What Wisdom Is Not

Wisdom…some will search the world over and never grasp hold of it. Some seek it by consulting infamous leaders like Ghandi or the Dali Lama and it still seems to slip through their fingers like sand. Most of us want to make wise choices. We are tired of learning the hard way and grow desperate for our lives to take a turn for the better, instead of living in the cycle of mistakes, consequences and failures that scar our journey.

wise man

So we buy self-help books and binge watch Dr. Phil. We gobble up relationship advice found in magazines at the grocery store and read blogs about changing our lives.

The problem with looking for wisdom in this world around us is that wisdom doesn’t dwell there. It’s like taking house-cleaning advice from a hoarder, or life advice from an unhappy, bitter person. You rarely find super models with best selling cookbooks. Why? Because those poor, skinny girls aren’t allowed to eat. What would they know about making tempting food?

Wisdom, breaking the cycle of bad mistakes, and making smart decisions is found at the feet of Christ.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” ~Proverbs 9:10

Many of you who follow this blog know that reverent respect of God is the fundamental building block of wisdom. Many of us can describe in so many words what wisdom is, but I think it might be helpful to take a look at what wisdom is not.

  1. Wisdom is not knowledge.

snobWe’ve all known someone super-educated. Their multiple degrees and accomplishments could fill up an entire wall…yet, they make foolish decisions over and over again. Their degrees proclaim they know much, yet their lifestyle, attitude and choices scream otherwise.

…knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” ~ 1 Corinthians 8:1

There is a certain path that leads to wisdom. The pattern is this: steps to wisdom

Step 1- Instruction 

Step 2- Knowledge

Step 3- Wisdom

Let’s put this into an easy-to-understand scenario. Say someone comes up to you and offers to teach you how to make a delicious three layer Italian creme cake. They offer instruction. So you agree to the instruction (Step One). They go through every single ingredient, explain why it makes the cake so delicious, detail every minutia of the recipe and even demonstrate how to do it in front of you. That’s Step Two.

Step Three comes when you use that knowledge and put it into practice by making a decadent Italian creme cake of your own. knowledge vs wisdom

Now, here’s the kicker. Some of us never get past step one. We don’t want instruction and we don’t want to be told what to do. Foolish. Unteachable people will never be wise. Never.

God is Wisdom and Truth. You cannot separate One from the other. What you and I think is not found anywhere between the binding of our Bibles. God has laid down precepts and laws for a reason—to give us the best and happiest life possible.

Most of us want knowledge but where the majority of us fall short is between steps two and three.

Think back to the cake-baking scenario. What if your instructor has gone to all the trouble to show you the intricate details of making this cake, yet when it comes time to do it yourself, you say, “Hmm, I’m not really in the mood to put flour in this cake. I’ll use oatmeal instead.” You switch out milk for water. Baking soda for cinnamon. Sugar for salt.

That cake is going to be a nasty mess when it’s all said and done, while you scratch your head and wonder, “Where did I go wrong?”

ruined cake

So similar to our lives sometimes, isn’t it? We can’t substitute God’s wisdom for our own without making a royal mess.

  1. Wisdom does not partner with sin, wickedness or perversion.

“All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness;
There is nothing crooked or perverted in them…

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.” ~Proverbs 8:8,13

Just like Daniel, we are living in our own personal Babylon. If we aren’t fighting the pull of the world, we are falling into it. What comes out of our mouths, our actions and our decisions, whether big or small, are merely a glimmer of what is inside our hearts. You would never squeeze a toothpaste tube and expect jello to come out. No, toothpaste comes out because toothpaste is what’s inside. toothpaste

In addition to reverent respect for God and obeying His instructions, a huge key to unlocking God’s wisdom is to keeping your heart pure. How do we do that? We must guard it. What we expose our hearts to see and hear, is what goes in. And what goes in is what will come out.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.~Proverbs 4:23

Here’s a list I scribbled down one day that keeps me on track:

Every time I use vulgar words or dwell on unwholesome images, I’m not choosing wisdom.

Every time I watch that filthy show or listen to music full of language and innuendo, I’m rejecting wisdom.

Every time I focus on what others think of me instead of what God thinks, I’m not choosing wisdom.

Every time I feel jealous and crave the possessions, accomplishments or successes of others, I’m not choosing wisdom.

Every time I choose to use my time in activities that nailed my Savior to the cross, I’m refusing wisdom.

Every time I criticize someone with negativity, I’m not choosing wisdom.

Every time I get defensive because someone questions my motives, I’m not choosing wisdom.

Every time I seek my worth in anything other than Christ, I’m pushing wisdom away.

got wisdom

  1. Wisdom isn’t automatic.

Just because you’ve got gray sprinkling your hair doesn’t mean you’re wise. Just because you’ve walked a tough road doesn’t mean you’re wise either. True wisdom, lasting, life-changing, cycle-breaking wisdom can only be found in applying God’s Word and pursuing Him day in and day out.

You can’t lazily fall into being a wise, discerning person. It is a choice. A deliberate pursuit.

Wisdom isn’t multiple degrees or awards. It’s not winning at Jeopardy. It isn’t found in the world, its beliefs or ways of doing things. It isn’t found in Oprah, magazines or media. It isn’t even necessarily found in age. Wisdom is found in the heart of God.

pursue God

Pursue Him. Ask Him for it. Chase after it. I promise you, your life will turn upside-down…for the better.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:5

Have you asked God for wisdom? If you haven’t, what’s stopping you from asking today?

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Holding Jesus

star

A stable foreshadowing a tomb. A weary girl trembling with fatigue and pain. A father with the weight of a new family pressing on his shoulders. A king gripped with fear that the Promised Child will be his undoing. And shepherds, their limbs trembling as angels announce a message that rocks their world to the core.

Yet amidst these poignant images, the part of the Christmas story that touches my heart most deeply comes through the words of an aged man…Simeon. God has promised him that his eyes will not close in death until he physically sees the Messiah.

As Joseph and Mary enter the gates of the temple cradling an eight day old baby boy, Simeon’s breath catches in his throat.

The bustle of the crowd fades away as his gaze sharpens to behold the sleeping bundle in his mother’s arms. The Holy Spirit whispers to his heart, “This Child is the One.”

Mouth dry, the joy bubbling in his spirit makes it hard to speak. Before he even knows what he is doing, his feet have moved to stand directly in front of this young mother. He holds out his arms.

Her dark eyes look into his, questioning. After a moment, she lays Jesus in his weathered hands. simeon

Simeon’s eyes fill with tears as he holds the God of universe in the palms of his hands. He whispers, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace,” his breath snags in his chest, his throat tight, “for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory of your people Israel.”

Mary inhales softly at his reverent declaration. She turns to look up at her new husband. His face is filled with question and wonder. Simeon smiles, his eyes trying to memorize every feature of the baby in his arms.

How odd to hold the King of the universe in your hands, knowing He will hold you in the end. old hands 2

It is enough.

His love is enough. His sacrifice is enough.

Jesus is enough.

The Fascinating Story of “O Holy Night”

When asked what my favorite Christmas song is, a dozen tunes flicker through my mind—a bubbly, upbeat version of “White Christmas”, “Be Born in Me”, “Winter Wonderland” or my guilty pleasure, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”—all top the list. But the one that never grows old and gives me sweet chills every time I hear it is “O Holy Night”. bethlehem

The origins of this beloved song are fascinating. The year was 1847 in a French village, and the local priest made an unusual request of the local wine commissioner, and not-very-religious Placide Cappeau. The priest asked this infamously worldly village man to write a poem for Christmas mass. cappeau

Why ask such a thing of a man who had little interest in church? History is quiet on the details. Cappeau was a poet so the priest may have asked him based solely on his writing credentials. Perhaps the man was a special project of the priest who wanted him to know more about God. We don’t know but whatever the circumstances, Cappeau willingly agreed.

On a bumpy carriage ride to the French capital, Cappeau, not knowing where else to start, opened to the book of Luke and put himself into the wonder of that night. He imagined all the emotions and miracles he might have seen. His poem “Cantique De Noel” was penned.

Here are pieces of the original poem:

Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour,

When God as man descended unto us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

The entire world thrills with hope

On this night that gives it a Saviour.

People, kneel down, await your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken every bond:

The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.

He sees a brother where there was only a slave,

Love unites those that iron had chained…

Cappeau was so pleased with its outcome, he asked a highly educated musician friend of his to write music to accompany the poem. His friend Adolphe Charles Adams, agreed with a smile. Why is this worth mentioning? Because Adams was a Jew. adolphe adams

The song was performed at Christmas mass and the French village immediately embraced it. However, years later upon discovering the lyricist was a worldly man (and now a well-known socialist) and that the composer was a Jew, the church banned the beloved Christmas song. Parishioners continued to sing it in their own homes behind closed doors.

Fast forward several decades to America when John Sullivan Dwight discovered “Cantique De Noel”. A fiery abolitionist, Dwight fell in love with the song, especially the message of freedom. “The Redeemer has broken every bond/ The Earth is free, and Heaven is open/ He sees a brother where there was only a slave/ Love unites those that iron had chained…”

broken chains 2

Dwight published a rewritten version of the carol in his own magazine and it was embraced by a shattered nation—particular among the North as the Civil War began to break the country apart.

“O Holy Night” seems to have a long history of uniting those in war. During the Franco-Prussian War, legend says that during a lull in the fighting, a French soldier stood up from his muddy trench with no weapon in hand and began singing “Cantique de Noel”. Upon hearing the beautiful rendering, the German soldiers were so moved, they began singing as well. Both sides lifted their voice in song, alternating between French carols and the hymns of Martin Luther. A Christmas truce of sorts had been declared.

That’s what Jesus came to do—redeem a lost world and bind our broken, shattered hearts into wholeness once again. He scatters the darkness. Hate cannot stand in the presence of Love. Darkness cannot last in the piercing force of Light. Where sin severed a filthy humanity from their Creator, Jesus came to connect and bind them once more.

The story gets better. On Christmas Eve in 1906, Reginald Fessenden was experimenting with combining the telegraph with a crude kind of microphone. Fessenden began reading the account of Jesus’ birth from Luke chapter two. fessenden-work

Radio operators aboard ships and wireless devices around the nation were shocked to hear, not the normal coded impulses that peppered their speakers, but a man’s voice reading the Christmas story. It was the very first radio broadcast…a man speaking the Word of God to an astounded audience.

Upon finishing his reading, Fessenden picked up his violin and played the haunting strains of “O Holy Night”, not only marking the moment as the first broadcast of a man’s voice, but the first song ever to be played over airwaves.

What a wild, unexpected journey this song has taken to reach our hearts today…much like the story of Christ Himself. And it tells us that God will use anyone—a wine commissioner and socialist, an unbelieving Jew, abolitionists and fighting, bleeding soldiers—to broadcast the love story He’s written for humanity.

love letter

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and e’er pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

Want to listen to more Christmas tunes? Check out www.reverbnation.com/TaraJohnson

Contest and Giveaway!

I’m so excited to have a special giveaway for you just in time for Christmas! If you sign up to follow my blog (www.TaraJohnsonauthor.wordpress.com), follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/TaraMinistry) or share my blog on Facebook, you’ll be entered for a chance to win the Word of Promise Audio New Testament!!! This is one of my favorite ways to soak in God’s Word. We play our CDs continually and the Word of Promise features some amazing actors voicing the great men and women from the Bible (including Jim Caviezel as Jesus). word of promise audio bible

The more shares, the more chances you have to win. Contest ends next Monday, December 14th. (Make sure and tag me if you post on Facebook so I’ll be guaranteed to log your contest entry. https://www.facebook.com/tara.johnson.1401 or https://www.facebook.com/TaraLynnJohnsonAuthor/)

Have fun!

The Dishwasher Repairman

I stood in the kitchen, watching the repairman duck his head into our broken dishwasher. How many times had it fallen apart now? Two? Three? Whatever the  number, I was becoming a proficient hand washer of dirty dishes. dishwasher repair

The repairman eased back out of the washer’s cavern and pointed, his thick mustache twitching. “I got the sprayer piece repaired, but see here?” His finger outlined the rim of the large circle of metal resting in the bottom. “This is the heating element. That white build up is from soap. If it continues to build up, the heating element will be insulated and won’t be able to heat the water correctly.”

I frowned. “So I need to switch soaps?”

He shook his head. “Won’t help. Phosphates are no longer allowed in dishwasher detergents. Without it, the soap gunks up and clogs up the works.”

Lovely. I sighed as he scribbled his instructions on a piece of paper. He was a knowledgeable guy but seemed quiet…almost as if his shoulders were weighted down by something. He was stern and smiled little.

That suddenly changed when my little dog approached him, her white tail wagging. Upon spying her, his face instantly softened. A smile broke through his gruff exterior as he eased onto the floor and began rubbing her furry head.

bichon

He murmured, “Aren’t you just a sweet little thing?” She nuzzled closer as he cooed and exclaimed over her with sweet tenderness. The transformation in him was amazing. He was soft and gentle…a veritable marshmallow. I grinned seeing their exchange.

“She likes you. Dogs have a good sense of character.”

He chuckled softly as he stroked her head. “I love animals. She makes me think of my cat. Always so happy to see me.”

The dog was now climbing all over him, wagging and quivering with excitement. The man laughed low. “Yep, since my family is gone, it’s just me and my sweet little cat.”

I probably shouldn’t have asked but I couldn’t help it. “Your family is gone? Do you mind if I ask about them? What happened?”

His eyes held a soft kind of pain. A sadness mingled with heavy resignation. His voice was low as he answered me.

“My daughter was murdered several years ago and my wife died of cancer in 2010.”

My heart constricted as I gazed at this sweet, broken man. Why does it seem like some lives constantly eat the bread of sorrow? sorrow

“I’m so sorry.”

He looked down at the wagging fur ball in his lap and the sadness cloaking him fled for a moment. “It’s alright. Just me and my cat for now.”

“Do you have anywhere to go for Christmas?”

He shook his head slowly. “No, ma’am.”

The words slipped past my lips in a rush. “Come spend Christmas Eve with our family. Please.”

He smiled sadly. “That’s kind of you, but I live in Texas. I’ve only come this far because the company has me training other repairmen. I don’t know where I’ll be on Christmas Eve. I just go wherever they send me.”

The thought of this man and his cat alone on Christmas flooded me with a weight I couldn’t quite explain. “Well, if you’re in this area, please come by. We’ll be here.”

“Thank you.”

Before he could stand up, my two year old toddled into the kitchen and blinked, trying to assess the presence of the stranger in his kitchen. Slowly, Nate smiled and waved a pudgy hand.

nate super hunk

“Hi.”

The repairman grinned and waved back. “Hi.”

Before I could stop him, Nate lunged towards the man and squeezed him around the neck in a bear hug. The repairman paused for only a moment before wrapping his arms around my little tyke, returning his hug with a gentle smile.

“Well, hello there, little fella.”

Nate released him and wiggled down in his lap. With a contented sigh, he rested his head on the repairman’s shoulder. His face was utter contentment.

I watched the repairman carefully. He blinked back glassy tears but his smile stretched from ear to ear.

They chatted for several more minutes before the man reluctantly stood. He issued final instructions and lifted his massive bag of tools. I thanked him and, as he was walking out the door, I called out, “Don’t forget to come by on Christmas Eve if you’re here!”

He offered that sad kind of smile he has and nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

Then he was gone.

Nate looked at the window at his departure and frowned. “Bye-bye?”

I ruffled his dark curls. “Yes, son. He had to go bye-bye.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever see that man again. I pray so. There’s so much more I wanted to say. Comfort and encouragement that needed to be offered. But perhaps the greatest comfort and love was best shown through a wriggly puppy and a cuddly two-year old.

Appliances break. Motors stop running. We’re so quick to utter complaints or make phone calls to schedule repairs so our own lives will be easier. But what of the broken-hearted? The lonely? Who will see and care for their needs?

Never underestimate the power of a smile, an embrace or a listening ear. It could be the key to binding up a broken heart.

kindness

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” ~Philippians 2:1-5

Tell me, what acts of kindness have you been shown in your life that made a difference? I would love to hear!

Wonder

angel space

Past stars and galaxies, the glittering lights of mysteries beyond I flew.

I was not alone.

No, an entire heavenly congregation soared with me.

We danced past shimmering hosts and luminescent wonders, winging and dancing, spiraling and speeding past the diamonds of the Holy One’s masterpiece until we pushed past the transparent glass of the blue marbled planet’s firmament.

I breathed in the frigid air, peering through the night sky, to look down on this strange place…the King’s new home.

Humble.

Broken.

Needy.

Such a startling contrast from the glory of whence He had come. Indeed, the raw starkness of it swirled through me. He had chosen this?

There. On the far hill. Perched upon the grassy, sloping land beyond the city of David our audience awaited. Bleating sheep, the soft chatter of their keepers…all of it proof they were unaware of the great miracle bestowed on them this holy night.

shepherds

I breathed out the message burning in my chest and I saw their fear. Their terror.

My heart twisted within me for they did not understand.

So deceived by their eyes were these humans, blinded by what they see. Did they not understand the pulsing excitement this joyful decree would bring? Could they not hear? I could feel the depth of their trembling. I beheld their quivering limbs.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

They fell to their knees, blinked and stared, their faces slack as we proclaimed the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise, our voices blending, calling. Beckoning. Rolling in wave after golden wave until the simple hills were echoing back the message.

Did they understand? If they only knew Who had come, their joy would far surpass our own.

Away we flew, intent to grasp one glimpse of the King in his new surroundings. Gliding over sky and shadow, we found the humble abode. Peeking in, I blinked.

The hands that scooped out the oceans, the One who trailed his fingers through rock and earth, forging rivers and streams were now the pudgy fingers clinging to a woman’s gentle touch. angel baby fingers

The Voice of rushing waters who held all of Heaven in rapture was cooing, His voice compressed into the tiniest of mews. His fiery eyes were now subdued…dark. Blinking, absorbing the faces and images before Him.

How strange to see the Prince of Peace in such a way.

Did these humble beings understand this Child would grow to be their Redeemer? Surely not, for He was cradled in a crude trough. Did they not understand the magnitude of the plan unfurling before their very eyes? They must not or the whole earth would shake from the joy of their shouts. He slipped into their world quietly, unnoticed by most. Unwanted by some.

Yet He came anyway.

Despite the wonders I have beheld in the Holy One’s heaven, I marvel that nothing can compare to the love the King bestows on these broken, wretched people. How great His compassion, for He Himself came down to redeem them.

What a marvelous thing to be one of these humans…to be so loved.

As I soared back into the heavens, I couldn’t help but wonder…

Did they sense the Peace that had descended into their midst? Could they feel tremors of Love shaking the rocky ground of their world? For truly, the King of Kings was among them.

Indeed, these people are blessed. So broken, so needy and yet, so loved.

“Even angels long to look into these things…” ~1 Peter 1:12

angel he came for you