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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Face value is seldom real value

Good guidance comes sometimes through the quietest voices.  If you have ever listened to the loudest voice, you might just have realized the loudest is not always the clearest!  It just got your attention!  As we have been studying our way through the Book of Proverbs over the past couple of days, we have discovered there is good advice which awaits those with hearing ears and a responsive heart - but it is not always the loudest voice we hear!  The instructions of a father's heart are of value to us in making us ready for what life sends our way.  We are reminded - follow them and you will live; learn from them, and you may not have to experience everything for yourself; love the, for wise words will guide us when times of trial come our way.  

Dear friend, take my advice; it will add years to your life.  I’m writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I’m drawing a map to Righteous Road.  I don’t want you ending up in blind alleys, or wasting time making wrong turns.  Hold tight to good advice; don’t relax your grip. Guard it well—your life is at stake!  Don’t take Wicked Bypass; don’t so much as set foot on that road.  Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth. Make a detour and be on your way. (Proverbs 4:10-15 MSG)

We have discovered getting wisdom is the most important thing we can do - for wisdom is not a thing, but a person - Jesus.  Coming into a personal relationship with him begins a journey of wisdom's development within.  Along with wisdom, we need to develop good judgment - learned and practical knowledge go hand in hand.  A life guided by wisdom keeps us from limping along or stumbling along the way.  One of the most prevalent warnings in the first four chapters of this Book are those which warn against keeping company with evil doers and the wicked.  The luring calls of those who would desire nothing more than to trip us up, pull us away from the stillness and peace of deep, intimate fellowship with Jesus are to be avoided at all cost.  

We avoid the places they hang out - because the surroundings we frequent soon become the "norm" by which we do our business.  Interestingly, the focus is not on the people in the surroundings as much as the influence the surroundings can place upon us.  There is a "place" of influence in all our lives; we just need to figure out where that is!  The way of the righteous - the place of their "influence" - is like the gleam of the first dawn.  Dawn does something dusk does not.  Dusk begins to "cover over" the things we find it so hard to avoid in darkness - things which cause us to stumble and fall.  Dawn actually begins to shed light on what once was hidden - dispelling the fear of the unknown.  

Our advice today is to guard good advice - guarding your heart against the dark places, the surroundings which will only entrap and trip us up.  Really, I think God may be telling us to guard our intellect - for all action begins with thought.  We begin this process of "guarding" by testing all teaching - not all teaching is worthy of our attention, nor our embracing.  Face value is often not the "real" value of something. I learned this when I had a Canadian Grandmother who would send a new two dollar Canadian bill to me each birthday.  I thought I was rich until someone told me the "value" of the bill was about sixty cents on the dollar!  

The face value of the bill made no difference - it was what was behind the bill - the backing of the Canadian banking system and government - all those things I don't really understand. If I had just gone on thinking I possessed two dollars, I might have been sorely disappointed when I counted on it to actually fulfill some payment down the road!  Too many times we count on something we had heard in our past, laid up in our hearts, to keep us safe later on.  Truth is - if we don't test it now, before we lay it up in our heart - we might just be disappointed in its ability to fulfill something we counted on to be there at a later time.  God's truth is of great value - but many distort truth with personal opinion, making it a little "grey" in areas.  We need to remember to test all truth - not just accept what we hear at face value.

Not only are we told to guard our intellect, but the heart encompasses our emotions, as well.  Two things which trip us up and get us into the wrong surroundings, listening to the wrong people, influenced by the wrong teachings quicker than anything else - not using our intellect, and responding to our emotions!  Emotions "sway" us - they are like those branches on the weeping willow - easily swayed by the lightest winds, gently brushing back and forth at first, but quickly whipped to and fro when the winds pick up speed.  Emotions have more power over our lives than we give them credit - they influence our "whereabouts" and our "think abouts" more than we'd like to admit.  Learning to place a guard over them is critical to avoiding the places we'd do well to avoid, the influences we'd do well to not be swayed by.

Two thoughts as we close today - we need to look straight ahead and we need to mark our a straight path.  Wisdom helps here - for keeping our gaze firmly fixed on the one who designed the path will ensure we don't lose sight of the goal.  Blinders on a horse serve a purpose - to direct the focus. Instead of being influenced by the things around him, he keeps his attention on the goal.  Maybe we need some intellectual and emotional blinders - helping us to think on the things which matter and then responding to those which will help us "stay the course", rather than being "swayed" by the course.  Just sayin!