subconscious mind, it can sometimes prove difficult to discern which words to pay attention to and which to discard.

The mark of true wisdom that keeps us on track for right living, however, is that it gives life – not only to us, but to others! – for it springs from the mind and the will of the living God:

“Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God;
only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.” 

(Proverbs 1:7, The Message).

In our reading from James 3, we find four marks of a wisdom that begins in and blossoms through God:

1. Godly wisdom is meek and humble: it does not lead to boasting or bitter jealously or selfish ambition ….

2. Godly wisdom is authentic: no cunning, no conniving, no twisting the truth, no two-faced friendships – what is said matches perfectly with what is done ….

3. Godly wisdom is open and conciliatory: impartial and sincere, it helps to build a healthy and robust community and encourages us to do the hard work of getting along, of treating each with dignity and honour.

4. Godly wisdom is pure and peaceable, seeking good – for me, for my family, for my neighbour, for my community, for my colleagues, for my friends, for the stranger on my street, for my so-called enemy, for my country, for my continent, for my planet ….

Look back over your list.
Which of the words or phrases are of a worldly wisdom?
Which reflect the wisdom of God?    

Pray for the wisdom – not only to live well, but in your right living to be a life-giver to those searching for wisdom and their way in the world.

Day Twenty Eight: A Word to The Wise

Psalm 148
Proverbs 9:1-12
2 Peter 3:8-13

We are just two days away from 2018 and social media is full of (and has been for a while) sponsored ads for:
~ the diary/day planner/goal visualiser that will help you achieve all of your targets and desires;
~ the not-a-diet-but-a-step-to-better-health program that will enable you to wow your
co-workers and friends with a slimmer, better you;
~ early-bird discounts on motivational seminars and quasi-professional courses to help you get ahead of your peers – and stay there!
~ the best apps on the market for those lacking in willpower and accountability, featuring personal trainers and life coaches who will be with you every step of the way (virtual steps, of course) in helping you realise the change you’re after ….

more money,
a clear head,
better sleep,
a smaller waistline,
a graduation,
zen-like peace,
more patience,
a complete makeover,
a relationship do-over –

the prospect of a blank slate unleashes within many of us a frenzy of unfulfilled desires and hopeful expectations that the new year will be our best one yet –

that this time round our resolutions will be ticked off as realised;
and failures or mistakes or crises or general unpleasantries will just not feature – at all!

Deep down we know it’s folly;
that those “with our best interests” at heart are simply calculating the interest that they will earn as we buy the book, the app, the sweat gear that will lead to “our best self” or “our best year.”

In today’s readings, Wisdom warns us to leave the company of the simple and walk in the way of insight –
which begins with the Fear of the Lord
and leads into a life of (and from) knowing a Holy God (Proverbs 9:10).

Over the entirety of the Advent and Christmas season, we have received the invitation to base our lives on a different Message to those that the world constantly inundates us with:
a Message of sufficiency and abundance,
of affirmation and belonging,
of expansion and opening up,
of grace and salvation,
of forgiveness and compassion,
of hope, joy, and peace.

As we look forward, it’s not just to a new year;
but to the new heaven,
the new earth,
the home of righteousness which we have been promised (2 Peter 3:13).

It’s to a new self:
a God-imagined, God-made, God-breathed, God-given self;
rather than a better self, or
a self-made man- or woman-self.

Read again the beautiful words from Proverbs and receive God’s freely-given promise of provision for the year ahead (verses 4-6, The Message):

 Lady Wisdom goes to town, stands in a prominent place, and invites everyone within the 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.”

As you reflect on plans or resolutions that you have been making for the year ahead, ~ is there any particular area of your life in which you are experiencing a sense of scarcity or confusion?
~ how do your goals/dreams contribute to a life with meaning?
~ what is the grace that God is offering you?