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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More than advice

20-23 Good friend, follow your father's good advice; don't wander off from your mother's teachings.  Wrap yourself in them from head to foot; wear them like a scarf around your neck.  Wherever you walk, they'll guide you; whenever you rest, they'll guard you; when you wake up, they'll tell you what's next.
For sound advice is a beacon, good teaching is a light,
   moral discipline is a life path. 
(Proverbs 6:20-23)

In most circumstances, mothers and fathers do not deliberately give their children bad advice or moral teachings that border on immorality.  Instead, they do their best to instill virtues that will make their children upstanding citizens later in life.  When a child wanders away from that which they have been taught, the parent is often grieved by that action.  The truth is that God is continually giving us "good advice" and "teachings" that we sometimes walk away from.  When that happens, God's heart is torn much as a parent's is torn when their child wanders.

We are given some pretty basic instructions here.  The idea is that we will listen to the instructions and then heed them.  If you have ever obtained one of those "assembly-required" furniture packages, you will know what I am about to say is true.  The "directions" are not always the clearest!  Sure, they give you little diagrams to follow, but figuring out which one of the 200 screws, bolts, anchoring devices, etc. they put into that bag is the right one to use on the particular step of assembly you are on can be a challenge!

Advice is simply like those instructions - it is offered as a recommendation that should guide your behavior or actions.  We can choose to follow it or not.  Teachings are a little different - teachings impart both the knowledge and the skill to do something.  The pictures on the instructions in the furniture package can be considered as advice - something that is a recommendation to guide our behavior/actions.  What they are not is "teachings".  They don't have the ability to give us the skill to do the task.  That is a thing learned through repeated practice.

Some treat the Word of God as advice alone - good stuff that can guide our behavior, but entirely optional.  The fact is that it is both advice and teaching. It gives us the recommendations for our behavior, but it also gives us the skill (when combined with the guidance of the Holy Spirit) to do what it is that we are asked to do.  In fact, our writer tells us that when we "apply" the Word to our lives, those words guide our walk, keep us safe in our rest, and encourage us to stand strong when we are moved upon by unsettling things.

Sound advice is a beacon - it is a guiding or warning signal, that when heeded can keep us from a whole lot of damage in life.

Good teaching is a light - something that makes visible what seems to be hidden or undiscovered.

Moral discipline is a life path - a way beaten or formed by the constant passage of one who walks that path.

When we are able to see the Word of God as more than advice - seeing that it is both able to help us discover what is hidden and keep us on course in life - we won't be so quick to reject it.  We will understand that it does more than "illustrate" life for us - it gives us the skill to actually live life in safety, assurance, and peace.