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“Give me an understanding heart that I can govern Your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.”  1 Kings 3:9

“The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you.”  John 14:25

“For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

I have stated before and this post is not meant to in any way shape or form be anti-science, anti-academic, or anti-intellectual.  Science and medicine and those who are well versed in those topics and subjects have done great personal feats for me and I give thanks to God for them.  This post has more to do with our mindset as we pursue greater intellectual knowledge and how we think about the process of attaining it as well as how we feel about ourselves once we’ve attained it.

Prizing education and academic learning is nothing new and seemingly today the demand for it, those seeking to obtain it, the costs associated with attaining it and the thoughts about those who don’t have it are ever more in the forefront of our societal consciousness.  Academic institutions, especially those for profit and their marketing are a significant presence in all of our media today.  The having of a degree, several degrees, advanced degree or degrees is more frequently a requirement or at least preferred characteristic that many employers are seeking out for their organizations.

While none of those current societal trends are troubling or secular in themselves, I believe we have to be very careful about how we see ourselves both in the process of attaining “higher” education and once the degree or certification has been obtained.  For the way that it is too often portrayed is that the attaining of higher level of learning is a testament to our own talents, desires, “work ethic” or vision.  Also, once we’ve attained the higher degree, we are somehow more worthy, entitled to some greater reward for our efforts, should be sought out and listened to more.  In a word we are “better”; not only better than we were before attaining the degree but also “better” than those who don’t have our level of learning.  It is all too easy for our pride to swell through the process and attainment of higher education.

Let’s take a look at this for a moment starting with the process of attaining higher learning.  Isn’t the process a testament to my desire for self improvement an accolade to my diligence and self motivation, proof of my desire for self fulfillment? As I take my classes, isn’t this a compliment concerning my tenacity?  Aren’t the grades I receive, truly and solely, “my grades” worthy of acknowledgement and glorification?  Here are some self-reflection questions I might need to ask and answer to validate those opinions.  At what point during my development in the womb did I decide and take steps to insure that my brain would function in such a way to allow me the understanding and capacity to seek this higher learning? As an infant or a toddler, what plan did I conceive and implement that allowed me to have sufficient prerequisite learning to continue into an advance state? Let me review my complete plan of all the parents, educators, administrators, mentors and many others that I perfectly put in place that led to my successfully being able to further my education.

Upon completion of this increased education, I am entitled to some or much personal glory, perhaps depending on the level I’ve achieved.  I am deserving; deserving of higher pay, greater promotions, more plush offices.  I deserve to not only be sought out for my opinion, also listened to with less questioning and my opinion should always be given greater weight than those lessors who have not achieved the education that I have.

Yes these are the fruits of “my” singular labor.  Woe to those who are not willing to give me my dues.

Solomon, known biblically and in even general lexicon (i.e. many speak of “The wisdom of Solomon) as one of the wisest living persons knew about the need for wisdom/learning and his lack of it.  His Father David was one of the greatest kings of Israel and upon his death, wanted Solomon (as was God’s plan as well) to reign after him.  The challenge was that Solomon was very young.  He knew he didn’t have the knowledge to satisfactorily govern such a vast and powerful kingdom.  So when God asked Solomon what he wanted from God, Solomon could have asked for riches, a long life, many excellent wives and children; Solomon asked for a wise heart.  He asked for knowledge to lead God’s people well, knowing good from evil.  God was very pleased with Solomon’s request and granted it to him.

Jesus Christ had been extremely diligent in teaching His disciples.  Yet at the last supper, He knew that His disciples still lacked the critical understanding that they would need to carry Christ’s message into the world.  So Jesus promised to send a “Friend”, a “Helper”, the Holy Spirit who would provide all the necessary knowledge and insight needed to carry forth the Gospel of Christ.  Jesus went on to say the Holy Spirit was not just for the disciples but for all who would come to Christ and, through Him, seek the wisdom of the Father.  The world, otherwise could never receive the Holy Spirit because they would not believe that Christ asked for Him to be sent.

Thus it would seem that, while we may indeed know, understand and desire the attainment for a greater knowledge, a higher degree, the fulfillment of that desire is more of a gift of Grace from God, than it is solely a result of our own efforts. I do not contend that it does not take effort, yet that effort builds on God given talents.  Even to have the opportunity is a blessing from God. It may take some humility to come to that understanding but it will align us more accurately with He who provided us the talents in the first place and Whose plan our gaining in wisdom is fulfilling.

Also, having attained some greater learning/education, we need to understand that it is not about being served as a reward for that attainment but finding a way to serve with the gained knowledge.  We need to remember what Christ stated that to one who has much given, much is required.

So, if we are so led, let us go and learn.  Let us strive and achieve.  Always being mindful of as well as thankful for, the blessing and gift that there is in the opportunity for and acquiring of, greater knowledge.  Let us give glory to the Name of Him where all glory, honor and knowledge resides, living a life of loving, sharing and serving to our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we affirm and declare that all knowledge and wisdom resides in You.  We are so very thankful that in Your Mercy, You have seen fit to share some of Your knowledge and wisdom with us.  We pray, as Solomon did, that You would guide us to use that wisdom and knowledge in Your service as a blessing to this world.  We also ask Your forgiveness when we see the achievement and wisdom in a prideful way, seeking our own glory.  Guide us we pray and allow us to use the wisdom You so freely provide in a way that will be praise to Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed, the Christ, the Savior of the World.”  John 4:42

How did you hear about Jesus Christ?  They don’t call this the information age for nothing.  There are television networks devoted to the Christian message and teaching of Jesus.  There are radio stations like K-Love, who’s mission it is to play songs praising Jesus and calling the lost.  The bible is the best selling book in all of history and the online store Amazon has 231, 421 books concerning Jesus.  Now for the piece de resistance, the internet;  in .18 of a second, Google had 196,000,000 hits for Jesus Christ.  We have yet to mention the long standing traditional venues; hearing about Jesus Christ from relatives or friends, hearing Him preached by a pastor at church.  Seemingly with all this information, there should be no excuse for there being ignorance about Jesus Christ.   Then having knowledge, there again should be no reason why He is not the all excepted, every tongue proclaimed, King of kings and Lord of lords.  Hmmm, sadly that is far from universally the truth.

A woman stumbled upon Jesus at a well.  The initial conversation did not go all that well (sorry no pun intended).  Jesus asks her to draw him a drink.  She scoffs at His request because she is a Samaritan and knows that the Jews, of which Jesus was one, clearly thought the Samaritans were second class people.  But as the woman interacts with Jesus, has an experience with Him, she comes to the realization that He is a prophet and once Jesus tells her plainly that He is Christ, she goes to tell others.

The bible tells us that she returned to her nearby city and started telling people about Jesus and telling them that He might be the Christ.  So because of her testimony, more people are intrigued enough and think there is a possibility that the Christ is in their midst that they come out to see Him.  However, they don’t immediately come haling Him as Christ the King.  It is once they have their experience with Christ that they now boldly proclaim:  He is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the World.

So it would appear that information, even miraculous information is not enough.  Testimony is important and sharing our testimony with others can be among the most powerful and loving things that we can do.  Yet it is not our words or our testimony that will save them.  In the same way, it is not our hearing about, watching images of or digitally searching for Jesus Christ that will bring about our salvation.  No it seems clear that the only way we will come to the certain knowledge, as the Samaritans did.  The only way for us to sincerely proclaim our conviction to Jesus Christ, is to come into His presence; to have an actual experience with Him.

But Jesus Christ is the King of kings, the Salvation for all human kind, the price we must pay for an audience with Him must be too terribly high.  To a certain extent, the price was too terribly high for us.  To deserve to come into His presence cost more than we could ever be willing to pay.  By all rights, Jesus Christ should have turned from us and walked away.  Instead, He paid the price, we could never pay.  He took the punishment that we could never endure.  To become King, He humbled himself to become a servant.  And now as a King, He opens his arms wide to us, beckoning us to come into His presence; to experience His Perfect Love, Mercy and Forgiveness that only He can provide.  May we strive to live in that experience.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we have heard that experience is the greatest teacher.  So it is that we pray most fervently that You would grant us the experience of gaining a relationship with You through Your Son Jesus Christ.  Pour out Your Spirit on us Most Merciful Father, that we would experience Your Loving Kindness and Your Peaceful Joy.  Give us the strength and courage to proclaim Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior to a world in so much need of the message, yet who closes itself off from receiving it.  That in our lives and our proclamations, Your Most Holy Name will be forever praised.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

Hypocrites!  You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you can not discern this time?  Luke 12:56

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork, Day unto day utters speech and night unto night reveals knowledge”  Psalm 19:1-2

Is science evil?  Are scientists Satan’s ambassadors?  As we peer into the tiniest spaces of matter or out to the farthest and most gigantic regions of space, what conclusions to we draw?  As our medical understanding grows to the extent that we can map the building blocks of an individual and grow new organs from scratch; how does that make us feel?

Jesus used an illustration of people’s understanding of weather.  The term meteorology goes back to 350 BC.  Yet there is evidence that trying to discern patterns in heat and cold, rain and drought go back much further.  Why?  Because the harnessing of that information was so important to survival.  The proper time to plant crops or move flocks, what changes caused large herd animals, required for food, to move to and fro, when would the rains and the floods that went with them, happen; these are all questions that could and did impact the rise and fall of civilizations.  On the one hand Jesus gave them some credit.  He acknowledged that they had a degree of accuracy when it came to reading natural conditions and predicting outcomes.  On the other hand, He asked them what good was having that limited knowledge in the eternal scheme of things?  For that knowledge did not drive them to an awe inspiring acknowledgement of He who is in control of all things.  They did not use those same observational skills to search through the scriptures to find the conditions that predicted the coming and nature of the Messiah.  And whether or not they got the weather correct was inconsequential compared to missing the fact that the promised Messiah was in their midst.

Both my parents left this earthly existence due to cancer from which they never recovered.  My wife is a cancer survivor.  I am very grateful for the advances in medicine.  Those advancements have human names attached to their discoveries.  However, I believe that the source and the blessings come from Our Heavenly Father.  As in the way that the disciples were humans used to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and Salvation, Our Heavenly Father as seen fit to use human beings to carry out His Will and His Plan.  I pray a prayer of thanksgiving for those doctors, scientists and others who, having been used by God (whether they understand or acknowledge God’s hand) in the progress in treating cancer.

Science, by its very nature evil?  No.  The same way that wood carving is not evil by its nature.  But carve a block of wood into an image, cover it in gold and bow down and worship it, then you have a hideous evil.  As in all things, money, alcohol, physical relations, any human endeavor, what is the intent is what matters.  Because we have a greater understanding of our physical bodies and greater abilities to impact its health, does that mean that we feel that we are increasing toward a time of equality with Him that created it?  When we are able to see the great vistas of space and see great insights into our past in that place that we call, the heavens and don’t discover a unmistakable abode of God; do we then conclude He doesn’t exist?  Or as we are allowed to see and grasp some understanding of the amazing complexity of the creation we are and all around us, does that understanding compel us to realize the Power, Intelligence, Perfection, of He who created it and bring us to our knees in humble thanksgiving and worship?  

Jesus Christ is clear, if we know all of the terrestrial, but remain ignorant of the eternal, we are doomed.  Let it be that what knowledge we glean about our world, leads us to the awe and worship of He who created all and shares that creation out of Love.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we praise You for the knowledge that You have seen fit for us to have.  May it be that we use that knowledge in Your service and to further Your Plan and Your Will.  Keep us from the temptation of believing that an increase in knowledge should lead in a decrease in faith in You.  That in our knowledge, our actions and our love, they are all used in Your Worship and in Praise of Your Most Holy Name.  Amen.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”  Luke 6:40

It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher…”  Matthew 10:25

Experience is the best teacher.  Just go out and do it.  We learn best from our mistakes.  These are some oft expressed sayings about learning, which might lead us to think that the best way for us to gain new knowledge is to go out and try whatever it is that we want to accomplish.  I am not disputing the value of persistence (the story that Edison didn’t give up after 999 failures at attempting to invent the light bulb succeeding on his 1000th attempt).  However, what I am extolling are the virtues of humility and discipline that are involved in choosing the path to gain knowledge from an expert or at least someone more learned than your (or my) self.

I was very happy to have my first car.  I wanted to make sure that I did all that was needed to keep it in good condition; especially being that it was more than a decade old.  So having driven it for several months and putting a decent amount of miles on it, I decided it was time to change the oil.  Seemingly a very simple task (if from the word “seemingly” you are getting a sense of future calamity, you are wise).  I did decide to at least ask my father about it; and with the simple explanation he gave; look for bolt, loosen bolt, allow oil to drain, replace bolt, refill oil; Presto!, I decided that I did not need any supervision or help (again if you are getting a sense of foreboding; good).  Well let’s just say that I was not prepared for two bolts to choose from.  Choosing the wrong one, I depleted the car of transmission fluid instead of motor oil.  Did I learn?  Certainly.  Had I sought out a teacher; would I have learned just as well and less expensively; without a doubt.

Now in this world, it is true that we have to take a plethora of things into account when choosing if we are going to and to whom we are going to seek instruction from.  One aspect is; what is the cost?  How much am I going to have to pay, which also has a corresponding aspect of where else could I have put that expense to better use.  Second, who am I going to rely on to give me the training?  Today, we live in an era of debate and argument.  One only has to listen to most any news program or talk show to experience that every issue seems to have two diametrically opposed opinions and spokespeople with lofty credentials to support their opinion.  Similarly, what source material do you have?  Again, go to an internet search engine and type a topic in and look for the number of “hits”; the tens of thousands and often large number of resources to find information.  Again, many disputing or refuting the others.

Thankfully, Jesus made it surprisingly simple.  Cost?  Depending on how you look at it; either amazingly cheap or staggeringly expensive.  In one sense, it is free.  Jesus never required anyone to pay to attend his teachings and assuming you can secure a bible, also most churches have free attendance, then the out of pocket material expense is minimal.  As you read or listen,  who is there to help you understand?  Jesus Christ tells us that is covered as well.  The Holy Spirit is free for the asking who will come to dwell within us and teach us.  There is a time element as well.  On the other hand, if you count cost in terms of things you will find changing, it can seem overwhelmingly expensive.  Unfortunately, too expensive for many.  Who is my teacher?  Again simple, Jesus Christ.  That others, including pastors, parents, friends, scholars can help is possible.  As long as they are teaching Jesus Christ is the true only begotten Son of Our Heavenly Father, crucified and resurrected for the sake of our salvation, they can be very beneficial.  What is my primary source?  Again simple, the bible.  Yes there are many other things out there (this blog included); but, nothing should substitute for the Word of God.

So, we have a choice in life.  To go it alone or looking to the wisdom of this world only (can we say the blind leading the blind).  In the world, there is a chance for some partial learning; but, the lesson will most assuredly be missed.  Or we can, with true humility that comes from understanding that we are approaching and asking from The Perfect, and the discipline to use the two greatest tools available; prayer and The Word; tap into the greatest source of Knowledge and Wisdom that has ever been; freely given, there for the asking.  We do have to understand and be ready for two truths.  First, we will always be learning in this life.  While here, we will never obtain the Perfect Understanding, Judgment and Knowledge of Our Heavenly Father, and that is okay.  Second, we must be prepared that we will be changed as we learn.  The learning from God is not just a validation of our own plans and dreams.  He will open up to us, a new world, a new way of being that will quite probably be radically different than what we thought it would be. Yet it is the most crucial that we understand that the truest blessings and most love filled life is encased in those differences.   And here is where the hugest risk and a true mystery to me is.  For, we have been given the power to reject His teachings and wisdom in there entirety and go off on our own.

Dear Heavenly Father, you created us and then did not leave us to our own devices.  Through Your Grace, You have given us Your Word through the prophets on what is wise and true.  And when You deemed it the right time, You Gave us Your Son Jesus Christ to, not only instruct us, but to also be our perfect example.  We pray a prayer of thanksgiving for Your Mercy and Grace and ask that You would give us the spirit to come to You for our instruction and be open to Your Guiding.   That truly we, as His disciples, would strive to be like He is and in so doing live a life that Glorifies Your Most Holy Name.  In Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

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