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Wisdom Says: Decide

“Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power. By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; by me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth.” (Proverbs 8:14-16)

In her ongoing campaign to invite us to get to know her, Wisdom offers another benefit — making good decisions. She identifies one group constantly faced with the pressure of making tough choices: leaders. Specifically, national leaders must choose good laws, make difficult management decisions, and plan for and against war.

Another group comes to my mind: students. Maybe more than any other time of life, people in high school and college face big and little choices that carry giant, longlasting consequences. Will I go to college? If so, where? How will I pay for it? Should I get a job now? How many hours should I work? Do I have time to help out at church? Should I spend more or less time with my friends? Should I get involved in a serious dating relationship? Should I break up this relationship?

All those decisions can get overwhelming. Wisdom can help. She can give you the power of understanding and “sound judgement.” She can help you sort out all the options and zero in on the best ones. As the manager of your life, you need her in the same way kings and rulers do. Knowing her is often the difference between a great choice — and one you’ll regret.

Think: When faced with decisions, how do you look for wisdom? How has wisdom helped you? Where did you find it?

Pray: Ask God to help you look for — and find — wisdom for the next major decision you face.

Do: Read Proverbs 5.

Wisdom Says: Good Hate

” ‘I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.’ ” (Proverbs 8:12-13)

What do you hate? What do you truly loathe deep in your spirit? God wants us to get in touch with our dark sides. He wants us to learn how to hate deeply and honestly. He wants us to get to the point where our vision blurs a little and our stomach roils at the thought of “pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”

hurting_350In short, God wants us to hate sin. Most of us are lousy haters. We might talk casually about hating certain foods, music, TV shows, or even a teacher or a boss. But we don’t mean real hate; we mean those things annoy us or make us angry.

Wisdom’s message to us is this: If you really understood life from God’s perspective — if you caught a glimpse of the beauty and power of His holiness and love — the ugliness of sin (especially your own) would send your soul into a murderous rage. Your hate would make you want to kill your sin.

Think: Have you ever felt real hate toward your own sin? Would you want to?

Pray: Ask God to help you to fear Him enough to hate your own sin.

Do: Read Proverbs 4.

Wisdom Says: Dollars v. Value

“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 8:10-11)

Wisdom calls out to us to listen, to hear her, to slow down and grow wise. Yesterday, she said we could trust her; she knows what she’s talking about. In the next breath, she emphasizes that she’s not selling anything — and her goal isn’t to make us rich.

hurting_350Wisdom is not offering us the path to wealth. Instead, she says she can show us the way to a life of value that makes money look cheap. Money isn’t the point. All the stuff money can buy isn’t the point. You can own the world and still be a majorette in the parade of fools.

The longer we listen to wisdom, the more we’ll be convinced: Chasing dollars always leads to foolishness. It takes God’s wisdom to know how to live with money without living for money. It takes no money to become Wisdom’s student and invest in a valuable life.

Think: We all want money. Do you want wisdom more than money? Do you believe wisdom is more valuable than cash?

Pray: Ask God to help your desire for money and wisdom to be in proportion to the true value of each of those things.

Do: Read Proverbs 3.

Wisdom Says: Trust Her

“You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.” (Proverbs 8:5-8)

We’re walking through Proverbs 8 together this week, and Wisdom has been standing at a high-traffic spot in town calling out to get our attention as we rush through our busy lives. She seems convinced she has something we need, if we’ll just slow down and listen for a minute.

hurting_350Her message, she says, can change our lives forever. If we’ll pay attention, she can help simple, foolish people like us who normally get used by the world to become prudent. She can help us understand all the most important things.

She knows. She knows. We’ve heard these pitches before. We’ve seen all the infomercials for diets and face creams and exercise machines and get-rich schemes. That’s not her bag. She insists: “What I’m going to tell you is worth your time. It’s right. I don’t lie; I hate lies. I don’t want to cheat anyone. I’m not asking for your money.”

Think: Do you ever pay less attention to wisdom because it seems like she promises too much? Are we too cynical these days to believe in anything that promises to “make us wise”?

Pray: Ask God to help you trust Him to give you real life-changing wisdom.

Do: Read Proverbs 2.

Wisdom Says: Wisdom Doesn’t Hide

“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: ‘To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.’ ” (Proverbs 8:1-4)

For the next week, we’re going to listen to Wisdom. Yes, I capitalized that “W” on purpose. That’s because Proverbs 8 quotes Wisdom herself, calling out to us. Yes, I wrote “us,” even though Proverbs 8 was written thousands of years ago. Wisdom wants to talk to you this week.

hurting_350Notice this first: Wisdom is not hiding. She’s not a secret available only to those of us rich enough or smart enough or spiritual enough to find her. She’s not a prize awarded to the most popular or most attractive or most polite. She wants to be found. She wants you to find her.

That’s why she’s standing there at the top of the hill, at the gate to the city, at the one spot that everyone must pass by sooner or later. And she’s not whispering. She’s yelling, calling out, looking you in the eye. She wants to be heard. She wants you to pay attention.

Think: Do you ever think of wisdom as being secretive and mysterious instead of obvious and available to all? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God for the boldness and courage to listen to Wisdom this next week. Ask Him to help you slow down long enough not to miss what she wants to tell you.

Do: Read Proverbs 1.

Hurting for Good?: Pain with Honor

“It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit . . .” (1 Peter 3:18-19)

The Apostle Peter didn’t work for Hallmark. These verses aren’t meant to be comforting, rhyming poetry decorated by soothing pastel colors. Peter is NOT saying, “Sorry you have to suffer, but at least it’s better to suffer for Jesus than for being an idiot.”

hurting_350Suffering for Jesus — being persecuted for believing in and following Him — is not a consolation prize. It is one of the highest honors a Jesus-follower can experience, and not everyone will get the opportunity.

After all, Peter reminds us, Jesus died for us, “the unrighteous.” Just for the record, He died one time and paid for all of our sins in that moment. Nobody who suffers for Him pays for any sin, obviously, but we will be resurrected as He was. And there will be special rewards for those who suffer under persecution.

Think: Do you ever think of suffering for Jesus as an honor? Do you know anyone who has been persecuted for believing in Jesus?

Pray: Ask God to provide courage and comfort for Christians under persecution around the world today.

Do: Check out persecution.net.

Hurting for Good?: Why So Hopeful?

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

How can you possibly be loving your life? I don’t understand, with all you’re going through, how you could call this a “good day?” Why don’t you just stop talking about Jesus? Be done with Him and move on. What has being a Jesus-follower done for you? Why are you still so hopeful?

hurting_350Those are the kinds of questions you should expect, according to Peter. Did you notice that he just expects, assumes, anticipates a few things here? Christians who make Christ first in their hearts will be hopeful. When the hard times come, people will notice that Christ-as-Lord Christians are hopeful. They will see joy and purpose where they would expect to see sorrow and defeat. Eventually, someone will ask “why?”

Then what? The command here is, “Always be prepared.” How? Ask yourself the question, “Why are you so hopeful?” and come up with a short, truthful, gentle, and respectful answer. Hint: It has something to do with what you’re hoping for.

Think: What are you hoping for? What could possibly happen to you in this life that would change that?

Pray: Ask God to help you to set apart Christ as Lord in your heart today.

Do: Write a paragraph answering the question, “How can you be so hopeful right now?”