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Thursday, October 22, 2015

I couldn't - could I?

It is one thing to "know" and another thing entirely to "obey".  One is having an acquaintance with what is expected - the other is actually putting what you know is expected into action so it influences your actions.  There are a tremendous many people who go through life "knowing" all kinds of standards, but then walking by an entirely different set of standards.  In my office I have a little plaque which reads: "Every time you walk by the violation of a standard, you set a new standard."  I think this is so very true in every area of our lives - whether it is spiritually, in relationships, or financially.  We go about setting all kinds of "new standards" in life, sometimes without any real effort or intent - it just happens because we don't stop long enough to think about what we are saying, doing, or responding to in the way of "feelings" or "emotion". The last time you spoke a little "harsher" than you wanted to - did you give that one much thought?  The last time you compromised on your diet - did you really think about the effort it would take to do away with those extra calories consumed?  The last time you just blindly did something - did you really stop to consider the consequences of just doing something without knowing a little more about it?  We can all probably answer one or more of these questions with a resounding "no".  Why?  We ALL have moments when we "know", but we don't follow what we "know".

My child, you must follow and treasure my teachings and my instructions. Keep in tune with wisdom and think what it means to have common sense. Beg as loud as you can for good common sense. Search for wisdom as you would search for silver or hidden treasure. Then you will understand what it means to respect and to know the Lord God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 CEV)

Following begins with treasuring - what we value enough, we begin to pursue.  I believe God created us to give first, save second, and then to be able to live on the rest.  At regular intervals, I re-evaluate where I am with these three principles.  Am I maintaining a giving practice that reflects not only what I can "comfortably" give, but what I know God has called me to give?  Am I learning to give of my finances, time, energies, talents, and the like - or am I withholding / resisting in one or more of these areas?  Am I consistently putting a little away for those unexpected expenses, emergencies, and the future needs of my household? Am I living within my means, or constantly extending my "means" by using credit?  These are questions which help me to clarify what I know to see if I am putting the right value on what I know so it influences what I am doing with what it is I have been given in life.  We learn to treasure God's teachings and instructions when we first place our trust in them as truth, then lean into practicing them until we come to value them as the standard by which we should conduct ourselves with consistency.

Common sense if practical wisdom - we don't walk on wobbly bridges because we know their structure will eventually find a breaking point and we don't want to be there when it does! Wisdom is the application of knowledge - whether we gain it through study or common sense decisions.  When we apply what we know, we are learning to trust truth. Common sense is sometimes quite underestimated for value or worth in our lives - thinking instead that we need some "word from heaven" or "deeper spiritual truth" in order to make some of the decisions in life we are faced with.  The "truth" is that God gave each of us something called "conscience" to help guide our common sense and he gave us the capacity to learn so that we could develop common sense.  The first time I burnt myself on some hot object didn't require me to repeatedly put my finger back on that object to see if what I was experiencing in the way of the scorching pain radiating through my finger was "real" or "reliable".  I simply trust that each time something is hot, it has the potential of burning me!

There are times I think we avoid what we don't trust and we don't trust something because we either don't listen to the "niggling" of our common sense, or we are just too lazy to test it out to see if it is truth and reliable.  This is often the case when God asks us to do something, especially as it comes to exploring what he has said in scripture.  It isn't that we don't trust that God's Word is real and reliable - it is that we don't trust we will be able to "get it" or understand what it contains, so we just ignore the study of it because we think it is too hard and we will never be able to "get it".  If we approach the study of God's Word simply with our common sense guiding us, we learn there are lots of things within the pages of scripture which will ring true and become guidance for our lives.  We don't need some super-spiritual knowledge in order to "get it" - it is based on good common sense.  Maybe this is why our writer tells us to beg for good common sense!  It is the beginning of wisdom in our lives to use the common sense we are given to explore the deeper truths we will come to appreciate as "deeper wisdom" later on in our lives.

My daughter tells me she went to the doctor a week or so ago, stepped on the scale as we all are required to do, then heard the girl tell her she weighed about ten pounds more than what she believed to be her true weight.  Now, common sense would say, "Please reweigh me - I don't think that is correct because my scale says something else."  Common sense would look at the little sliding counter weights on the scale and see they weren't fully engaged in the little slots created for them.  Common sense wouldn't just accept the heavier weight and walk away believing it could not be challenged.  Sometimes common sense causes us to "challenge" things which others believe to be true - because of common sense, we see the stated facts just don't add up.  It is never wrong to question something which doesn't lend itself to the test of "good common sense".  It IS wrong to rely solely upon what we hear or see without putting it to the test.  While common sense may be a good place to BEGIN our determination of whether something is reliable, truthful, sound, etc., it is not the end all. I think the term "COMMON sense" should give us a little hint there!

What comes to be trusted as "common" knowledge may not always be truth.  We always need to balance common knowledge with the deeper truths discovered because we have a deep and intimate relationship with the one who is ALL truth.  In so doing, we may just discover what we have common to trust as "common" may not be all that trustworthy.  A stove isn't always hot - is it?  A bridge isn't always wobbly - is it?  A frozen lake isn't always frozen solid - is it?  What we see and what we come to trust as truth are two entirely different things.  We need to "marry" common sense (the ability to figure things out in the power and reasoning of our own minds based on the knowledge we have developed) and the wisdom God gives which guides our responses in life.  Maybe what we learn through the power of reasoning and listening to the tiny "niggling" in our gut is "common", but when we see into the depths of a man's heart and begin to speak healing into the damaged places therein, this is wisdom and wisdom is love.  God is all about us learning his love - and his love is revealed first in the person of his Son and in the words we have been left with to guide us in our walk!  Just sayin!