Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Surface Knowledge

A few years ago I wrote an essay on “The Trivium in Biblical Perspective,” which shows the relationship between the classical model of education [grammar, logic and rhetoric], and the original biblical model [knowledge, understanding and wisdom]. This is an addendum to that essay.

Most everyone can see what’s floating on the surface; it’s plain and obvious. It might be beautiful or ugly, or it might be true or false, but there it is for all to see and to make initial judgments. That’s the nature of surface knowledge. Sometimes things are as they appear to be, but not always. For understanding we’ll have to look below the surface; dig deeper, peer behind the façade, and pull back the veneer. Understanding requires that we gather information that might not have been available at first. (Most people and things are more complicated than we first imagined). We need to know some history and philosophy along with motives and structure. What are the foundations like? What’s holding this together? How does it work? Can we count on it? Is it what it appears to be on the surface? These, and perhaps a thousand other questions, will need answers if we’re to draw sound conclusions about the person or thing under consideration. We need to confirm or deny our first impressions and this can only be done as we see how all the parts fit and function together. What makes this thing tick? Until we have done this―until we can accurately answer these kinds of questions―our knowledge remains superficial and unreliable.

Wisdom takes this to a deeper level. Having assembled considerable knowledge and applied sufficient understanding, now we’ll need to make decisions and applications. In order to do this well, we’ll have to weigh a broad range of considerations. Much is riding on whether we have the actual truth about a thing or only what appears to be the truth. Most résumés look good―check the references. There are more than a few failed engineering projects as well as failed businesses and failed relationships that are the result of these kinds of miscalculations. We’ve all learned many things the hard way. It’s much better to think longer, harder and deeper in order to be as sure as possible that we’re making wise choices and decisions. Some matters are weightier than others, and therefore the cost of getting it wrong varies. Getting it right or getting it wrong both carry real consequences (personally and corporately). Wisdom calls for inference and projections; it considers the past, present and future, remembering that few things (if any) are isolated (we do live in a universe). The political world is littered with innumerable examples of “unintended consequences,” (some of them were even well-intentioned”).

Sometimes we see the surface and presume that we have understanding and wisdom. Every two-year-old thinks he knows what he needs to know, and every teenager is certain that he does. Parents are simply obstacles. We have all acted on surface knowledge alone (sometimes we have no choice). Thankfully, surface knowledge is often sufficient since we don’t always have the time to dig deeper. On the other hand, we’ve also acted foolishly by being too hasty in our judgments. We all have regrets. If we keep on acting foolishly, the Bible would describe us as a “fool.” In the Book of Proverbs the man of wisdom is set over against the fool. The wise man knows how to dig deep and how to gather understanding; he’s not in a hurry. He looks to the past, and then looks to the future, before crossing the street today.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Christin's Quote Book

  • “A halo only has to fall a few inches to be a noose.” ―Anonymous
  • “Never let yesterday use up too much of today.” ―Will Rogers
  • “To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” ―Mark Twain
  • “I promise to keep on living as though I expected to live forever. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up wrinkles the soul.” ―Douglas MacArthur
  • “Keep on truckin’.―Robert Crumb

Monday, February 20, 2012

Christin's Quote Book

  • “It is extraordinary how extraordinary the ordinary person is.” ―George F. Will
  • “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” ―G.K. Chesterton
  • “This is the first test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible value to him.” ―William Lyon Phelps
  • “People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.” ―St. Augustine
  • “”Never feel self-pity, the most destructive emotion there is. How awful to be caught up in the terrible squirrel cage of self.” ―Millicent Fenwick

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Work With This

Family Budget
Annual Income:                $  24,700.00
Annual Spending:              $  37,900.00
New Credit Card Debt:       $  13,300.00
Existing Credit Card Debt:   $153,500.00
Recent Belt-tightening:     $       385.00

Federal Budget
Tax Revenue:           $  2,470,000,000.00
Federal Spending:     $  3,790,000,000.00
New Debt:               $  1,330,000,000.00
National Debt:         $153,500,000,000.00
Recent Cuts:           $       38,500,000.00

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I could say this privately, but then it seems like too much of a whisper when, in fact, trumpet fanfare is far more appropriate. When a man has something so rich, so valuable, something worth far more than rubies (especially when it’s so undeserved), he wants to show it off to the world. I confess that I have grown so accustom to this gift that I sometimes take it for granted and forget to show my deep gratitude for my amazing, faithful, diligent and loving wife. Thank you Marinell; you have filled forty of my fifty-six years with the greatest gift a man can have. Thank you Lord, for the woman that has graced my life.

Christin's Quote Book

  • “The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn,” ―David Russell
  • “The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and to watch someone else do it wrong, without comment.” ―T. H. White
  • “Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity, they seem more afraid of life than death.” ―James F. Byrnes
  • “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened.” ―Sir Winston Churchill
  • “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” ―John R. Wooden

Monday, February 13, 2012

Closing the Deal (part 5 of 5)

God’s word requires that Christians should strive earnestly to live at peace with one another (Matt. 5:9; John 17:20-23; Rom. 12:18; Eph. 4:1-3) and that when disputes arise, we should resolve them according to the principles set forth in Scripture (Pr. 19:11; Matt.5:23-25; 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 6:1-8; Gal. 6:1). These commands and principles are obligatory on all Christians and absolutely essential for the well-being and work of the church and broader Christian community. Therefore, when we have a conflict with a fellow Christian or when we are concerned about the behavior of another person, we must attempt to resolve the matter as follows: 

1. The offended or concerned person shall prayerfully examine himself and take responsibility for his contribution to a problem (Matt. 7:3-5), and he shall prayerfully seek to discern whether the offense is so serious that it cannot be overlooked (Pr. 19:11; 12:16; 15:18; 17:14; 20:3; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:13; 1 Peter 4:8). 

2. If the offense is too serious to overlook, the offended or concerned person shall go, repeatedly if necessary, and talk to the offender in an effort to resolve the matter personally and privately, having first confessed his own wrongdoing (Matt. 18:15). 

3. If the offender will not listen and if the problem is too serious to be overlooked, the offended or concerned person shall return with one or two other people who will attempt to help the parties resolve their differences (Matt.18:16); these other people may be members or officers of the church, other respected Christians in the community.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Big Deal (part 4 of 5)

Everyone will face some big deals, so it would be wise for us to prepare for them so that we will know what to do when they show up on our doorstep. Some emergency preparedness now will serve us well later. Big deals stir us up and when we’re stirred, we’re not always wise or godly. “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). Now there’s step number one, two and three.

Sin is ugly and destructive. The bigger the sin, or the multitude of sins, can be hideous and overwhelming. Unchecked sin maims and kills. It can do this to bodies and to relationships. These are real emergencies that will call for the highest spiritual skills, which begin with a firm commitment to trust and obey the Lord. He has spoken to us in His word, and we have pledged ourselves by oath (i.e., our baptism) to follow Him wherever He leads us. “Not my will, by Yours will be done.” Big deals call for a supernatural response. While many of the “big deals” will involve our brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus gives us a high standard even for our real enemies: “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6:27-31).

Intentional or unintentional, our sins and the sins of others can be devastating. Nevertheless, these trials come as part of God’s sanctifying work in our lives. Joseph had a string of “big deals” in his life as the result of his brothers’ sinful actions against him. Throughout the story of Joseph we read that “the Lord was with him.” In the end, Joseph could say to his brothers: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (Gen. 50:19-21). Indeed, James gives us this extraordinary admonition: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

So, even in the “big deals”―especially in the “big deals”―God is still all-powerful, all-wise, and He loves you. This is part of His plan to make you more like Christ. Carpe diem. See God’s hand in everything. Learn your lessons (so they don’t have to be repeated). With these reminders and perspectives, it’s time to tackle the “big deals.” Now you should go and deal with the “big deals,” the same way you dealt with the regular “deals,” only with much more urgency; the stakes are much higher. Serious sin must be confronted with truth and grace. You should expect it to be painful, but remedies for serious ailments often are. Remember, God’s grace is greater than all our sins, and we are to be imitators of God. God doesn’t wink at sin, He confronts it head-on.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22        “Who committed no sin,
          Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness— by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ―1 Peter 2:21-25

We prepare to face the “big deals” by learning to handle the routine “deals” in God’s way. Faithfulness in little things leads to faithfulness in big things (e.g., learning to resolve our nuclear family conflicts in a biblical manner). We never regret having done something God’s way; we always regret doing it our way. “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9).

More in the next post…

Saturday, February 11, 2012

No Deal (part 3 of 5)

In the scheme of things, there are many events that are relatively minor and should be overlooked. Some sins are little; let them go. Also, accidents happen―no sin, no ill-will―just an old fashion accident. As comedian Steven Write said, “You can’t have everything; where would you put it?” So too, you can’t deal with everything, you don’t have the time. While we must not “cover-up sin,” nevertheless, there are many sins that should be covered by love. Get over it. I mean cheerfully leave it behind and forget about it. It’s no deal at all. Let it slide. Everyone (including you), will be happier if you do. You’re going to need some of that same kind of grace very soon, so be generous with your covering love.

Now I would offer one caution here. Just as we should not turn a deal into a big deal, neither may we turn a genuine deal into no deal. If there’s significant sin or injury we must not (in the name of grace) excuse sins that can and do really hurt people. We still need to be wise in our triage. So, if you just can’t let it go, then you must go to your brother or sister and deal with it in a biblical manner (Matt. 5:24; 18:15). “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Heb. 12:14-15).

There are a lot of things that happen that are really “no deal.” However, if they happen again, or happen repeatedly, they might become a real “deal,” or even a “big deal.” There’s an old saying I like: “Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate.” Well, that’s true concerning some little things; they can accumulate. If they do, then we have to do something. God requires us to be wise in both directions. But let’s start here: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32); “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8); “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” (1 Peter 4:8).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Deal (2 of 5)

These counsels are not intended to be exhaustive, but rather provocative and suggestive. Much more could be said in any given situation. The point is for us to look before we leap; think and pray before we speak. “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Rom. 14:19). Since you have committed yourself to be a follower of Jesus and His word, and “since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22)

Let’s start with some givens: pretty much everyone has lied, stolen, cheated, gossiped, received gossip, assumed, misspoken, misunderstood, lost our temper, etc. You’ve got the idea. We live in a fallen world and when the world fell, we fell with it―us and our kids. This means that we’re going to do things to others from time-to-time that are not nice and that hurt them. The flipside of this is that others are going to do these kinds of things to us as well. Our children are going to do them to other children and other children are going to do them to our children. This is the human condition, so don’t be surprised. Sometimes, these things are done knowingly or intentionally and sometimes they’re done unwittingly or carelessly. Sin, even unintentional sin, causes pain.

Now if what has happened has caused some significant pain then we’ll need to apply the appropriate first aid. Let’s calm everyone down so we can all think straight; we’re probably going to be ok. A little context and perspective will serve us well. Maybe it happened just the way they said it did and maybe there’s more to the story. Until we know for sure, we just don’t know exactly what happened. The Proverbs are full of good counsel in such matters, but let’s begin here: “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Pr. 18:17). Turn the temperature down: “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention” (Pr. 15:18).

It’s important that we not turn a “deal” into a “big deal.” A few casual conversations at the outset (in most cases) can resolve a conflict and enable us to move on. A hasty conclusion is a fallacy that most of us have had the misfortune of delivering or receiving. Too often what starts out as a small deal, turns into a big deal because we got our procedures out of order: shoot, ready, aim. Keep the circle small. Talk only with those who are part of what happened (e.g., if it only involves one person then only talk to one person), unless you need counsel from someone with real wisdom and a record for resolving conflicts. Sometimes, there’s a good explanation for what happened. Many times people will acknowledge their sins or mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and then we can move on. Leave room for the grace of God.

Deal with the deal but do in a way that is gracious. Yes, you might have been sinned against, but Jesus reminds us: “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4). This is what families do, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re a family.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Deal, No Deal or Big Deal (part 1 of 5)

Things happen; lots of things happen all the time. Milk gets spilled, things get said, people get hurt. Your kid bonks my kid, assumptions are made, judgments are passed. Conflict is inevitable. But all the different things are not equal. Therefore, each thing that happens deserves an appropriate response. Our first job is to figure out just what kind of thing it is. This requires wisdom. It might call for action, or no action, but certainly not reaction. When these kinds of things happen we need to do a little triage i.e., we need to sort things out to determination our priorities for action. Is this a boo-boo that needs a maternal kiss, a band aid, stitches, or surgery? This thing that has happened, was it a deal, no deal, or a big deal? If it was a deal, then deal with it. If was no deal, then let it go. If it was a big deal, then there might be some important work to be done. Take a deep breath. Think. Ask questions. Get advice. I’ll take up each of these categories in the next three posts.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wading Back Into the Pond

Well, I took a month off from blogging (did I hear a cheer?), but I think I'm ready to get back in the pond (was that a moan?). At any rate, I hope to wade back in. It keeps me reading, thinking and writing, and sometimes it gets me in a bit of trouble. Nevertheless, I hope that on balance there's more encouragement, hope and help than anything. If nothing else, it gives Nicole something else to proofread:) 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Happy Birthday!

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” ―Proverbs 17:17

I want to thank a remarkable man, with the common fallen frailties of any man, but with the uncommon grace and love that that makes me admire him and proud to call him my friend. I have walked with him through valleys, and wept and grieved over his trials (as he has mine), and seen him bear unjust loads that would break lesser men. He has been willing to serve unseen and sacrifice without expectation. We’ve laughed and cried, played and prayed, been counselor and counselee; and as the days have passed they have accumulated into a mountain of respect. There comes a point in your life when you realize who really matters, who never did, and who always will. Thank you, Jeff, for your loyal friendship through the mountains and the valleys. Happy 50th Birthday brother!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Aging Contemporaries Face Death

“The burden of pain, care, mis­ery grows heavier year by year. At length ambition is dead, pride is dead, vanity is dead, longing for release is in their place. It comes at last—the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence; where they achieved nothing; where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness.” ―Mark Twain

“To come to Thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labour, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes.” ―Charles Spurgeon