Counsel and Wisdom: Better Be Careful with that Bucket!

The Bible has a few things to say about counsel, the act of getting prudent advice before making final decisions: “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

Counsel not Council

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.

To Whom Would You Turn?

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 Proverbs 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.

Go to the Well

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
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Advice is Easy. Great Leaders Practice What they Preach

David had gotten to the place when knew his time on earth was short, and in this passage he gave Solomon a piece of advice about how to be a great leader:

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9, NIV)

advice

Wise Counsel

David didn’t just give Solomon some pretty good advice here. What he said is worth considering and applying by all leaders everywhere. It is full of eternal, life-changing principles. When you break it down, you’ll see what I mean.

1) David starts by reminding Solomon that he is his son. He is presuming upon their relationship, and he makes this statement because Solomon falls under David’s paternal authority. Roles are important in life. David understands that part of a father’s job is to impart advice, to offer wisdom and to tell it like it is—so he does. In this case, David is Solomon’s biological father, but that’s not mandatory in mentor relationships. Every one of us is currently involved in relationships where we provide guidance or leadership, or where we need to LISTEN TO guidance or counsel. Advise well. Listen well.

2) He tells Solomon to acknowledge “the God of your father”, which means David was offering his OWN relationship with God as a baseline for Solomon. Tell, me, would you present YOUR relationship with God as the template for your children? For your friends? David failed in several very public ways, and his life in was not exactly a template for proper behavior, but he did love the Lord and follow Him in spite of his own failings and mistakes… I think it’s telling that David is confident enough in his relationship with God that he can tell his son to follow it.

More Than a Mental Exercise

3) He doesn’t just tell Solomon to acknowledge God, he tells him to serve the Lord “with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind.” Would you tell your kids to do that? Do you DO that? Great leadership involves more than giving advice, it comes from actually living out the principles it proclaims.

4) He reminds Solomon that the Lord knows every heart, and understands every human desire and motive; if that doesn’t give you pause for reflection, I’m not sure what will. (To bring that closer to home, the Lord knows YOUR heart, and He is aware of YOUR every motive. It is not so much my blatant, public sin that I worry about, but my private inner ones…) David advises Solomon that God’s sovereignty and omniscience matter, and that we should conduct ourselves with an awareness of what that means in our life and in our relationships.

5) He spells out the choices in black and white. If we seek God, we will find him; but if we forsake Him, He will reject us. And oh yeah, He will reject us “forever”. We have choices, and our actions have consequences. Choose wisely.

Hard-Earned Advice

David’s reign was ending; Solomon’s had just begun,
And David offered wise advice to Solomon, his son:
“Acknowledge God the way I do, and love Him from the start;
Serve Him with a willing mind, and seek Him with all your heart.
The Lord knows every motive, every thought within your mind–
So don’t play games with Him. Be honest. Seek Him, and you’ll find…
If you forsake His wisdom as you sit upon your throne,
Then he’ll reject you utterly, and you will be alone.
You’ll find that it’s much harder, then, to govern on your own…”

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
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Is there a Random Chance You’ll Read This? YOU Decide.

Time and Chance might seem to have no place in a world ruled by a Sovereign God. Both Bible Scholars and skeptics believe in an either-or universe in which God has pre-ordained all things, and where determinism restricts the choices men may make about existence. The tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is a difficult thing to sort out, but surely God has a plan designed to accomplish His will which would override random events.

So why did the wisest man who ever lived say this:
“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Determined or Not?

I have always been in awe of God’s majesty and omniscience, but I have often wondered about his sovereignty. What does God’s sovereignty mean to us in a practical sense, and do we really have any choice in this world? On one hand, I have heard it argued that there is nothing that happens outside of God’s plan, and that there is a sort of determinism about life. Since God has foreknowledge, and knows everything in advance, then we really have no options and we are basically puppets dangling at the end of God’s strings.

On the other hand, there are many things in scripture that suggest man was given will and the ability to make choices for a reason; there is cause and effect, there are consequences to actions—but it’s not always the outcome we think is logical or fair.

chance

I have always believed that God’s sovereignty is somehow big enough to allow for human choices without limiting His authority, or interfering with the outcome He desires. God’s perfect will allowed for Abraham to sleep with Hagar, and still somehow used the players in their faithless disobedience to fulfill His ultimate plan.

Allowance

God allowed Jacob to lie and steal the blessing from Esau, yet it all worked to fulfill the covenant. He permitted a harlot to betray her own people to save the spies in Jericho and become one of David’s ancestors. In each of these cases, people made their own decisions, committed sins, or followed seemingly unpredictable paths of choice and chance.

The universe is not simply an “either-or” situation between God’s will and man’s will. The Bible views them as a “both-and” scenario, where God is utterly sovereign and man takes his chances and makes his choices. There are many twists and turns throughout Scripture that seem disconnected from God’s will (or totally random, based on earthly factors), but they did not deter His will or prevent the outcome He had ordained. And then this verse from Ecclesiastes: “time and chance happen to them all.”

A Very Big Umbrella

I believe that God allows for time and chance in a fallen world. If that is true, then He does not program us like automatons or dictate every action. Things are not always logical, and outcomes are not all predetermined. We act freely. We take our chances. Every eventuality exists under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty, and His foreknowledge does not limit our choices or dictate our decisions. Romans 8:28 says that God “works all thing together for good” to those who are His. I believe He is big enough to do that.

Sometimes the underdog wins. God allows for that. Sometimes humans exercise their will in business or athletics. God allows for that. And sometimes, in a fallen world, random things occur and accidents happen. Sometimes people pay for making stupid choices, or even pay for someone else’s stupid choices! Life is affected by time and chance. Ultimately, however, God is in control and we can have faith in a risen Lord in the middle of a fallen world. Are there things in life that seem unfair or impossible? Sometimes. Do those things ever circumvent God’s will? Never.

Chance or Choice?

If everything is prearranged, and history’s die is cast,
Then every action is ordained from the first one to the last.
The Lord is sovereign (heaven knows), and has a master plan–
So what remains within the province of the mortal man?
The Lord knows every man’s demise, and every sparrow’s fall,
But Solomon said Time and Chance still happen to us all.
So, is God in control, or do we have the right to choose?
If you gamble, bet on God. There’s no way you can lose…

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
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The Heart of the Matter is that Your. Heart. Matters.

What goes into your heart matters. What comes out of it matters, too. For people who didn’t have EKG’s, cardiologists, or heart hospitals, the ancient Hebrew people were pretty wise about matters of the heart. Solomon in particular seemed to have a deep understanding of the way the heart functions, and his Book of Proverbs is full of references to it. With all of our technology, do you think we are any smarter about these matters than they were 3,000 years ago?

True Cardiology

Take a look at a few of these Proverbs and tell me what you think:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV) “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, KJV) To the Hebrews, the heart was the center of a man’s being, the place where instinct, reason, emotion and will came together as the core of body, soul, and spirit. It was where he made decisions and created core values.

Heart matters mattered to Solomon: Proverbs acknowledges it as the gateway for wisdom (2:10), and the place where understanding and God’s instruction could be stored and used (3:1, 6:21). Solomon saw the heart as central to a man’s commitment (3:5) and motivation (4:4). A teachable heart that is turned towards God’s wisdom brings both practical and spiritual rewards; a heart turned astray has other outcomes. A foolish heart will spurn good advice (5:12), act deceitfully (6:14), devise wicked schemes (6:18), be drawn into lust (6:25), and be willfully perverse (11:20) or unreasonably proud (16:5).

matters

First Out?

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He also said, “Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him.” (Mark 7:20, AMP) So, what comes out of your heart? One of the indicators is your vocabulary. (“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” Luke 6:45) What are the first words out of your mouth when you are angry? Do your words heal or hurt? Do they help or hinder?

What do you think the things that come out of your mouth say about your heart? If you did a quick internal summary, how would you evaluate your heart? Is it well-tended, or is it a bit of a hot mess? Does it cuss or discuss? Is it a gateway for wisdom, or a repository for waste? Is it proud and self-centered, or is it open and teachable? If you take care of your heart, it will take care of you!

Jesus said that we are defiled not by what we do, but by what comes out of our hearts… Take an honest inventory of what has flowed into and out of your heart lately. Then remember what Solomon said. Look after your heart: everything you do flows from it.

The Heart of the Matter

You cannot see it, but it’s there, providing with every beat
The fuel to think, the means to care, the power to compete.
It shows resolve, or skips a beat, or sometimes feels a thrill–
While it contains the seat of instinct, intellect and will.
It is a place where body, soul, and spirit all reside;
It is a place where men can shine, or where they try to hide.

Solomon said it was a place where passion could be fired,
And that to keep it healthy, there was diligence required.
A foolish heart will do some things that just aren’t very nice;
It won’t subscribe to wisdom, and accept its good advice.
So guard your heart, since it is where a person’s measure is;
And watch what you put into it: It’s where your treasure is.

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

Humble Prayer is the First Step in Being Healed. Step Out!

The surest way to succeed, our culture tells us, is to be accomplished. Athletes “make history”, and business people keep score by how much money they’ve made. Leaders want power, gangbangers want respect, and everyone dreams of being able to do whatever they want to do. The Bible has a different take on being great: It says if you want to achieve real greatness, start by being humble. If you’ve never considered that, you might be surprised at how much difference that makes in the long run.

humble

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). This is a pretty well-known verse from 2 Chronicles, which came from a dream Solomon had right after he had made sacrifices and dedicated the temple. They were justifiably proud of what they had accomplished. But God appeared to Solomon and reminded him how important proper worship was, and what God required of his people.

A Different Standard

God’s word to Solomon was one of those “If—then” conditional statements that rely upon the fact that God’s character is consistent and unchanging. In this case, God is reminding Solomon (and us) that He will forgive our sins and heal our land. Since we are His children, that makes perfect sense. But what’s required of us?

First of all, we have to be God’s people, the ones who are called by his name. We need to be in a relationship with God, one that is exhibited enough externally so that others know what we are about. When people think of us, do they think of Him?

Second, we have to humble ourselves. In a world full of ego this is an attitude that we don’t see very often today. (The Special Olympics might be a place where humanity comes close to exhibiting this virtue, but the world is far more calibrated to celebrating money, power and looks than it is to celebrating the efforts of humble people.)

humble

So, Humble Yourself

We are surrounded by so much ego that we think it’s right to puff ourselves up and to treat the universe as if we are at its center. Because it is what we are surrounded with, it stands to reason that we might even approach the Lord that way, too. Are you proud of anything? Then you are NOT humble. But, in the long run we figure that if we’re a little bit sorry, and tell God He is Lord, then we’ve achieved humility.

Perhaps there is more to humility than that. Back in the day, people tore their clothes, put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, they wept and fasted, and they lay prostrate on the ground before the Lord. Quick check: when is the last time you humbled yourself and prayed like that? (That’s what I thought. Me neither…) And let’s not forget that humility is not an external show, but an internal transformation. We humble ourselves from the inside out, not the other way around.

Third, we need to seek God’s face. I think this implies not only seeing eye-to-eye, but being transparent, open, and intimate with God. Face to face means seeing Him as He truly is, and realizing that He sees us as we really are, without masks or excuses or spin. While we present our outward appearance to the world, the Lord sees our hearts.

Finally, He tells us to turn from our wicked ways. If enough of us humble ourselves and do this, He promises to forgive our sin and heal our land. What are your wicked ways? Do you think our land needs healing? Great news! God has already given us the prescription: when you turn from THEM, turn to HIM.

A Truly Humble Prayer

If my people, called by my name, will hear what I have to say,
And keep My word which they have heard, and come to me and pray;
If they will humble themselves, confess the wickedness they are in,
Then I will hear, and heal their land, and I’ll forgive their sin.
Come to me without delay– repentance must not wait–
For only through humility can you be truly great.

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

Solomon Had a Mission, but the Temple didn’t Build Itself!

Solomon was given a Mission, ordained and blessed by the God of the universe. Since you’ve also been given a mission, perhaps it would be instructive to see what Solomon did!
“I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name…’ When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was greatly pleased and said, “Praise be to the Lord today, for he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.” …

A Mission Requires Workers

So, the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty. King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stone-cutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers.” (1 Kings 5:5-16, NIV)

Solomon mission

Wow, this was a pretty big construction project—as far as Israel was concerned, it was the biggest one of all time… God could have chosen David to build the temple, but he didn’t. The Lord knew that David’s enemies would likely object to his military past, so He chose David’s son instead. David was incredibly disappointed, but Solomon was chosen to carry out God’s will.

A Man With a Mission

Thus, Solomon was given a clear mission by God, and he went out committed vast amounts of resources, workers, and leaders to get it underway. He worked hard to fulfill his mission. It should be instructive to us that the Lord gave Solomon a job, and he then did everything he knew how to do to get it done. He planned, organized, called in favors and committed resources. He applied his gifts and his wealth to do what God appointed him to do.

God could have just created a temple and set it right down in Jerusalem, but he gave that task to Solomon. The king could have waited for workers to appear miraculously, and for timber and stone to materialize, but he realized that God had put him where he was to have an impact on the world, and he applied himself to doing God’s work. He exercised his own wisdom and position in leveraging relationships and managing people, and he used all of his skill as king to serve God. He knew that he had been chosen by God to perform a task, and he believed that God had put him there to get it done.

Not By Magic

Here’s the point: Why are YOU where you are? What mission has God given you? How much have you committed your skill and resources to make it happen? We may not be building a temple, but we ARE a temple (I Corinthians 6:19-20), and we HAVE a mission (Matthew 28:19-20). There is something to be done that only you can do. The fabric of eternity is woven with millions of seemingly unrelated tasks that change the world for good, and not all of them get headlines.

The small commissions matter just as much as the big ones in God’s economy, and He has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. Jesus told us to love each other, to love “the least of these”, and even to love our enemies. Who will you love today? God has a job for each of us to do. What will He do through you? It only remains for you, in Paul’s words (Philippians 2:12-13), to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act to fulfill his good purpose.” Go. Fulfill.

The Only Mission that Matters

God gave Solomon a mission: build a temple, fit for me;
Put it in the center of Jerusalem for all to see!
Solomon secured the workers, more than a hundred thousand men,
Working shifts in Lebanon to bring the cedars back again.
Everything was organized–the workers getting stone and wood,
And Solomon made certain they were doing everything they could.
See, God gave Solomon a mission, so he had to do his best;
He had lots to do, but this priority outstripped the rest.

No matter what transpired, he knew he had to get the Temple done:
God gave Solomon a mission–but he’s not the only one.
Jesus gave us all a mission, there in Matthew twenty eight:
“Go and make disciples. I am with you. Don’t procrastinate!”
God has given us the job of reaching out to every man;
I hope, like Solomon, that we are doing everything we can.

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

Chance May Be Involved, But it’s More than Just a Game

Who is going to win the Super Bowl? Experts say that billions of dollars will be wagered in games of chance by hopeful bettors. Since no one yet knows the outcome, I guess everyone has a chance to win based on the myriad factors that might influence the final outcome.

Is life a gamble or perhaps a game of chance? Or are events set by God’s will, decreed before the foundation of time? Those bookends can create some theological debate, but Solomon makes an interesting comment about life in Ecclesiastes: “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 NIV) This is a good reflection to have around Super Bowl Sunday. Solomon had seen it all, and he understood that not everything happened the way the odds-makers might predict.

chance

Solomon was Right

Life’s outcomes are not predetermined, and we are not automatons living in fatalistic patterns. To quote Solomon: “time and chance happen to them all.” I believe in God’s sovereignty and even in some degree of direct divine intervention. I just don’t know how often He visibly intervenes, or to what degree.

Certainly, God’s presence exists in creation and in the order of the universe, and gravity comes from somewhere. God’s influence is woven into the fabric of the universe, and His character is reflected in the order of things. But we don’t’ see obvious occurrences of God’s direct actions too often (like parting the Red Sea, or walking on water), so it’s easy to question just how involved God is in our world.

Arguments Against

Skeptics ask for a sign, and cynics reject God because they say that if He was loving and kind, He would fix all of the ills in this world; since He hasn’t made things perfect, then He must not exist. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who think that if you stay in God’s will, then nothing bad will ever happen to you, or you will be given prosperity and comfort. Still others say that God’s will or foreknowledge pre-determines our choices and actions.

I think that while these different approaches are all based on some kind of logic, all of those hypotheses are limited and flawed. God’s sovereignty and will are bigger than any of those rational, logical positions. Because God created us in His image, he gave us the possibility of choice, the ability to exercise our own will. This quote from Ecclesiastes teaches us that underneath the larger umbrella of God’s sovereignty, there is cause and effect, there are choices and consequences such that outcomes aren’t always inevitable and things don’t always turn out the way we think they will. To borrow the old sports adage, “That’s why they play the game.”

A Bigger Picture

One verse is not enough to build a doctrine upon, but it does provide an important principle: God’s sovereignty is comprehensive enough to allow for every possibility within human choice. If you just follow the story of the patriarchs, you see men deceiving and cheating to obtain God’s favor; and yet the Lord works around and over even through their sinfulness to accomplish His perfect will no matter how their choices twist and turn…

God’s will is so far-seeing and perfect that it allows for time and chance, and includes every possibility for every choice we make. You and I are not robots locked into a fatalistic pattern. We have the freedom and the power to make choices, to be independent, and even to reject God if we want to. We can initiate cause and effect, and we can choose to navigate the currents of time and chance either with God’s help or without it.

In spite of the exponential number of possibilities that creates, God is so big that He maintains His sovereignty over everything. According to the writer of Ecclesiastes, life (and our relationship with God!) is dynamic, and you not only have a lot of decisions to make, you have a God who allows you to make them. Choose wisely!

A Chance to Choose

Do we humans have a will? Are we truly free?
Or are we just automatons within God’s sovereignty?
Do our choices matter? Is it even realistic
To feel like we can choose, or is the world just fatalistic?
We cannot know how things will go before the race is run;
And Solomon said that Time and Chance will impact everyone.
So, does God’s will determine things before they ever start,
Or does He make allowance for the wayward human heart?
Is He in control? Or do we humans have a voice?
Does God determine things, or do we really have a choice?
Solomon said there was an answer. You don’t have to guess:
Those questions can be answered, “yes”. And yes, and yes, and yes…

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

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

Do you think of yourself as wise? Do you know a lot of wise people? How can you tell? 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.”) Some would say that wisdom is just common sense, but a modern Proverb says, “the problem with common sense is that it’s not so common.”

The Solomonic Secret

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) Apparently the “wisest man ever” believed that anyone could be wise, and he even told us how to do it.

The secret to wisdom is to hear instruction with anticipation, and then to act upon that instruction. 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

Calling the Play Must Be Different Than Running the Play

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.

Take Inventory

Here’s an exercise. Keep track how much time you spend reading or listening to men’s opinions each day. 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. Become wise and be wise.

Consider the Source

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 everyone, 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 purchase my newest 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

The Bonfire of Vanity: Advice From the Wisest Man Who Ever Lived

Vanity is NOT the End of the Matter

Tom Wolfe (who wrote, “The Bonfire of the Vanities”) understood all about vanity. So too, did an older and somewhat jaded King Solomon. After living a life of wealth and achievement, and after marrying hundreds of wives and keeping dozens of concubines, he wrote this: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, NIV)

The book of Ecclesiastes is the most pessimistic book in the Bible. It was written by King Solomon, who had seen it all and done it all. He experienced all that life had to offer and had grown jaded and a bit cynical. In chapter one he began with “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (verse two) He says “all things are wearisome” in verse eight, “there is nothing new under the sun” in verse nine, and draws this conclusion in verse fourteen: “I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”

vanity Madonna

A Promising Start

Solomon reached these conclusions at the end of a long life during which he had the means (and the power) to do pretty much whatever he wanted. When he was a young man about to assume the throne of Israel, 2 Chronicles 1:7 says that “God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon asked God not for wealth or power, but for wisdom; pleased with his choice, God gave him wisdom and all of those other things as well. (Kind of a preview of Matthew 6:33 in real life.) As a result, Solomon lived a long life populated with fame and fortune.

“King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.” (1 Kings 10:23-24) The visiting Queen of Sheba told him, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.” (1 Kings 10:6-8)

Instead of Vanity, Fear…

People magazine or TMZ would have covered the goings-on in Solomon’s court, and I imagine there was no vanity he didn’t have the opportunity to see or do. He built the biggest temple, lived in the most opulent palace, and married the hottest women on the planet. So why is all that important, and what does it have to do with us? I would think that the observations of one of the wisest and most experienced men in all of history would be worth consideration.

After everything he had seen and done, Solomon arrived at the conclusions he listed in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, which essentially tells us two important things: 1) Fear and obey God. Solomon tells us that having a healthy respect for your Creator makes sense, no matter how rich and famous you are. He also gives a shout out to obedience, which is always the natural result of respect. It’s not difficult to submit to the authority of someone worthy of respect. Solomon, a wise man, believed it made sense to obey God, which leads to his second point:

Don’t Forget

2) Remember who you are accountable to. “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” It’s not about your reputation or your public persona or the few good deeds you’ve done. We are accountable to God for every deed, every thought, and every hidden thing.

One of the wisest and richest kings in history concluded that God’s judgment matters. Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment.” (Matthew 12:36). Paul (Romans 14:12) said that “each of us shall give an account of himself to God.” If Solomon, Jesus and Paul think we should get ready for judgment before God, perhaps it would be a wise thing to do. Are you ready?

Solomon’s Judgment

The wisest and the richest king, who had the best of everything–
The purest gold, the finest wines–a thousand wives and concubines!
He wisely judged the rights and wrongs!
He frolicked in the Song of Songs!
There was no truth he could not teach,
Nor pleasure that he could not reach…
The Queen of Sheba sang his praise,
And stayed with him for many days,
Impressed with Solomon and his ways…
Of all men on the planet he, with all his hospitality
Was foremost of humanity, but out of all he got to see,
The cynical reality was this: that all was vanity.
The king then gave this reprimand:
“Fear God, and keep the Lord’s command,
Since He alone will be the One
To judge the secret things you’ve done!
It’s nothing but insanity
To chase the worldly vanity.
Beware the world’s ingredients;
Fear God, and be obedient.

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

Romantic love: Wow! Why do we Love It? Who is it Meant For?

True Love

Solomon, the King with many wives, apparently knew something about being romantic: “All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves–I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves.” (Song of Solomon 3:1-2, NIV)

The Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) is a beautiful picture of romantic love. It weaves a rich tapestry of infatuation and desire, accented with bold allusions to physical delights as the lovers imagine themselves swept away on flights of fantasy together. “Your love is more delightful than wine…Take me away with you, let us hurry!” (Verses 1:2, 4) “Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. (2:4)” The lovers are smitten with one another, and address each other with compliments and longing. They cannot bear to be apart!

Perhaps you have experienced a romance like that, where you were so hungry for contact with your lover that you would say with Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, and even after a date where you spent hours with your boo, there would still be late night phone conversations or texts into the wee hours.

The Thrill of Romantic Love

Romantic love is a powerful thing, an emotion that longs for connection and completion. I’m sure you have experienced it sometime, whether it was puppy love or a hot romance. You wanted to share every moment with your beloved, right? So tell me… when was the last time you felt that way about God? When did you long for Him “all night long”? When did you consider Him first and foremost as “the one my heart loves”?

I believe that the Song of Solomon is a picture of how God wants men and women to love each other, yes, but it is also deeper than that. It’s an expression of how we are to love HIM. Our longing for intimacy and connection is a reflection of God’s image and character, and it is why we were made.

romantic buddy

Do you love God? Do you feel romantic about Him? I know you love Him rationally, and feel committed, and read his word, but do you love Him emotionally and passionately? Do you long for Him, search for Him, miss Him when you’re not together, and do you imagine you going with Him to the banquet hall, to His chambers, or frolicking boldly with Him in public? Do you compliment God the way you would compliment a lover? The next time you read the Song of Solomon, imagine that it is speaking not about Solomon and his lover, but about you and God. Insert the two of you (Yes, you and God!) into the hunger, the infatuation, and the desire…

romantic heart

The Way Romance was Meant To Be

Imagine being together with Him, connected and complete, confident that you are beautiful in His eyes. Feel His adoration and delight surrounding you, and give yours unreservedly back to Him. The next time you think “I love God”, take that thought to its romantic and intimate limits. Don’t just love God; Fall In Love with God!

Jars of Clay’s “Love Song for a Savior” says, “He’s more than the laughter, or the stars in the heavens; As close as a heartbeat, or a song on your lips. Someday we’ll trust Him, and learn how to see Him; Someday He’ll call us and we will come running, we’ll fall in His arms, and the tears will fall down and we’ll say, “I want to fall in love with you, I want to fall in love with you.” May you remember being in love with God the very first time; may you fall in love with Him all over again today. And tomorrow.

Love, Me

A Romantic Prayer

Sometimes, even words upon this page
May be unwrought, and dissipate with age,
As Time undoes their meaning and their passion,
Consigning them to but a passing fashion…
Sometimes, love expressed begins to fade
in Time’s inexorable, crushing promenade
Of Best Intentions strides and walks away,
Stealing what those words once had to say.
Sometimes, even though they’re really pure,
The words can lose their zest as they mature,
Or other things move in, crowd out, replace
the passion with the normal, commonplace…
Once I fell in love with you, my Lord;
I thrilled to walk with you and read Your Word!
Help me, Father, never to be jaded,
Adoring You with love that’s never faded.
So if my words seem old to You, and tired,
Help me remember how I was inspired,
Pursued and wooed by You; and how desired!
Remind me how my love for you was fired,
And lives within me, burning, unretired…

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