Good Decisions Come From Experience. Experience Comes from Making Bad Decisions.

King Saul of Ancient Israel made decisions very differently than David. They also had very different outcomes. Saul sometimes used consultants when making decisions.

decisions street

Asking the wrong consultants for help was disastrous. “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14, NIV)

When David had decisions to make, he used a different method: “So David inquired of God: “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, I will deliver them into your hands.” (1 Chronicles 14:10, NIV) Saul was Israel’s first king. When he died, David succeeded him on the throne. Saul was moody and erratic, and often allowed his impatience and insecurity to lead him into making bad choices and bad decisions.

Before you judge him too harshly, does YOUR impatience ever prompt you to make a poor decision? Do you ever get tired of waiting for God to do something and then take matters into your own hands? The Bible points out that this is a fairly common human trait. It’s essentially what Adam and Eve did in the garden. It’s what Abram and Sarah did when he slept with Hagar. It’s what Saul did when he consulted the witch of Endor.

Saul’s kingdom ended in defeat and disgrace, while David’s was passed on to Solomon. Saul was alienated from God, but David received the promise of an eternal covenant.
When you think about it, David and Saul were both sinners. Both kings committed egregious sins against the Lord, but their lives had very different outcomes.

While these two kings shared the ability to commit big mistakes, there were significant differences in the way they made decisions, and in the way they did business with God. The writer of Chronicles said Saul “did not inquire of the Lord”. David did. This one thing changed the way their kingdoms played out, and arguably changed the course of history. This may seem like a small thing, but the whole process of making inquiry is more involved than it seems at first glance. Take a closer look.

First of all, in ancient Israel there was sometimes a ceremonial process attached to inquiring. This would mean that it involved your intimate leaders and associates. They would know you held it important to ask God about strategy. That infers that your leaders would be like-minded men who also trusted God enough to go along with what might seem illogical to most warriors.

The fact that you would ask God for permission meant that your leadership team would look and act differently than most of your competition. It would also be a somewhat public process, so that people would know you were asking God what to do. That suggests transparent, humble leadership before the people. How much credit can you take if the Lord is the one who determines the outcome? It also speaks to God’s sovereignty, since the king would be humbling himself before God and doing what God tells him to do. You would be most likely to inquire of the Lord if you knew him, trusted his judgment, and were walking with him regularly. So…

When YOU have a decision to make, How often do YOU inquire before the Lord? How often do you ask Him for strategy, consult with him about budget, or ask for permission to make the next move? How often do you inquire of the Lord before disciplining your children, planning that vacation, or deciding whether to take a place of service in church? If your answer is “not too often”, then remember these two kings, and remember to inquire. It might just change the course of history. (It has before!)

Decisions, Decisions…

There are so many things in life that each of us must choose,
And there are many processes that anyone can use
In making good decisions. Some rely on common sense,
And some will weigh the outcome and expected consequence.
You can weigh the pros and cons, or ask folks for advice;
Some folks call on random chance, and then just roll the dice.
You might use a legal pad with columns, yes and no,
And then compare the columns to determine how to go.
Some decision-makers fear they will not get it right,
And worry so about it that it keeps them up at night!
Some are self-sufficient, and take pride in their decisions,
But still it’s hard to guarantee an outcome with precision.
King Saul was worried so much that he found a witch, and asked her,
But his decision-making only led him to disaster.
David faced decisions in a different kind of way:
He inquired before the Lord, to see what He would say.
When you face decisions, here’s a method tried and true:
Go ask the Lord. And Listen. He will tell you what to do.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Earthly Wisdom is One Thing, and Heavenly Wisdom Is Another

There are things that are earthly and things that are heavenly. James says wisdom is that way, and he describes heavenly wisdom like this: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17 NIV)

There are different kinds of smart. There is book-smart, street-smart, people smart, and then there is smart-aleck or smarting off. Well, in the same way there are different kinds of wisdom, and different outcomes from each kind. You could technically make the case that all True Wisdom (with a capital W) comes from the ruler of heaven, and all earthly wisdom (with a little w) comes from the ruler of that other place. (Kinda like the difference between a “wise man” and a “wise guy”).

If you think about it, there are a lot of different kinds of earthly wisdom. There is cunning wisdom that manipulates the facts and sounds logical even when it is false. Our media and politics are filled with this kind to the point that we are sick and tired of it. There is shrewd, self-serving wisdom; this type is not always flashy or in your face, but those who possess it maneuver well in business, are able to evaluate things and make the right moves so that they come out ahead. There is the narcissistic, “look how much I know” wisdom; this type often dominates conversation and drops facts to demonstrate that they know more than you do. There is condescending academic wisdom, the kind that delights in subject mastery and putting naïve students in their place. There is a “my mind’s made up” kind of wisdom, that has investigated, arrived at a position, and will not be swayed.

earthly wisdom

There is the type A “I’m always right” wisdom. (Say! Have you ever noticed that the ONLY people who ever proclaim their personality type are ALWAYS “type A”? No one ever says, “Well you know, I’m a type C personality”. I think whoever invented that classification system must have been the more assertive type and naturally wanted their classification to be “A”, the FIRST letter in the alphabet… I probably just made a bunch of type A people mad, but it’s ok because I’m like a type C personality. Or D, I forget…)

But it seems that a lot of earthly forms of astuteness are somewhat self-serving or driven by ego (like I just did there with type A), as opposed to the heavenly kind. I’m not saying that such people are not wise—they are—but that there’s a difference between earthly wisdom and the kind that comes from God.

James says the kind that comes from heaven is pure. It is not tainted by selfish motives or coupled to ambition. It is peace-loving and considerate. It is not aggressive but is submissive, using the Greek term that means gentleness, indicating controlled power—so even when it yields to others it is not submissively weak and ineffectual. James builds much of his letter around this important concept, and it is hard to underestimate how important humility is in the Christian life.

In modern times, the three most important things in real estate are said to be “location, location, and location.” Augustine perhaps originated this logic when writing about being a Christian long ago: “When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, `Delivery’; what was the second rule, `Delivery’; what was the third rule, `Delivery’; so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third, and always I would answer, `Humility’ ” (Institutes 2. 2. 11).

Godly wisdom is humble. True heavenly wisdom doesn’t raise its hand and call attention to itself like earthly wisdom does, but it gets our attention when we hear it. It is not only humble but also merciful, impartial, and sincere. The next time someone impresses you as wise, place their wisdom alongside this verse; you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if it is heavenly wisdom–or if it came from that other place.

Earthly wisdom knows just how to scheme or to connive,
To help the folks who have it stay alive, and even thrive!
Wisdom that’s direct from heaven has a different lure;
It offers answers from a source that’s sanctified and pure.
Such wisdom is considerate, submissive and sincere;
It loves the peace, and offers mercy when it’s needed here.
True Wisdom doesn’t come to you because you think you’re smart,
But it will bear much fruit when it is hidden in your heart.
If you long for wisdom, then it’s not too late for you:
Ask the Lord some to give you some in everything you do.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Wisdom is Tricky: A Fool Thinks he is Wise; a Wise Man Knows Himself to be a Fool

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 NIV) All true wisdom, just like all true love, comes only from God. It is part of His character, a reflection of who He is and what He is about. It may come indirectly or be claimed by someone else along the way, but it all comes from Him alone. Apparently it is readily available for the asking, even though people don’t display it much. The book of Proverbs says, “Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares.” (1:20)

wisdom cries

Even Shakespeare pointed out that she is available to all who seek her, and yet so many lack her stabilizing presence. God is wisdom’s only source—and James says here that the Lord is willing to give it generously… So why aren’t all men wise?

Well, first of all, you have to realize you don’t have it. That’s tougher than it sounds. A lot of people think they are wise but, well… perhaps they really aren’t. (Kinda like American Idol try-outs. A lot of people think they can sing, but, well, not so much!)

Second, you have to ask for it. And you have to ask God for HIS wisdom, rather than being egocentric and wrapped up in self-acquired knowledge. Asking for help implies assuming a subordinate position, and it’s amazing how many people are just too proud to do that. (And really, that’s what it almost always boils down to. We tell God, “Lord I want wisdom, but I want it on MY terms”. We want God’s plan handed to us the way WE want it; but isn’t that precluded by the fact that it’s HIS plan??)

Third, Proverbs says that fear (respect, awe) of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but that fools despise it (and Him). If God is real, you’d be a fool not to fear Him. After all, this is the God who created the universe, who upholds all things by the word of His power; this is the God who weighs the nations as dust in the scales, holds the keys to life and death.

But this is also a God who requires faith, who gives evidence but not irrefutable proof, and who allows all men to choose how they will perceive Him.
1 Corinthians 8:2-3 says, “If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet that he ought to know; but if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” To see God properly and become wise requires that we assume the right perspective. We have to see God as He is, not as we’d like Him to be.

Perspective requires that we humbly acknowledge where true wisdom comes from and ask the Creator for what only He can give. Back in the heyday of boxing, Mohammed Ali said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, you can’t hit what you can’t see.” I think he was describing his own speed and elusiveness, but he could have also been talking about wisdom: if you can’t see it, you can’t hit it.

A lot of people out there dodge and weave through life, proud of how smart they are or how much they have—even as they make foolish choices or head down destructive paths. They may be rich or famous, they may even be smart, but somehow wisdom has eluded them. So, next time you encounter a fool, you’ll know what their real problem is. And next time you act the fool instead of making wise choices, well—at least now you know who to ask, right?

Wisdom wanders in the streets, and even calls aloud,
While millions pass her by because they’re just too smart or proud.
Wisdom, see, is not just facts that people learn in schools,
Or being bright, or having lots of intellectual tools;
(In fact, some who believe they’re wise are really still just fools!)
Some think wisdom is acquired, and work hard at the task,
But James says that it comes from God; we only have to ask!
The next time life requires some wise advice to help you live it,
The Book of James says ask the Lord for some: He’ll surely give it.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Wisdom is Precious. If You Have Some, Share it With the Rest of Us!

“Then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; Keep my commandments and live; Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding!” (Proverbs 3:4-5, NIV).

Make a quick mental list of things important to you that were taught to you by someone else. The obvious things like reading, riding a bike, swimming, and driving a car come to mind… And then there are the subtle things like manners, values, appreciation, and humility: undoubtedly some aspect of all of those skills or behavior was taught to you by someone else. Having teachers makes an AMAZING difference in the quality of our lives, in our ability to solve problems, and in the opportunities that life brings our way. Say a quick prayer of thanksgiving for the people who have taught you the things you value the most.

wisdom to share

Then think of what Solomon said: Apparently wisdom and understanding can be readily acquired—anybody can get them. And yet they seem to be in short supply all around us. It’s surprising that something so available to anyone can be so rare.

Voltaire said (and he’s been quoted by many ever since) “The thing about common sense is that it is not so common.” The same can be said about wisdom. While understanding involves learning the details and being able to grasp subject matter or content, Wisdom is a little more complex. It involves being able to apply that learning in a useful way.

Wisdom is mentioned 222 times in the Old Testament, and Jewish rabbis regarded it as a virtue emanating from God’s character. It seasons the Hebrew Scriptures with exhortations and advice given for our benefit. If you look at wisdom a little bit closer, I think you’ll find a strong connection to the New Testament as well.

In Proverbs 8:22, Wisdom says, ““From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.” He describes being present for all of creation, and says, “Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, Rejoicing in the world, His earth, And having my delight in the sons of men.” (Verses 30 and 31)

Hmmm… Wisdom was there from everlasting, from the beginning, was a master workman in creation, and delighted in the sons of men. John 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him…” To me, Wisdom sounds perfectly interchangeable with the Word. The Word=Jesus=Wisdom.

Perhaps one of the reasons that wisdom seems so rare in our world today is that not very many people recognize its source or follow its teaching. How about you? What wise thing have you acquired lately? And what wisdom have you passed on to somebody else? Any of you have some wisdom you’d be willing to share? Think of your best wise saying and post it here! I’m serious! Write a reply and post your favorite verse or pithy saying!

Do you have a life verse? Mine is 1 Corinthians 8:2-3. (You can look it up)

How does wisdom come to be? The Bible offers it for free,
And says that it can be acquired by anybody so inspired.
If we just had a Holy Book where we could read and take a look
And gain the wisdom of the ages written there upon the pages!
There is a Book that you can read where wisdom gained is guaranteed,
Whose timeless truths will make you wise if you will exercise your eyes…
If you gain some wisdom there, then take a little time to share!
Just write for us a little note to share your favorite verse or quote:
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Counsel and Wisdom: Better Be Careful with that Bucket!

The Bible has a few things to say about counsel: “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:5, NKJV) “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15, NKJV) “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out“. (Proverbs 20:5, NKJV)

counsel deep

The word “counsel” is used a number of times in the Old Testament, and it is an interesting term. It sometimes simply means God’s wisdom and direction. It can also refer to resources that provide wisdom or guidance in making decisions, or it is used to describe sage advice. Think for a minute: where do YOU go for wise counsel? Who is it YOU turn to for sage advice?

Here in Proverbs 1:5 and 12:15, it is a noun that means to bind, or to pledge. It comes from the picture of using a rope or a cord on a large animal in order to pull or guide it in the proper direction. Without assistance in steering, an ox could end up plowing crooked rows, or it might wander over into a ditch. So it is with us. Our actions will be more profitable when they are guided by wise counsel.

The Bible says that not only is God a wonderful source of counsel, but so are others who have been blessed with wisdom. There is a godly wisdom that only comes from walking with Him and being invested in His word. But Wisdom can also be practical, attained through life experiences. There is an old saying that “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” I know I have illustrated the last part of that homily many times. Perhaps you have too.

One way to bypass the trial-and-error process is to seek the counsel of someone who is wise, godly, and experienced. Such a person would not offer a knee-jerk response or fire off an emotional email. The word picture in 20:5 is instructive because it describes a process for obtaining the kind of counsel that is truly beneficial (like water to a thirsty man in a dry land). It maintains that good counsel doesn’t come quickly or easily; it says that there is effort required to pull the heavy bucket of life-giving water up from the cool depths of the well; and that care needs to be taken with the precious contents so that none of it is wasted…

When Proverbs says, “counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”, WHO do you think of? Chances are that after you have prayed and looked into God’s word for advice, they might be the right person to call when you are making your plans or wrestling with a big decision. Get wise counsel. Make good decisions.

We all have times we wish for good advice that we could keep.
Proverbs says that counsel is like water, dark and deep;
When facing life decisions, and your heart is full of doubt,
Godly counsel can be there to help you think things out.
Proverbs says a man who thinks he’s right may be a fool,
But in the well, the water’s deep and takes a longer pull:
A man of understanding can provide a bucketful.
Though a fool may see himself as right in his own eyes,
It’s better to seek counsel from a person who is wise;
If you must choose, then I advise you try that on for size.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Are You as Wise as You Should Be? Are You as Wise as You CAN Be? Hearken to this: Be Wise.

Do you know a lot of wise people? DO you think of yourself as wise? The dictionary says that being wise is “having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgment”, which makes me think of the old saying: “Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from making bad decisions…”

Solomon, regarded in his day as the wisest man who ever lived, put it this way: “Wisdom says: “Now therefore, my sons, hearken unto me; For blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” (Proverbs 8:32-34 ASV)

Think about applying it this way. Are you coachable? A coach draws up a game plan designed to maximize his own players’ skills and take advantage of the other team’s weaknesses. What if all the players on the football team, on their own, decided to do their own thing on every play? Even though the coach had a plan, and even though there was wisdom behind that plan, do you think that team would have any success? God says that the ones who keep His ways and hear what He has to say are blessed. This verse implies that ALL of us can receive instruction, and that everyone can have an opportunity to be wise.

wise

Are you maximizing your opportunity? God has a plan for us, and He has even given us a playbook full of wisdom with the details of His plan. In the game of Life, however, many of us just do our own thing, freelancing on every play even though there is a plan in place with love and wisdom behind it. I guess it would be nice if God had a magic wand and just touched our heads so they were instantly filled with wisdom, but it doesn’t happen like that.

Solomon doesn’t say that we are gifted with wisdom all at once, in an instant. He says we can hear it, and we can watch daily at the gates, waiting expectantly to receive it. Who are you listening to that gives you wisdom? Where do you wait expectantly to receive it? There are lots of types of “wisdom” in this world, but Godly wisdom seems to be a rare commodity. Here’s an exercise: keep track how much time you spend reading or listening to men’s opinions each day, and then compare it to how much time you spend hearing wise, God-inspired instruction. If you were honest, I’d bet you were surprised at the disparity between those different sources.

Do you consider yourself to be wise? If not, why not? According to Proverbs, God’s wisdom is available to anyone who wants it; James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Hearken to God. Ask Him for wisdom. Seek him out, listen to him, and keep His ways. Be wise.

Wisdom offers gifts to all–the meek or proud, the great, or small;
Its treasure can be freely gained and all its wealth can be attained
By every one, though strong or weak, by all who diligently seek.
There’s just one catch to carrying out this task:
You have to go to God, and you have to ask.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread