Wisdom and Correction

The one who corrects a mocker
will bring dishonor on himself;
the one who rebukes a wicked man will get hurt.
Don’t rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you;
rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man, and he will learn more” (Proverbs 9:7-9, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

“One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment” ‭‭(Proverbs‬ ‭18:1‬, ‭Holman Christian Standard Bible).‬‬

In my quest to read through the Bible in 2016, I’ve made it to the book of Proverbs. That means that I am over halfway through. It also means that I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about wisdom.

It’s hard to read Proverbs and not see how precious and priceless the gift of wisdom is. A number of verses tell us to treasure it about silver and gold, above diamonds and rubies. The last time I checked, those trinkets weren’t cheap.

Still, I confess that I see a culture where we value knowledge and belittle wisdom. I scroll through social media posts and don’t see a lot of wisdom.

Recently, God has been showing me that one very important sign that a person is wise is their ability to take a rebuke. No one likes to be told they’re wrong, but those who treasure wisdom seek any opportunity to resist complacency and embrace growth and maturity.

Most people bristle at rebuke. People get very self-defensive at even the hint of correction or negative feedback.

“How dare you judge me?” will get thrown around a lot, mostly as an excuse to avoid any kind of accountability.

But the wise not only endure rebuke; they embrace it. They know that part of Christlikeness is the discipline to put off those habits and actions that contradict our faith message. They understand that spiritual growth may sometimes involve denial and pain, choosing sacrifice over comfort.

Correction does hurt. Still, the amount of hurt from a rebuke is often nowhere near the level of pain that results from a series of bad decisions and poor choices left unchecked. 

I freely admit that I’m not the best at taking correction. Not even close. I get defensive and make excuses whenever I sense that the feedback is heading in a negative direction.

Still, I truly believe that it’s far more dangerous to cocoon yourself from any rebuke. For the record, it’s one thing to distance yourself from verbal and emotional abuse, slander, and hate (which is wise) It’s quite another to close yourself off from constructive criticism of any kind (which is very foolish).

The worst place to be is where you’re only surrounded by “yes-men” who will only agree with you and say what you want to hear but never what you need to hear. The absolute most dangerous place is outside of any kind of accountability.

So may we all seek wisdom, even if it leads to painful places and hard lessons. The payoff will be more than worth it.


In the Beginning

“When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him. All that came to be was alive with his life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never mastered it” (John 1:1-5).

To me, John 1 has to be among the greatest literary masterpieces of all time. I may be a bit biased, but I do think that the way John opens his gospel is perfect. Matthew and Mark start with the birth narrative, but John goes back further than that. Much further.

We see Jesus as the Word with God from the beginning. Jesus, the Word, was (and is) God.

Sometimes, you need a different translation to see a verse or a group of verses in a new light. Reading the same verses in the same translations can be like singing the same old hymns in the same old style for years and years. Eventually, you fall into rote memory and stop paying attention to the words.

That’s one of the reasons I chose the New English Bible as my translation of choice to read through the Bible for 2015. It’s different enough so that the words seem fresh again.

It’s not a perfect rendering, but that’s not the point. The point is to keep letting the Word of God speak to me and (hopefully) to never let it get stale for me.

The best way to keep the Bible from getting stale is to do what it says. Don’t just read it and praise it for being clever and witty, but actually put it into practice. That’s something that’s easy to tell someone else to do, but much harder to do yourself. I should know.

As of this time, my plan is to read the Holman Christian Standard Bible (otherwise known as the Hard Core Southern Baptist Bible) in 2016 and the New Jerusalem Bible in 2017. Of course, these plans are always subject to change.



For Those Who Grieve

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I ever met H. I’ve plenty of what are called ‘resources.’ People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this ‘commonsense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace” (C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed).

C. S. Lewis wrote this after his wife passed away from cancer. It is the most brutally honest book on grief that I’ve ever read (not that I go around reading books on grief all the time).

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.’

‘Yes,” says the Spirit, ‘let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!'” (Rev. 14:13, HCSB).

“I heard a voice out of Heaven, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who die in the Master from now on; how blessed to die that way!’

‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘and blessed rest from their hard, hard work. None of what they’ve done is wasted; God blesses them for it all in the end’ (Rev. 14:13, The Message).



One of My First Bibles

This will be a short post, because it’s late and I’m officially pooped.

I helped out with looking after the kids of women who were taking a class through Christian Women’s Job Corp tonight. Basically, I’m the one who showed up late with lots of pizza. I suddenly became extremely popular when I walked through the door with those eight boxes full of Little Caeser’s pepperoni and cheese pizza.

While I was there, I found an old Bible that reminded me of one I used to have when I was a wee little tyke, except mine had a very handy zipper. I remember that in my very first Bible the pastor wrote, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”

I’m pretty sure mine was an old-school KJV. I’m also fairly certain most of the 16th century English went right over my head.

Now they have the Jesus Storybook Bible and yes, I’m a bit jealous. That seems so much more accessible for a kid to understand. Sure, when they get older, you want them to have a full-blown, 66-book Bible, but this seems like a great way to get children into the metanarrative of the Bible story.

By the way, I’ve already decided that I will be reading through the Bible in 2016 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (the 2004 version, not the most recently updated version).