Monday, June 24, 2013

Wise Guys

I’ve been praying through the Psalms for the last several months and had such a good time that I thought I’d go for the Proverbs too.  So that’s what I’m doing in my daily devotions: praying through Proverbs, one chapter a day.  As I was praying through chapter 4 last Friday, I felt compelled to give God thanks for the wise people He has put in my life across the years.  Those people never said much.  I doubt they considered themselves all that wise.  And I’m not sure they had a clue some word they said to me would be just the wisdom I needed at the time.  But that’s the way God has worked wise people into my life.  And what a blessing!

You want to hear something funny?  Not three hours after praying through Proverbs 4 and thanking God for putting wise people in my life, God did it again.  We were having a party at our house on Friday night, and I needed to borrow about ten chairs and a six-foot table from the church to provide adequate sitting for our meal.  I got the chairs loaded, but had a hard time with the table.  I drive an Equinox.  It has a hatch, but I couldn’t get the table in deep enough to close the hatch all the way.  No problem, right?  I’d hauled a few other times with the hatch ajar.  So I pulled out of the church parking lot and turned down Central (the busiest street in our city).  I didn’t make it 200 feet till the hatch flew up and the table flew out.  Thankfully, one of our church members, Gary Brown, was behind me.  He stopped, preventing an accident.  And by the time I got back to the scene, Gary had moved the table off the street.  Dang, that’s a sturdy table—not a scratch on it (this is in case the church property committee reads this).  No, really, not a scratch.  Gary followed me to my car.  I said, “You know, I wish they made the Equinox about four inches longer.”  And Gary said, “Did you try to move your front seats up?”

“Uh … no.”

“Let’s move your front seat forward.”

He did and miracle of miracles, it fit right in there.  I felt like an idiot.  I said, “Gary, God gave me some smarts in some things, but I’m a total bust on things mechanical.”  I needed Gary’s wisdom in that moment, and God provided it.  And he didn’t even treat me like the idiot I was.  I suspect he just had pity.

But God has always done stuff like that for me—put people with wisdom I need in the right place at the right time.  These things aren’t coincidences; these things are providence.  And across the years I’ve held on to those tidbits of wisdom people have provided me along the way.  Some of them have been face to face; some of them have been in books.

“Let’s move your front seat forward.”  Now, I can’t wait to find something to haul just to look smart for a change.

“Things are never as bad as they seem or as good as they seem.”  Has always helped me keep perspective.

“A woman doesn’t want you to fix her problems; she just wants you to listen.”  Still trying to get that one down.

“Pick your battles carefully.”  This helps in parenting, marriage, pastoring, and most everything else.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.”  This helps me measure my words.  I should pay more attention to this bit of wisdom.

“You’re here now.”  Years ago, when I was agonizing over my move to Hot Springs, a friend said those three words (well, four not counting the contraction) and God used that to settle my heart.  In just the past few months, this bit of wisdom was amplified for me when I read Jim Eliot’s words, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  For someone like me whose mind is often in the clouds, I really need to remember this.

“When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.”  Sorry about that.  That’s from Larry the Cable Guy and I just think it’s funny … and sometimes even true.

“Believe half the criticism and half the praise and you’ll stay on an even keel.”  This helps me stay humble yet confident.

“The difference between just any word and the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”  Mark Twain said that.  He should know.  He was pretty good with words.  I think about that a lot as I preach and teach.  Twain also offered these wise words, “When angry, count to ten.  When very angry, cuss.”  Well, maybe there are wiser ways to respond to one’s anger.

“A pastor needs the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros.”  J. H. Jowett said that. and man, is it both wise and true.

I could go on.  I could quote any number of Proverbs or even some of the sayings of Jesus.  After all, Proverbs affirms more than once that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  One of the great things about God is that when we reverence Him and listen for His voice, He can drop a little wisdom on us from any number of sources.  Socrates regarded himself as the wisest man in Athens because he alone knew how little he knew.  Socrates was on to something there.  An awareness of what we don’t know keeps us open to learn, open to profit from and appreciate the wisdom God gives us through others.

I’ve shared a few wisdom bites that have been good for me?  What is one of your favorite bits of wisdom you’ve gathered along the way?


  1. Love God and spend a lot of time with Him.
    Love people (even when it's hard and even when they don't love you back) and be there for them.
    Be yourself.
    Orient people to Christ.
    Remember the church belongs to Christ and not to you.
    Be willing to admit your weaknesses and major on your strengths.
    Preach to both heart and mind; preach from both heart and mind.
    Don't neglect your family.
    Work hard.
    Be a servant, not a master.
    Trust God to provide for your needs.
    Be an example to the flock.
    Be grateful for wherever God puts you and don't always be looking to move to greener pastures. (“If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, try watering your own.”)
    Don't let the disappointments get you down for long.
    Remember God works for good in all things.
    Remember that things are never as bad or as good as they seem.
    God is in control.
    You are not indispensable, so be humble.
    Find friends in the congregation lest you become a lone ranger.
    Keep reading and learning every day of your life.
    And have fun.
    ~Taken from an interview with John McCallum

  2. When struggling with a decision one of my young adult children made, a wise friend said "you can't give your children your experience". I have always remembered this. I still try from time to time, but they have to learn from their own mistakes.

  3. "Someone" I know told a story about working in a pizza parlor on a busy, rainy afternoon and learning he just needed "to get on with it" instead of complaining about it.... I've carried that one with me for many years and Barry and I still mention it from time to time...

  4. Thanks for playing along, Dave, Linda, and Kandy. I know that "someone," Kandy. And Dave, you embarrass me a little, but thanks.

  5. "Don't milk a cow in the thunder and lightning - you'll get left holding the bag." Not sure that it's applicable anywhere, but it always seemed to be sage advice.

  6. Not sure where I got this, but I've used it: There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

  7. Both Jeremiah29:11 and Philippines 4:8 mean the world to a worry girl like me. With God in the center of my life now those worries go away faster! Peace to ya John!

  8. *Phillipians silly auto correct lol