Friday, May 8, 2015

ISI 7: Wisdom and Fearing God

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
What are the best pieces of advice you have ever heard or the top mottos you try to live by?  If you could go back and offer your "younger self" some advice, what would it be?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            How many of us would like to be wise?  I’m sure all hands just went up.  Yet how many of us really know what it takes to be wise?  Here’s a hint: it’s not going to school longer or getting a better degree or reading more.  All of that is about finding more information, more knowledge. 
            But if we want to find real wisdom, there is a prerequisite, according to the Bible. 
            Psalm 111:10 says that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  If we want wisdom, we need to fear Him.  Yet how easy is it to have more fear of everything else than of Him?  At least it is for me.  I fear losing control, failing, losing our health, missing God’s Will for my life, making mistakes, etc.  I fear everything sometimes . . . except Him!

            But “the fear of the Lord” seems like such a lofty concept.  What does it look like?  How do we “do” it?  Well, that answer is found in Proverbs 2.  Verses 1-5 tell us how to go about understanding what the “fear of the Lord” is:
            “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” 
            It goes on to say that you will have wisdom, that knowledge will be pleasant to your soul, and that discretion will protect you. 

            I have to wonder, How many of us can really claim that we have “the fear of the Lord” when we look at all that is required to understand it?  Accept His Words, store up His commands in our hearts and minds, listen for wisdom, seek understanding and insight with tenacity and conviction.  And then we will know the fear of the Lord.  And that will be the beginning of true wisdom.  I think many of us would rather redefine the “fear of the Lord” as admiring and respecting Him a whole bunch. 
            I think that one thing that is critical to true wisdom and true fear of Him is immersing ourselves in the Word.  It is so crucial to a proper understanding of Him, a proper relationship with Him, and a proper fear of Him.  It’s where we find His commands, His words, and His wisdom.  It’s where we learn about who He says He is and who He says we are.  (We will get more into this in a later lesson.)              
            I fear that we, in our country, have become so familiar and comfortable with the Bible that we don’t cherish it and read it as much as we should.  We live like the Bible is optional reading in our daily Christian lives.  We don’t know the glorious, deeply satisfying feeling of hungering and thirsting for God’s Word . . . because we don’t dig deeply into it, as though we were searching for buried treasure.  Or maybe we do an equally troubling thing of dissecting the Bible and piecing together the pieces to fit what we want to hear.  Or we read it and then walk away, forget what we read, and fail to apply it.  Either way, we miss out on what God wants to tell us through it.  And we miss out on true godly wisdom. 
            What do our lazy disciplines say about us and about how we see the Lord?  Can we really claim that we fear Him if we do not want to make reading His Word a priority? 
            Of course, reading the Bible and praying and meditating on God do not, in and of themselves, earn us points or gain us wisdom or help us live in His love.  Not when we treat them as mindless rituals or items on a To Do list. 
            But the more that we pour our hearts into these things – with the goal of finding Him, not just getting more knowledge or brownie points - the more we will know His heart.  And the more that we know what He is really like (His love and His justness in proper balance), the more we will have a healthy fear of Him.  And the closer our relationship with Him will be.  It is this closeness and the passionate pursuit of Him that He wants for us.  And it’s what we need to live in the wisest, most fruitful, godly way possible. 
            In our country, I fear that we are failing at seeing God as He really is.  We are downplaying His justness and over-highlighting His love, turning Him into a mushy, weak God who winks at sin and just wants us to be happy.  And who would have any fear of or respect for a God like that?

            We think things and teach things like this . . .  
            God would never send a famine or economic distress to get our attention.
            God would never send disease to open our eyes to our bad choices and to call us to repentance.
            God would never use wars or violence to cause us to cry out to Him.
            God would never use a tornado, earthquake, or tsunami to draw our hearts back to Him.
            God is not like that.  He is a soft, squishy, feeble, all-loving, ever-forgiving God who would never dream of punishing or disciplining or causing any kind of pain for us.  He’s all about catering to our requests and pouring out His goodness on us and allowing us to live life on our own terms, because we are the center of the universe.  We are the lords of our own lives.  Aren’t we? 
            Surely, in this day and age of rampant sexual diseases, violent wars, economic recession, famines, natural disasters, devastating consequences of our choices, etc., none of this has been allowed by God (or caused by God) in order to drive us to our knees, to open our eyes to our need for Him.  God would never do that!

            Or would He? 

            Of course bad things do happen in a fallen world, because of mankind’s sin and bad choices.  So a lot of what happens might happen mostly because of us, not because God specifically allows it or causes it for a reason.  But . . .
            “I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. 
            “I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. . . People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. 
            “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew.  Locusts devoured your figs and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
            “I sent plagues among you . . . killed your young men with the sword . . . overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah . . . yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
            “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”  (Amos 4:6-12)

            We have forgotten what God is capable of.  We have shrunk Him.  We don’t fear Him anymore.  We have kicked Him off the throne.  We are fearing everything else but Him.  And we are not returning to Him.  And look at the problems it is causing in our society and world.  Are you ready to meet your God?

            “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  (Matthew 10:28) 
            “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  (Hebrews 10:31)
         

Jeremiah
            To gain a healthy fear of the Lord and to truly understand what kind of big, magnificent, powerful, just God He is, let’s look at one of the most terrifying books of the Bible: Jeremiah.
            Okay, there are other terrifying parts of the Bible, particularly when hell is talked about - being separated from God forever, eternal fire, weeping and gnashing of teeth and all that.  But Jeremiah has got to be one of the most terrifying books there is.  Because it blows our Western idea of God’s mushy love and unending patience out of the water. 
            Of course, we all know that God is love and that His love is unending.  And we know that He is incredibly patient, pursuing sinners over lifetimes and history so that He can draw as many people as possible to Him.  But we – especially in America – seem completely unaware of God’s justness.  We are all about His grace and mercy, yet we forget His wrath and discipline.  And we are taking His grace and mercy and love for granted. 
            The thing is, we want to live the way we want to live, yet be able to call out to Him when things get too rough for us.  We want Him to step in at the last minute and save us, after we have had all the ungodly fun we could have.  And we think that this is really the way God works.  That because His love is so great, He will always step in when we call out to Him, regardless of our attitude toward Him. 
            Now, let me say that, yes, He is always ready to forgive and to reach down and rescue those who sincerely call out to Him, those who genuinely turn from their sins and who open their hearts to Him.  He promises this, that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Romans 10:9-13)
            But what about those who really don’t want to turn their hearts to Him but only want to use Him as a last-minute life-preserver?  The ones who don’t want Him but only want the protection He offers?  The ones who want to continue to live in rebellion toward God yet want to be spared the consequences of doing so?
            This is how it was in Judah during Jeremiah’s time.  The people wanted to follow idols and they rebelled against God, refusing to obey Him or keep His laws.  And so God sent Jeremiah to proclaim judgment on them over and over again, to call them to repentance.  And yet they wouldn’t listen.  They continued in their stubborn ways, even surrounding themselves with lying prophets who told them what they wanted to hear.  And they thought they were godly enough.  They couldn’t imagine that there was anything that they should be punished for, so they brushed off Jeremiah’s warnings. 
            Besides, they could always call on God last minute to come save them, to spare them from some terrible consequences, no matter how they lived or rebelled, right?  After all, isn’t He a soft, mushy God who is so loving that He will always jump in and rescue them from anything bad happening?  Isn’t He so patient that He waits around for years for people to call out to Him in their time of distress, just so He can reach down and make everything all better?  Doesn’t He overlook any and all offenses because His love is so great and because He is all about mercy and grace?  He never punishes or lets people get what they deserve because He is all about the love.  Right?

            Jeremiah 7:16: (God says to Jeremiah . . .)  “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you.” 
            Jeremiah 9:13-16:  “The Lord said, ‘It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law.  Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts . . .’  Therefore, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I will make this people eat bitter food and drink poisoned water.  I will scatter them among the nations that neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will pursue them with the sword until I have destroyed them.’”     
            Jeremiah 11: 14:  (God says to Jeremiah . . .)  “Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.” 
            Jeremiah 21:4-10:  “’This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands . . . I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in anger and fury and great wrath.  I will strike down those who live in this city – both men and animals – and they will die of a terrible plague.  After that, declares the Lord, I will hand over [those people] who survive the plague, sword and famine, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to the enemies who seek their lives.  He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion.’ . . . ‘I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.  Whoever stays in this city will die by sword, famine or plague.  But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; he will escape with his life.  I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord.’”  
 
            Amazing!  Freakin’ terrifying!  This should sober us greatly.  It should hit us to the very core.  Could you imagine not only facing the horrors of this lifetime – war, disease, famine, violence, natural disasters, etc. – but also knowing that you have no one to go to for help, that the very God of the universe has turned His back on you in His justness and is refusing to listen to your cry for help, that you have fallen into the hands of the living God!?!  To whom can you go then, when God Himself has decreed these punishments?
            In America, we are so used to getting what we want, when we want.  We live with abundant blessings and we take them for granted, believing that we deserve them and that they will always be there.  We believe that it’s all about us.  We are self-centered, spoiled diaper-babies.  And we have forgotten God.
            Actually, we haven’t just forgotten Him.  We have asked Him to get out of our country in many, many ways.  We want to take His name out of the Pledge of Allegiance, out of the national “In God We Trust” motto, and out of Christmas, changing it to the less offensive “Happy Holidays.”  We want to remove Bibles and erase references to Him from government buildings, schools, and public places.  We want to trim back the freedom of speech so that Christians can’t live and act according to their faith too much.  Because it offends people who don’t believe in God.
            We live the way we want, refusing to acknowledge God as Creator and refusing to follow His ways as laid out in the Bible.  We are much too concerned with enjoying our little lives to worry about what He has to say.  And we don’t want anyone else to challenge our choices and behaviors.  We don’t want to hear anything defined as “sin” or to hear “not all roads lead to heaven” because that sounds offensive and judgmental. 
            We have our own idols of money and success and pleasure and self.  And that’s all we want.  And even as Christians, we have our own ideas of God and how He is here to serve us and give us good things and keep bad things from happening to us, and how we can tuck Him away in a little box and put Him on a shelf until we want Him.  (And so we ignore Him during the good times and we claim credit for the good things, but we blame Him when things go wrong!) 
            We overemphasize His soft, mushy love and His unending patience, yet we fail to live in holy fear of His justness and holiness.  And so if the time should ever come that we face persecution and trials – famine, war, disease, etc. – surely God will reach down and rescue us, right?  Because we asked Him to?  A tender, gentle, loving God would never allow bad things to happen to us.  Right?
            But what if the last-minute, fail-safe, rescue plan doesn’t work?  What if the One you counted on to save you from the consequences of your rebellion refuses to help?  What if the God of the universe is the very One fighting against you, instead of coming to your rescue like you thought He would?  What if we pushed Him too far, and now He has decided to respond out of His justness instead of His patient, unending love and mercy? 
            Let’s update Judah’s punishment a little.  What if, here in America, God decided to let Ebola run loose?  (I am not saying God is using that as a punishment in Africa, but what if He decides to use it as a punishment in America?)  Imagine that Ebola and terrorists have descended on America, wiping out thousands with disease and violence.  And then throw in some famine, when all of our crops fail and we cannot produce food for ourselves.  And then, after all this, the survivors are taken by the terrorists, removed from America and forced to live as slaves. 
            And God Himself turns a deaf ear to our cries. . . because we have asked Him to get out of our country . . . because we have turned our backs on Him, pushing Him away with our continued rebellion and self-worship . . . because He has decided to do us harm and not good, as discipline and punishment . . . because we have taken His love and patience for granted for too long, smugly brushing it aside.  Because we have no fear of Him anymore.  What if? 
            Can you think of any more terrifying scenario than to know that God Himself has turned His face from you, that He would refuse to listen to your cries for mercy, that you have no one to turn to at a time like that? 

            Actually, I think there is one thing that is more horrifying than that.  And that would be for God to let us continue in our rebellion, disobedience, and hard-heartedness so that we never seek Him or turn toward Him in repentance.  Happily, self-gratifyingly, and ignorantly skipping our way straight to hell. 
            This is why God has given us His Word and the examples we find in Scripture: to learn from, to find Truth, to guide us, and to call us to Him.  And the wise take this seriously.  Let us never forget that God is a holy God, with a keen sense of justice as well as an unending, patient, unconditional love. 
            And you know the most amazing thing about our God, the One who could destroy rebellious nations in His wrath? 
            Jeremiah 5:1:  “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares.  If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.”
            The same God who pours out wrath is the One who will forgive a whole ungodly city for one righteous person.  This love should never be taken for granted, ignoring it while we live the way we want.  But it should make us fall on our knees in thankfulness and want to know Him more.  It should make us want to live a more honoring life for Him.  It should make us pursue godly righteousness.  It should develop in us a healthy respect, awe, and fear.  Because that is some amazing love!  How could we continue to live in rebellion or apathy toward a love as great and patient as that?  There is no excuse!  And at some point, there may be no One to call on to save us from the consequences of our rebellion. 
 
            “Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men.”  (Psalm 12:1)
 
             “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”  (Isaiah 55:6)          

            “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  (2 Chronicles 16:9) 

            “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14-15) 


Asking for Wisdom
            Earlier, I pointed out how the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  There is another aspect to wisdom that I want to look at for a moment.  A more practical aspect.
            James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” 
            Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” 
            Isaiah 48: 17:  “This is what the Lord says . . .’I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.’“  
            When I face a hard decision and I am not sure what the Lord wants me to do, it is all-too-easy to panic, to fear that I will miss “His Will.”  But God’s Word says that He will give us wisdom if we ask.  He said that He will make our paths straight if we trust Him with all of our heart and acknowledge Him in all our ways.  And He said that He will tell us the way to go.  We just have to listen.   
            He promised to do these things.  And I think having a proper fear of Him means that we believe Him and His promises, that we take Him at His Word when He says He will make our paths straight as long as we are doing our part.  It means that we trust that He is a good, loving, wise Father who will guide us and care for us and work all things out for good. 
            A healthy fear of Him will also lead us to become more concerned with righteousness, obedience, and glorifying Him than we are with fulfilling our wants and meeting our “needs” and planning the future.  Because we trust Him. 
            I think our fear of Him is tied to our ability to trust Him.  The one affects the other and vice versa.  How can we have a healthy fear of Him if we don’t’ trust Him?  How can we trust Him if we don’t see Him for the powerful and magnificent God that He really is, if we don’t have a healthy respect and awe for Him? 
            But if we really know Him and have learned to trust Him and are walking with Him, we don’t have to be afraid that He will let us down, that He won’t straighten out our paths or give us the wisdom we need.  We don’t have to be afraid that we won’t hear Him, because He has promised to lead us.  As long as we are doing our part – seeking righteousness, walking in obedience, praying, abiding in God’s Word - we can trust that He will faithfully come through loud and clear when the time is right.  (And this will be especially helpful during those long waits and long trials when we are waiting on Him and not sure what to do next.)
            I tend to panic a lot when I need guidance from God and He doesn’t seem to be answering.  I worry that I will miss His guidance, that I will fail to hear His leading. 
            But over time, I have learned that if I do not yet have a sense of the next step God wants me to take - if it is still unclear - then He hasn’t yet revealed it.  Because when He does, it will be clear.  I won’t have to wonder.  So if I am still wondering and unsure, then I know I need to wait some more, until it is clear.  I am learning that when He says He will give me wisdom, He means it.  I just need to relax and trust Him more.  
 
            Wisdom is tied to our fear of God.  Which is tied to our trust of God.  Which is tied to how well we know God as He really is, instead of just our own ideas of Him.  Which is tied to whether we abide in the Word or not.    

            “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”  (Proverbs 2:1-5)

            Psalm 147: 11:  “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

            So how many of us would like to be wise?  Are we willing to put in the necessary effort and time to find wisdom, to understand the fear of the Lord?  Are we willing to open our eyes to who God really is, to really find Him in the pages of the Bible, and to fall down on our faces before Him in humility? 

            Or would we rather substitute knowledge for wisdom?  After all, knowledge is much easier to gain. 
            Would we rather substitute our own wisdom for godly wisdom?  Because we are pretty great Christians who know the Bible and know what we’re doing. 
            Would we rather think of God as soft and mushy instead of holy and just?  Because a holy and just God is a scary God and we don’t want to have to change the way we live. 
            Would we rather substitute serving the Lord for the fear of the Lord?  Because serving is easier and more obvious. 
 
            “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  
            Do we really understand what this means? 

 
Questions:
1.  Does this topic trigger any thoughts or questions you want to share?  Any other Bible verses? 

2.  What does “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” mean?

3.  Discuss this verse.  Look at each part and discuss what it means and how we can do it?  How do you think wisdom is tied to fearing God?
            “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”  (Proverbs 2:1-5)
         
4.  How do people and a country act when they have no fear of the Lord?  Why might someone have no fear of the Lord?   

5.  What does an unhealthy fear of the Lord look like?  What causes it?  And how does it affect our lives and our faith?

6.  What does a healthy fear of the Lord look like?  How do we get it?  And how does it affect our lives and our faith? 

7.  Do you think God’s Word is critical to a proper fear of Him?  What makes you say this?  For those who do not have access to God’s Word, how would it be different for them?
            [My answer: I do think God’s Word is critical to a proper fear of Him.  Of course, there are countries that don’t have the Word, and they have to relate to Him out of the knowledge of Him that is found in nature and in their hearts.  And they are relying on those of us who have the Word to get it to them. 
            But we in America have the Word, and we are mistreating it.  We are cutting out what we don’t like, twisting other passages to say what we want them to say, questioning its validity, and “graying up” areas that are black and white.  We are abusing God’s Word.  And in the process, we are destroying and undermining our spiritual understanding, foundation, and growth.   
            I think that if we do not accept the Bible as God’s Word to us – if we act like it’s outdated, invalid, or optional – then we will not have a proper understanding of Him and of ourselves.  And if we do not have a proper, biblical understanding of Him and ourselves, we will not have a proper relationship with Him, respect for Him, or fear of Him. 
            Once you throw out the Word, anything goes.  Then we have people making God into whatever they want Him to be and deciding for themselves how we get into heaven.  Lies and half-truths are so easy to believe and spread when we do not have anything to measure them against. 
            The way I see it, God’s Word is the measuring stick that we judge all other ideas and “truths” by.  Without it, we will be lost and way off track.  But we won’t even know how far off track unless we get back into the Word, accepting it as God’s eternal message to us.
            As we grow in our understanding and knowledge of what God’s Word says – of who God is and who we are and what God asks of us – we will gain wisdom, begin to fear Him properly, be able to understand His love and justness, and we will begin to humble ourselves before Him.  I think it is nearly impossible to have a truly humbled heart if we mistreat, ignore, or invalidate God’s Word.] 

8.  What do “lazy spiritual disciplines” say about our view of God and our relationship with Him?  On the flip side, could there be anything wrong about super-strong disciplines?  What are the pitfalls of each?  And what should be the reasons for our praying and Bible reading?
            [Lazy disciplines say that we take God lightly, that we do not know Him in the very depths of our heart.  Because we need the Word to really get to know Him.  And if we really have gotten to know His love and holiness – if we let His love flood all parts of our hearts – we will not want to be apart from Him for long.  We will hunger and thirst for meeting Him in prayer and in His Word.  
            But super-strong, legalistic, ritualistic disciplines – the kind we do out of fear or to check off items on our giant “To Do” list or to earn brownie points with God – are not healthy either.  Usually, we do these because we haven’t gotten to know Him as a loving, personal, forgiving God.  We haven’t really gotten in touch with His grace.  We don’t understand that He wants to have a genuine, real, two-way relationship with us.  We try to diligently serve Him to earn His attention or love or forgiveness or whatever.  Or to work our way to heaven.  Because we have never been able to accept His love and forgiveness and mercy and grace for what they are, free gifts that are already available to us, just waiting for us to reach out and grab.  Working our way to heaven is what “religion” is about.  But Christianity is about relating to God and humbly accepting His free gifts because we know that we can never earn them ourselves.
            Spiritual disciplines should not be about trying to earn anything from God.  They are about having a relationship with Him.  We do not read the Bible or pray to earn brownie points, check of a “To Do” item, or to make Him happier with us.  We read the Bible and pray to get to know Him better and to let Him into our lives and hearts and minds daily.  It’s not like doing chores to please an evil step-mother in some fairy tale.  It’s like spending time with a family member you love because you want to spend time with them, to get to know them better, and to be a part of each other’s lives.]
      
9.  Do you think most Christians today have a proper fear of the Lord?  What makes you think this?

10.  What kinds of things get in the way of a healthy fear of the Lord?

11.  In our country, I fear that we are failing at seeing God as He really is.  We are downplaying His justness and over-highlighting His love, turning Him into a mushy, weak God who winks at sin and just wants us to be happy.  And who would have any fear of or respect for a God like that?” 
            What do you think the general view of God is in our society: soft and mushy, or harsh and punishing, or holy and just yet merciful and loving?  Where might we be going wrong in our thinking?  And what effect is it having on us and our churches and our country?  (How about for you personally?)

12.  Discuss these verses and the effects they should have on us:
            “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  (Matthew 10:28) 
            “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  (Hebrews 10:31)

13.  Is God still active in the world, sending punishments and consequences to wake people up, to draw them back to Him?  What kinds of things might He do to get our attention, in our country and in our individual lives?  Can you think of examples?

14.  Are all bad things directly from Him?  What else might cause bad things to happen? 

15.  After some disasters, you might hear a preacher telling a city that was destroyed, “God sent that disaster as a punishment for your sins”?  Can we make proclamations like that?  What is a good, balanced way to view God’s activity in the world and the bad things that happen?

16.  What might happen if God is trying to get our attention and we ignore Him for too long, as individuals or as a country?  Examples?

17.  Not only is God a just and holy God (which is a major reason to have a proper fear of Him), but He is also a merciful God.  What does this mean?  How does knowing He is just and yet still merciful factor into a healthy fear of Him?  How might we have a hard time assimilating the two? 

18.  Imagine if Hitler became saved just before his death and yet one of our closest, nicest, moral, atheist friends (or family members) never accepted Jesus before they died?  How might most non-Christians feel about this?  How do you yourself feel about something like this?  How would the Bible address something like this in relation to God’s justice and mercy and grace?

19.  Speaking of being moral, is it possible to truly be moral yet have no belief in God?  Or is morality intrinsically tied to God and His standards?  And how does mankind’s idea of morality differ from God’s?  How is it similar?

20.  Why is “subjective morality” appealing (the idea that we get to define morality based on what we believe and how we feel)?  What are some of the problems related to it?  How does the world feel about “objective morality” (the idea that morality is based on God and His standards and they cannot be changed)?  What are some problems related to that?  And when do we run into conflicts between these two mindsets?  How can we handle it?  Examples? 

21.  Most people want to believe that as long as someone was a good person, they will go to heaven when they die.  What is wrong with this way of thinking? 
            And after someone has died, we usually comfort their loved ones by saying things like, “They have gone to a better place” or “They are in heaven now,” even if they were not a Christian.  Is this something we should be saying?  If not, why not?  And what could we say instead, especially if we are asked if we think they are in heaven?  

22.  “In America, we are so used to getting what we want, when we want.  We live with abundant blessings and we take them for granted, believing that we deserve them and that they will always be there.  We believe that it’s all about us.  We are self-centered, spoiled diaper-babies.  And we have forgotten God.  Actually, we haven’t just forgotten Him.  We have asked Him to get out of our country in many, many ways.”
            What other things show that our country (or your country) is ignoring God or taking Him for granted?  In what other ways have we as Christians or a country shunned God, turned our backs on Him, or mocked Him?  What have been some consequences of this and what are possible future consequences?  What can Christians do about it?  What can you?

23.  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14-15) 
            This is fast becoming one of my favorite, most convicting verses.  What do you think about it and how does it affect you?

24.  Do most of us substitute knowledge for wisdom?  If so, how and why?
            [Knowledge is about gaining information.  Wisdom is about gaining the knowledge that really matters and applying it and living it out.  We highly value information today.  The internet testifies to that.  Yet for all the knowledge and information that we have, is life becoming better for people?  Are we making great, wonderful changes with how we apply that knowledge?  Are we working for the things that really matter and that will last?  Or as we still just as lost and just seeking more information for the sake of having it?  It’s amazing how much useless information is out there.  And it’s sad how few of us seek and apply godly wisdom.  Our country would be a lot different if all of us who claimed to believe in and love God really lived like it.]

25.  Do we often substitute our own wisdom for godly wisdom?  If so, why do we do this and how does it affect our lives and our relationship with God?  Any examples from your own life?
            [Our society values independence and personal wisdom and open-minded people who let everyone make up their own mind.  And so it is easy to get puffed up with pride, to over-value ourselves, and to make ourselves into our own little gods.  Because others admire that and society encourages it. 
            But true wisdom is godly wisdom.  It’s laying aside what we think and seeking to know what God says about things.  It’s modeling our lives after God’s Word, God’s ways, and Jesus’ example.  And Jesus’s example was one of being a humble servant, of doing only what the Father told Him to do, and of sacrificing Himself for the kingdom.  You won’t find this kind of wisdom in the world.  You find it in God’s Word.  But many of us would rather elevate ourselves and show off how smart we are than humble ourselves and become a servant working for God’s kingdom. 
            So, yes, I think a lot of us substitute our own wisdom for godly wisdom.  And if we do this, we will miss out on the best, most God-glorifying life possible, and we will not have the kind of impact on eternity that we should have.  Let’s not waste this life living in our own puny wisdom and working for things that won’t last.]
   
26.  Would most of us rather serve the Lord than fear the Lord (doing all that is required in the Proverbs 2 passage)?  What else might we do instead of “fearing Him”?
            [I think many of us settle for serving the Lord instead of living out the Proverbs 2 passage.  It is so much easier to just serve than it is to change your heart and diligently seek a deeper relationship with God.  It is easier to mindlessly read a Bible passage than it is to meditate on it and see how to apply it to your life.  It’s easier to join the choir or help in the nursery than it is to search your heart for anything that might be interfering with a deep, genuine relationship with God.  It’s easier to speak about the Bible’s truths than it is to live them and apply them to your life.  It’s easier to lead a Sunday School class or to serve on the church board than it is to humble yourself before God.  But God knows our motives and our hearts and why we do what we do.  And He is calling us to draw nearer to Him, to purify our hearts, to humble ourselves, and to let His love and truth heal us.  Will we listen?  Or will we keep doing the easier things?]   

27.  James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”    
            What do you think this verse means and how should it affect our lives, our faith, and our trust in God?

28.  What kinds of things should we be seeking God’s wisdom about?  How can we do this?  Do you have examples from your own life when you did seek His wisdom or when you failed to seek His wisdom?

29.  “Wisdom is tied to our fear of God.  Which is tied to our trust of God.  Which is tied to how well we know God as He really is, instead of just our own ideas of Him.  Which is tied to whether we abide in the Word or not.”
            Do you think this is accurate?  If so, how do all these things interact with each other?  If not, what would you change or add to it?    

30.  Can you see any of what we talked about in your own life?

31.  How might God be challenging you about this topic?

32.  Are there any other thoughts or questions you want to add?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 

 

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A place for you to share your thoughts and to encourage each other. But please understand that as a busy homeschooling mom who is seldomly on-line, I may not be able to reply to most comments. But I will be reading them as I can and praying for you. Thank you for your comments! Please keep them godly and uplifting, as I will delete any that are mean or ungodly. I intend for this to be a safe place where people feel encouraged and respected.