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Creed and Deed

[Read today’s Scripture in Matthew 7:24-29.]

knowing-doing-gapAre you familiar with the “knowing-doing gap”? It is a common phenomenon in which people talk about an issue, perhaps learn a lot about it, but don’t do anything about it. Many meetings close with participants somehow thinking that, by discussing an issue, they’ve actually done something to address it, even though their contemplations never even approached a resolution, let alone an action step!

Wisdom has no knowing-doing gap. Knowing what is best and not doing what is best is really pretty silly. “Foolish,” we might say. It’s the opposite of wisdom. Solomon knew this. When God told the king in a dream to ask for whatever he wanted, Solomon requested “a discerning heart,”[i] for he needed understanding and insight to distinguish between right and wrong as he governed Israel. Wisdom to Solomon was for a purpose beyond mere knowledge; he knew understanding as something to be applied.

Jesus knew it, too. His Sermon on the Mount was wisdom from God concerning forgiveness, enemies, fidelity, possessions, judgment, faith, and several other life challenges. Then concluding his instruction, He specifically cautioned against any knowing-doing gap: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. . . . But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”[ii]

Wisdom is both creed and deed; it is acting on what we know to be true. In fact, the apostle James said that if we hear the word and don’t do the word, it eludes us. If, on the other hand, we apply what we come to know, we are blessed.[iii] His simple advice? “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”[iv]

[i] 1 Kings 3:9
[ii] Matthew 7:24, 26
[iii] James 1:23–25
[iv] James 1:22

Today’s blog is an excerpt from: Christ in Me. Paul Nordman. Copyright 2016. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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In Good Times and in Bad

The word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here . . . You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.” So he did what the Lord had told him . . . The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. (1 Kings 17:2-6)

scarThe new ruler was like nothing the people had ever seen before. He was a change agent, an envelope-pusher, and a record-breaker . . . but not in the manner any nation would want. His name was Ahab, king of Israel, and he did “more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30), a dubious distinction and difficult to imagine. So I’m picturing Scar in “The Lion King,” for Ahab’s beastly rule in arrogance, weakness, and disgrace was likewise marked by corruption, famine, and malaise.

It was God who withheld rain for three years, but this was no surprise celestial “gotcha.” Rather, He had long ago vowed overflowing blessings when His people followed His good and right ways, and He foretold overwhelming consequences when they forged paths diverging from them. Yet even in times of our rebellion and the difficulties that follow, God provides in the most amazing ways. To the people of the Exodus, He gave bread in the morning and meat in the evening. Now likewise to Elijah—God’s prophet and Ahab’s nemesis—He dispatched raven couriers with food every day. Hasn’t He also seen to our needs, both in the good times and in bad?

Yet mere survival is not the end of the story. In great love for us, God also turns the consequences of wrong into catalysts for good. For when we’re unable to cope, we seek Him in hope. When we do, we find Him still loving, still caring, still calling us back to His open arms. And so it was that even Ahab—this Scar-like king who “behaved in the vilest manner”—upon hearing God’s rebuke, humbled himself before God, found mercy, and avoided disaster (1 Kings 21:25-29).

Regardless of circumstances, God remains sovereign, He is merciful even in judgment, and He will provide. Ours is, like Elijah, to trust God. And to pray that all of our leaders will, like Ahab, humble themselves before Him.

Lord, grace us to trust you and to follow your ways and only your ways, regardless of our circumstances. Turn the hearts of your people and our leaders toward you, where we will find mercy and peace. Amen.

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Post-retirement Planning

Here’s an irony. We study for a dozen-plus years, thousands of days, and tens of thousand of hours to prepare for our careers, and what does HR talk about when we show up eager to put our skills to work? Saving for retirement!! So we voluntarily invest in something called a 401k and involuntarily pay into something called social security—both to prepare for something called retirement, which will occur in another 40-something years! That’s life in America.

investWe’re wise to prepare financially for when the paychecks stop flowing. But the golden years don’t last all that long, and there awaits “the other side,” an eternal Kingdom where dollars don’t spend. How do we plan for that? How do we “lay up treasures . . . as a firm foundation for the coming age,” as the apostle Paul put it?

Certainly Paul was not suggesting we try to earn our way into heaven by way of our own goodness; that’s an impossibility. Instead, I think when people care for the needs of others, give freely of their means, and share with them the good news of salvation in Christ, God is glorified—His purposes are accomplished, His people live in unity, and He is pleased. For those who cried out for God find Him through those who serve in His name. Those who knew no hope now dare to. Those who prayed in desperation find their answers through inspired hearts and human hands. God is loved, and people are, too. And we’re all the richer for it. That’s life in the Kingdom.

God, strengthen me to do what you call me to do today, so that your Kingdom is advanced and your purposes fulfilled. Help me give and love from my heart and through my words and actions. I ask this in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

Command those who are rich in this world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19