Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Lord Send Me..."

"Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law"  Psalm 94:12

"For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes."  Hebrews 12:6

I open this writing with these scriptures because I have recently been corrected in my thinking by the Lord, even disciplined.  When we think of discipline we always think of the unpleasant but we forget the picture painted in Psalms 23 of our Father as the Shepherd equipped with the rod and staff.  These instruments "comfort" the psalmist.  A shepherd used these to guide, herd, and generate necessary course corrections for the safety and well-being of the sheep.  So it is with discipline and instruction.  They are necessary for course correction in our hearts and thinking for our benefit and well being because our Father loves us that much.  Very recently I underwent course correction in my thinking regarding loving others and compassionate outreach.

God has been working in my heart for some time to engage me in the needs of others, to bring me to a place where I can be utilized to effectively minister to people.  This has entailed prayer for an increased capacity to love others, for compassion, for boldness, for wisdom, and for tremendous growth.  To look back at where I was in my heart and attitudes and see where God has moved me from and where He is moving me towards is exciting.  One of the more exciting and serious aspects is that I know I am called to minister on an international level through short term missions work.  By this I mean that God has spoken into my heart some very specific works that He wants me to participate in, works that will require travel to foreign nations, ministering to orphans, widows, and impoverished peoples in HIV ravaged countries, bringing the Word, supplies, and hope to what can only be described as an indescribably desperate scenario where death walks nearly unchecked and superstition, misinformation, and demonic stronghold have nearly choked out the concept of the "family unit" as very many parents are dead or dying of AIDS.

My spirit has gripped James 1:27 which states that "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress...".  My heart resonates with the call in Isaiah 6:8 which says "Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”  In fact, my passion for these causes have grown so strong that I had begun to ignore some basic truths that God needed to remind me of, truths that are worthy of all to be continually in rememberance of.

In Luke 10:25-37 we read the familiar passage of the Good Samaritan.  Key to this passage is a question that should continually be in all of our minds and hearts; one that we forget and too often ignore.  Who is our neighbor?  The whole point of that parable was to teach us that our neighbor is anyone around us in need. Around us - daily they are all around us. Jesus told this very direct parable to a group of men who knew how to give generously. They knew how to give in full view of others to causes that were popular, were on the rise, were gaining attention and notoriety. But their giving wasn't "giving" at all. It was purchase. With their very public giving, they purchased for themselves respect, they purchased admiration, they purchased admittance to the community leadership clubs.  But what would have struck them about this story was the fact that a social outcast by their societal standards was demonstrated to have behaved in a more loving and compassionate manner than any of the "acceptable" and "respected" members of their culture to meet the need of a complete stranger who came upon their path as they went about their day to day business.

 Further, he didn't make a big deal of it.  There was no fanfare, no pageantry.  There was the injured and there was the innkeeper and these were the witnesses.  The one in need and the one with the physical goods to supply those needs and the Samaritan put the two of them together with compassion.  Nothing else was required.  The Samaritan didn't run back to his home church, take up a collection, start a food drive, or even seek to put together a team of physicians for a "those-who-are-waylaid-while-traveling" ministry.  He was in the present, in the now, the hands of God to the person in his path.

Now it should not be thought that missions teams, food drives, and the raising of funds is outside of God's will.  In fact these are the very means by which the greatest of needs can be met.  But how many of us rely soley on these methods to reach a dying, hurting, and hell-bound world.  A mission team won't help the local widow.  A food drive won't help the co-worker struggling with depression.  The only common denominator of assistance in both of those scenarios is us, the compassionate Christian individual.  One of the mindsets that God so gently and graciously steered me out of was the notion that I could not fully experience compassionate living until I had touched the problem of the needy, set my feet on foreign soil and touched skin tones different than my own, listening to tongues I didn't understand.  Then I would know the fullness of compassion.  But that is putting a condition on love.  If you live 6,000 miles away my heart is open to you.  What about if you live 6 miles away?  God's love is unconditional and the single mom hurts just as the orphan just as the addict just as the widow just as...

In Mark 16:15 we are told to go into the whole world and preach the gospel - literally to share the good news of life and redemption.  But how many of us immediately mentally leap to far off lands?  The "whole world" - it starts at your front door.  It is between your driveway and work.  It is at your desk, by your locker, at your work station, next to your kid's sports practice, just outside your church, in the restaurant, at the school and everywhere in between.  Should we support international missions work?  Absolutely!  Beyond that, even pray about whether God would have you go!  But in the doing so, do not forget that you have a continual field of work around you every single day.  "The least of these" - the broken, the hungry, the abandoned, the abused - they are all around us here just as they are in other nations. 

The thing God has been so kind and so good to disciple me in is that it does not have to be one or the other, but it SHOULD be both that move our hearts to compassionate action.  We simply have to have the courage to pray "Lord send me" into the mission fields of our own lives.

Dangerous Compassion

What is compassion?  What does the face of compassion look like?  I used to think I knew and only within the last few years did I begin to realize I had no concept of the word.  Like many in this nation, I think I believed myself to be compassionate.  I felt the twinge of nagging sorrow for those affected in other nations by calamity, natural disasters, wars, or pestilence.  I occassionally tossed in my dollars to support the efforts of the missionary works or the relief efforts to those far off locations as I felt responsible to do something.  I later learned these offerings were based in guilt.  Guilt for my willful turning from the sufferings of others.  These "offerings" were the purchase price to alleviate the naggings of my conscience, to quiet the small quiet voice of the Spirit within me.

But this notion of compassion will not suffice when one begins to earnestly seek God's face for a compassionate heart, for the ability to love others above themselves.  This has been the necessary prayer for myself because I've come to realize that God has called each of us to serve.  Serve Him and serve each other.  To do this effectively we must love and to love we must relate - compassionately.  Not everyone around you is experiencing mountain-top living all of the time and when they are in their valleys, compassion is required to reach into their lives, to encourage and partner with them in prayer.  To pray for compassion is to pray for God to lay your heart open to the wounds and hurts of others, to feel their suffering and pain.  This is true of the neighbor down the street who has lost a loved one, it is true of the addict itching for the needle, it is true of the orphan in the far off land.  Compassion does not have limitations, parameters, or geographic boundaries.

We tend to think of the Old Testament as being filled with God's judgement but there are countless scriptures that speak of God's compassion.  In doing a quick word study the Hebrew word for God's compassion towards us means to love deeply and to have tender affection towards.  In the New Testament we read on several occassions where Jesus was moved with compassion.  This Greek word means to be moved to one's very core being, to be moved to one's bowels, their very depth of being.  This is God's/Jesus'/The Spirit's compasssion towards us.  It moves Him to the depth of His being with tender affection towards us.  Compassion moves.  It does not permit a stationary reaction.  It moves those experiencing it.  Moves them to action, to deed, to alter the circumstance.  And as Spirit filled believers, this is God's total design and desire for us on this sphere.  That we would be moved to change and heal the devestation that hell has unleashed upon men in hatred against God and mankind.  We are the ones empowered for this work.  We are the ones with the ability to see this done.

But the prayer for compassion is dangerous.  It is dangerous to your known way of life and your fleshly/carnal nature.  In fact it is deadly.  Much of what I have valued has had to die and it is not an easy death.  This flesh is continually with us, continually gasping for ressurection in attitudes and intents, in the very way in which we seek to place our needs and desires above others'.  When Jesus said "pick up your cross and follow" he was literally saying "stake down your flesh and  follow on the path that I have prepared for you to walk even when you can't see where it's going".  Compassion can only be fully functional and effective in the heart of one who has done this, who has staked down their flesh, put themselves aside, and is ready to walk in the love that Jesus walked out towards humanity.

Additionally there is an adversary that takes notice of these shifting allegiances.  Suddenly strongholds that were present for him to operate through are cast down.  Temptations that quickly disabled or incapacitated are scarcely noticed.  Increased pressures and desperate measures are required.  Compassion is the heart of God within you, "the sleeping giant awakening" so-to-speak.  Giants draw attention and make large targets.  Strongholds in your heart or your thinking will not be relinquished without conflict.  The enemy will fight to retain the footholds in your life, but when we equip ourselves and resist as stated in Ephesians 6 and James 4, he will lose.

When this compassion takes hold of us and we begin to see people through Gods eyes, see souls as God sees them, then this compassion is dangerous to hell itself.  This compassion is the motivating force that shakes the very foundations of hell as God's people work to bring the light of the Word and the Love of God into the lives of the lost and dying, whether they are 6,000 or 6 miles away.  This compassion will move us to the very depths of our own being, and we will find ourselves in motion.  As stated, compassion does not permit a stationary stance but requires reaction in the face of suffering.

I'll close with a quote from Fields of the Fatherless by Tom Davis, a book that I strongly recommend anyone seeking a better understanding of compassion read:

"Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human."

This is exactly what Jesus did when he came to this earth as fully God, fully man, and exactly what he is asking each of us to do as well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Power of Submission through Humility

Humility is a word that I, like many I'd imagine, struggle with.  What is it to be humble?  I always envision an impoverished monk in burlap with a rope belt meditating at a monastery.  Or I envision someone who always has their eyes cast down, never wanting attention drawn to themselves.  I don't think I'd be too far removed from the erroneous notions that most hold of what humility is.  What if we were to consider that Jesus was perfectly humble?  What if we pictured our same perfectly humble Jesus violently driving money changers out of the temple?  What does this do to our notion of humility and why is it important? 

Does it surprise us that submission and humility are linked?  It shouldn't.  Submission cannot occur without humility and both are required of us.  We are repeatedly instructed to submit to God and to each other throughout scripture so humility then becomes less of a perplexing notion to leave unanswered and more of a critical component of our daily walk.  True submission cannot occur without humility or with pride.  Pride and humility are not compatible - they are polar opposites. 

Even the core greek words from which they were translated are in complete opposition to each other.  Pride comes from the greek word "huperephanos" in which the central greek word "huper" is to "place above, in the stead of, very chiefest, exceeding in".  People with excessive pride seek to be placed above others, in the stead of others, in the chiefest positions. 

Submit comes from the greek "hupotasso" in which the central root word is "hupo" which means "under, beneath, below, inferior position or condition, moderately". The greek words huper and hupo are direct opposites. People in submission (or walking in humility) place themselves in inferior positions or in positions of servitude purposefully and willfully. They walk in moderation, not the excess of the proud, they place themselves, in their minds and hearts, in service to others. Jesus modeled this throughout his entire ministry on earth and demonstrated it in full for his disciples when he stripped down and washed their feet, a job for a lowly servant, not the King of Kings, Co-creator of Existence, powerful and mighty Son of the living God.

James 4:6-10 says:
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.

I Peter 5:5-7 states:
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

From these, we can begin to see humility is important to God and that He is opposed to the proud. The greek for God’s resistance to the proud here comes from the word "antitassomai" which means to "range oneself against, to oppose". Core to this greek word is the word, "tasso", which means to "arrange in an orderly manner, assign, appoint determine, ordain and set".  We begin to get the picture that God literally, sets Himself against, in the fashion of placing opposition in an orderly and determined manner, to those who, in their own thinking, are chiefest, think themselves above, desire to be shined upon or illuminated for attention’s sake. This extends to those who refuse others because of some perceived deficiency or flaw or lack of ability.

In contrast He gives grace, which entails His divine influence on our hearts and our lives, wellness, joy, favor, and benefit, to the humble – those who in their thinking are base, of lowly estate and degree. This should not be confused with people who think they are of no value or worth, but rather these are those who in the perspective of God’s majesty, might, grace, mercy, and eternal values, recognize the fact that no one has anything apart from what God has granted, given, or blessed us with and are eternally thankful and grateful.  It is to these that God pours out His favor, influence, and blessing - His grace.

But as stated, submission and humility cannot exist within a heart that harbors pride.  A further study into the greek for pride, "huperephanos", also links the root "huper" to greek words "phaino" and "phos". The word phaino is to lighten, as in spotlight, shine, to appear, to seem. Related to this word is the word phos, which means luminous. Do we not begin to see the character attributes of the angel of light in the study of pride? As love is the core and defining characteristic of our God, so is pride the defining and core characteristic of Satan. Because pride is such a satanic force in the lives of people, because it keeps people from acknowledging their need for God, because it tore heaven, and because it continues to destroy hearts and lives on earth, we can now understand why God says he will set Himself and arrange Himself in a very determined manner against those who harbor it. Would anyone really want the Creator of Existence, the Most Holy and Mighty God in determined opposition to them?

How do we overcome this deadly force?  Lets go back to James 4 where the Word states “'God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble’ therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” God gives us the answer to pride in our lives; submission to Him. Place yourself in submission to Him and pride won’t have rule in your life. Submit to his Word, submit to what He has instructed you to do, both in his Word and in your heart. Submit. 

Further we are told to resist the devil. Resist here in the greek is a different word than the one used to show God's opposition to the proud. Here it is the word "anthistemi". This word further comes from two greek words "anti" and "histemi". The word anti is familiar to us in our own language.  The word histemi means to stand, abide, appoint, covenant, establish, hold up, lay, present, set up, stand by, stand forth, stand still, stand up. Instead of the armed, planned and determined opposition God puts forth against the proud, this is a digging in, a trenching in and establishing against assault.  This is what we do when the enemy comes against us.  Why?  Because we are not omniscient.  We do not always know which direction he will come from.  So we dig in.  We entrench.  We brace for impact, like the Roman phalanx - shields up.  He cannot penetrate this shield of faith.  Ephesians 6:16 says ALL of his fiery darts are quenched by it.  So he tries from another direction.  Another tactic.  Finances, God provides.  Sickness, God heals.  Relationships, Love overcomes.

When we do this, we know from the Word that the devil must flee. He must. He has no alternative. Why? Because he is a coward. He loves attacking the saints when they do not know the Word or their own method of delivance and protection. Remember, he prowls as a roaring lion, looking for the weaknesses. A lion does not hunt by running up to the herd, looking for the biggest animal and going head to head with it. Lions hunt by craft, by camoflauge, by getting attention away from themselves, by looking for the weaknesses and exploiting them in the weakest and easiest to catch. Satan is looking for the weaknesses in you to exploit. He hunts you by craft and camoflauge, by getting your eyes to look elsewhere than the Word, than Jesus. When we dig in, when we set our foundation in the Word and trench in and prepare to stand (resist) against him, the devil, despite even his own desires, will flee every time. But in order to effectively resist in this fashion, we must first be in full submission to God.

Further, according to 1 Peter 5, we are to be clothed with humility. The greek for this is the word "eckomboomai", which is to get dressed for work, to put on the apron, the work clothes, the appropriate apparel to get the job done. We are to put on humility in preparation of getting the job or work done. Also implied in this is clothing relating to station, identifying the individual. Today, an apron would identify a cook, a hardhat identifies a construction or plant worker, a uniform identifies law or military. Humility identifies God’s people. One cannot have true humility with self-seeking pride or without self-sacrificing love.

Humility, then, is a garment to be put on daily, a choice to be made. The greek for the word humble is "tapeinos" and implies a debased and cast down state. We are not cast down or debased by others, but we are depressing the flesh, casting it down ourselves. This is the conscious choice of the humble, and is what causes humility to become such a powerfully effective force in our lives. It is the true power of not being in chained to the whims of our own flesh, but in putting ourselves in submission to God, in whom all things are possible, in whom we are more than conquerors, in whom is the mightiest power of all heaven and earth, physical and spirit, seen and unseen. This is daily taking up our cross, crucifying and staking down the flesh, and following our Lord.  It is not something forced upon people by others. The most down trodden person can still be overflowing with destructive pride and completely powerless in their situation. We choose to be humble, to put down our flesh for the sake of Christ and others. We daily choose to let the offenses of others raise our flesh up in indignation and defense or to find no footing or seed-bed in us by the determination to put our own flesh down.

We are to clothe ourselves with this humility, not to become stepping stones of the world or punching bags for the enemy, but so that we can truly rise up in power and effectiveness against the enemy, shaking the very kingdom of darkness around us, transforming the world and affecting the people that are within our sphere of influence. When we humble ourselves under God, he promises to exalt us and empower us to do the works that He created us for. It is in the power of humility and the state of submission to Him that we are truly free and truly mightiest in the Lord.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Submission - It Starts at Home.

Continuing in Ephesians I come to a passage that, to be honest, I've been looking forward to like a sick man looks forward to medicine.  It might not taste good but he knows it is going to help him become healthier.  Submission to others.  Not my favorite topic as I have wrestled with pride and even a surprising internal backlash against a sense of inferiority for most of my life.  These two facts have often left me described as strong willed, stubborn, a loner, and even "not-a-team-player".  Of course I've rationalized it all away to the fact that I'm much more efficient when I work on my own, I tend to be more creative without interuption, etc.  How does the old saying go "no man is an island"...?

What this really boils down to for me is submission.  Pride and humility are at the heart of it and further discussion will be forthcoming on these, but submission is key.  I've never had a problem submitting to others as long as I understood their place in the hierarchy of things, for example, a supervisor, a pastor.  I'll even submit to fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord to avoid stepping on toes.   For example, if someone is running the skits during VBS and I think they are out of touch with the kids but those placed in charge of skits are really passionate about them and not listening to suggestions, my philosophy has always been "OK, we'll do it your way, even if it doesn't work".  (Not sure if that qualifies as submission.)  But if given enough "heads-up" I'd rather avoid this scenario altogether and work alone rather than submit, and this has left me quite alone for many years.  Disconnected, uninvolved, discontented.  I think back to so many instances when I was nearly consumed with bitterness over the ways in which I had been genuinely and significantly hurt by careless or thoughtless actions of others within the Church and there was no good opportunity to reconcile on my behalf because I was already holding these people at arms distance.

But even this doesn't really get to the heart of the matter for me.  I've always been quick to forgive others - somehow that is a character trait that I've been blessed with.  You can genuinely wound me, but if you sincerely try to make it right and we reconcile, I'll work with you and we'll be brothers in the Lord regardless.  However, something changes when I walk through my own front door.  The rules change and expectations are different.  The truth is I've spent far too many years walking through those door posts and slumping my shoulders from the struggles of the outside and completely letting all guard down, expecting to exert no further effort towards anyone or anything once safe under my own roof and through the past year, God has been showing me that I've had it completely backwards.  I don't go "off to war" out in the world and return the exhausted provider for my family.  The battle is not "out there", it starts right within me and ends within me, daily.

From my first awakening, I have a conscious choice to make - who will I live this day for?  Myself, or others?  I can go to work and do a great job meeting all demands and expectations of those above me and still have lived the entirety of the day for only myself.  Then I can return home tired, spent, and still living for myself, de-energized to an expectant family and have nothing to give them and wound them with indifference, impatience, and critical speech.  In doing so I not only wound my children and rob them of the possitive growth and affection they crave, but I strike at the heart of my very own home, my bride - and here is where I've been needing this medicine.

Ephesians 5:22-24 reads:
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.   As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

Now why would a woman, specifically my wife, desire to "submit" to the man I just described above?  The word submit, in the greek is the word "hypotasso" and had two uses.  It was a greek military term that meant to "arrange troop divisions under the command of a leader".  In a voluntary sense, it means to "have an attitude of giving in cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden".  Again, why would anyone desire to submit to one with the attitudes and actions displayed above?  I wouldn't.  This is where, as husband of the home, it becomes critical to follow through to the next verses because we get so hung up on the introductory sentence, we miss the meat of the whole statement here.

Verses 25-30
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.  He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.

Now I have read this times without count but there are truths here that really need to capture the hearts of men, mine included.  Do we fully comprehend how Christ loved and is still loving the Church?  Most of us think we do.  Part of the answer is found in these verses.  He gave up his life for the church to make her holy and clean, by the cleansing of the Word.  This love does not always run with natural inclination or depend on how you are "feeling" at the moment.  It is modeled for us in the example of how Christ loved the church, gave himself for it.  When the Word says he gave himself for the Church, the greek for "gave" literally means "to deliver into the hands of another, to give into one's power or use, to give one's self up".  Men, when is the last time you gave yourself over to your bride's use or power to be used as she saw fit.....WITHOUT complaint/grumbling/poor attitude?  These negate the whole thing.  I can't tell you the number of times my own bride has reminded me that doing something for her really doesn't mean a whole lot if my heart is in the wrong place.

I'm not referring to taking the trash out or feeding the pets or any of the hundreds of other menial chores that dictate our lives - though every one of these are important baby-steps.  I'm talking about truly dying to yourself to live for your wife and family, to serve them, protect them, be the stability that God designed you as the husband to be.  Scared?  Intimidated by these demands?  God wouldn't have put it in his Word if He wouldn't ordain and empower you to do it.  I look at my beautiful sleeping children every morning and wonder how I can possibly be the father they deserve but I am continually reminded that God knew them before he formed them, before he formed me, and he knew the father he wished them to be raised under and will empower me to train them up properly when I partner with their mother and seek His face.

Further, just as Jesus cleanses all of us by His word, eradicating disease, sin, and every filthy, deadly and dirty thing from us that would keep us from being spotless, unblemished and pure before him - we are called to wash our homes, our families, our wives in that same Word.  The greek here is literally to bathe, in the sense of cleansing the blood out of wounds.  I am to cleanse my bride, to bathe her and our home in the Word.  The greek for "word" here is the the word "rhema" which is "that which has been uttered by the living voice, the spoken word".

It is evident that God's Word needs to be on my lips in my home, regularly and continually and over my wife and children in prayer.  Further, just as Christ's action of cleansing his Church with the Word permits him to present a body without blemish, to himself, so my action of doing likewise will build up and purify my bride and my family.  Verse 27 in the KJV uses the word "glorious" in describing the Church Christ presents and verse 28 husbands are commanded to do likewise.  The word for glorious in the greek is "edoxos" and it means to hold in high esteem, to make honorable, notable, and of high repute. 

It is my responsibility as husband to my bride to build her up in this manner.  My wife should be held in high esteem by others directly as a result of my actions, my cleansing with the Word through prayer and in the manner in which I speak of her when away from the home.  Praise of her should continually be on my lips.  The "old ball and chain" joking that occurs should never cross my lips nor should I long dwell in its presence.  Freeing her of insecurity by continually praising her in public is one of the most valuable gifts a man can give his wife.  The really crazy thing is that in taking such protective care of my bride, I ultimately take care of myself because too often we forget - we very truly are one joined flesh.  So too, in taking care of each other, we ultimate take care of the Body of Christ and ourselves!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Uncommonly Wise

Ephesians 5:15-17
"Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is."

Wisdom is something I pray for continually.  I count on James 1:5 which states if any lack wisdom ask for it, because God gives it liberally.  I've read Proverbs completely though and regularly draw from it.  To be honest, I need to read it again and again because there are so many timeless truths in that book that are still daily applicable.  Things that I have often wished I had thought of in the moment of decision making or at the time I was doing something that I later regretted.  I know wisdom starts with the fear (reverence, respect, and awe) of the Lord as proclaimed in Proverbs 9:10.  I know it is a treasure and a companion to be sought. 

I know God was absolutely pleased when Solomon asked for it above everything else on the earth.  Think of it...this man was given cart blanche an invitation to anything he wanted in the earth - something that hadn't happened since Adam.  What does he ask for?  A character quality.  An intangible.  An elusive.  God was so thrilled and not only gave this to him but poured out so much wealth on the man he was the talk of nations.

In reading through the verses of Ephesians today one translation starts verse 15 with the phrase "walk circumspectly".  This word is uncommon to me so I had to look it up.  The greek here is the word "akribos" and it means to "exactly, accurately, dilligently".  To "grace-minded" believers such as myself, these words are enemies.  I'm supposed to have a little wiggle room for failures and grace to forgive these, right?  I get nervous when confronting accuracy and precision, perfection and exact requirement.  What I find interesting is how our failure to walk in this manner is linked to a lack of wisdom.  So how do I avoid this pitfall?  How do I walk wisely, excactly, with precision.  The answers are in following verses.

Verse 16 shows us to make the most of the time, to buy up every opportunity.  Verse 16 in the King James translation reads "Redeeming the time because the days are evil".  The greek word for redeem is "exagorazo" and one of it's meanings is "to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well doing are as it were the purchase money by which we make the time our own".  Wow!  Purchasing time with zeal and well doing.  I've never thought about being able to purchase time.  I spend it, waste it, if I'm wise invest it.  But here I am to purchase it.  This is directly tied to being wise and walking "circumspectly" 

Again in verse 17 we are admonished to not be unwise - but to understand what the will of the Lord is.  This has always seemed like one of those elusive truths to me.  To "understand the will of the Lord".  This is the mountaintop of faith to climb - the test of your walk to gauge yourself against.  Are you where you should be in your relationship with Him?  Do you understand his will for you?  It's always been something to be grasped, something to be reaching for, striving for, but very often something just out of reach.  This is because I have been looking outward instead of inward.  I have been looking for the booming voice in the clouds, the pillar of fire by night, the confirmng word from a church sermon instead of listening for the small quiet voice confirmed by His Word.  The greek word for understand is "syniemi" and it means to "to join together, to put the perception with the thing percieved".  Its root word is the word "syn" which simply means "with, beside, accompany"

Understanding the will of the Lord is my bringing my perceptions and thoughts in line with his.  Where are his perceptions and thoughts?  Never more evident than in His Word for sure, but also in our hearts as we meditate on Him and regularly and daily communicate with him.  This is where our once a day prayers in the morning or at night don't cut it.  We HAVE to live moment by moment in His grace and in His presence.  Why?  "Because the days are evil".  What is so amazingly awesome is that He desires to live every second of every day in this communion with us!

These three simple verses contain within them a series of inter-related truths that are powerful and essential to the Christian walk.  We are to walk out our lives and strive for accuracy and exactness, with purpose which we do by seizing every opportunity to do good with zeal - this is wisdom.  This is the same wisdom that brings us into and through which we will discover the will, direction and path of our lives as God has designed them from the start - understanding his will.  These are the good works he has prepared for us from the beginning as proclaimed in Ephesians 2:10. 

Wisdom is not a cerebral infusion, but an expression of the heart.  When we understand this, though we won't even notice it, others will find us wise.  And God will begin to pour out on you with a smile.