Cognitive Reframing…fancy phrase for changing your thinking about something.
One of my favorite scenes from any movie is from We Were Soldiers Once…based on the true account of Lt Col Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson).
Col Moore is leading an army battalion in Vietnam and they are surrounded and outnumbered by the enemy.(something like 4000 to 400)
At one point it looks dire and a soldier comes running up…with eyes wide in panic and says “We are being overrun!”
Moore says, “Nah boys, we’re gonna win this fight.”
The panic…would have spread
But the confidence spread instead
That is cognitive reframing…it’s not making something up that’s not true or real.
It’s seeing what is real or true about a situation…by looking at it differently…more accurately, more holistically.
Sometimes what we are thinking or believing is just not true…sometimes it’s just partially true…and the part that is missing is crucial to healthy thinking and living.
It often takes outside help to do this well…to think well…especially if we are really stuck.
Parents do this with children all the time…
“I hate school, no one likes me, my teacher is mean…”
After a single bad day.
The wise parent doesn’t say “Well, I get it, school is pretty terrible…and I don’t doubt people dislike you, you are a pain sometimes…and let me tell about your teacher…you don’t know half the story.”
“What about Amy, I thought you liked playing with her…remember when your teacher gave you a note to bring home saying how proud she was of you…what do you like about school?”
Our thoughts run down a track like a train…if those tracks are wrong…they need a switch…to divert us down a different track.
Proverbs is cognitive reframing in epic form.
But its purpose is not merely cognitive(mental shifts)…its purpose is worship…life shifts.
The purpose in wisdom is that we become people who lead God honoring and God enjoying lives.
Wisdom comes from God and wisdom directs our hearts and lives towards God.
We can look at the world or a situation…and see what is “really there”
-This person is sick…terrible
-This teacher is trying to quiet down a noisy classroom again…bummer
-This student is studying math…boring
-Politicians in Washington are fighting…ridiculous
All that is true…but is it all that is true?
We can look at again…and see what is “really happening”
-This person is experiencing God even in illness…eternity is at work here
-God is pleased with the way the teacher loves students.
-This student is at the University, studying math as a she seeks to follow God in the life He has for her…at this moment…study is worship
-Politicians are fighting…but God holds the hearts and lives of kings in his hands…his purposes among the nations will stand…he is at work here.
Wisdom is to reframe or to frame our thinking to align with the reality of God.
To see “all that is real here.”
Hal Moore didn’t deny that he was outnumbered and surrounded…it was a desperate situation.
-But he knew more than the young soldier knew about the situation
-He had past combat experience in another war
-He knew of the superior air support that would give them the advantage
He knew what the young soldier knew…but he knew much more, the fuller picture.
He reframed the situation for them…to better align with all that was really true… “nay boys, we’re gonna win this fight.”
Let’s go to God’s wisdom given in Proverbs…and get our minds, once again on the right track…or keep them on track.
We are going through the first 9 chapters by chapter, this month and next…then we will operate as Proverbs is organized, after that…topic by topic.
Before we listen to chapter two…a couple of things to keep in mind.
- This is written as a father to younger son
-Put yourself, as the reader/listener, in the role of the son…what principles apply to you…even if you are a woman, or older man.
-Hear God, wisdom personified…as your Father speaking to you.
- There are no verses in the Hebrew, they were added later to assist in study and reference….this chapter is really one long complex sentence.
-Her your Father speaking passionately almost breathlessly.
He is…Giving super important stuff…not sayings to guide your life and make you into a nicer person.
*But “Stay alive…live a life that matters…steer clear of disaster…become passionate about the pursuit of wisdom!”
Hear this passion in your Father’s voice…James read
This chapter is a call to become passionate about the pursuit of wisdom…because passionate pursuit of wisdom is passionate pursuit of God.
There is no direct advice in specifics…do this or don’t do that…given in this chapter.
The actual content of wisdom is only given indirectly here.
It is a passionate call to pursue wisdom with corresponding blessings and curses for doing so or not doing so.
It is the cry of a father’s heart to his dear son/daughter.
This is evidence in the first 4 verses
(1 My son, if you grasp my speech and store up my commands within you, 2 bending your ear toward wisdom, extending your heart toward competence— 3 indeed, if you call out for understanding, shout for competence, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure)
IF you grasp and store up.
Bending your ear
Extending your heart
Call out for understanding
Shout for competence
If you seek like silver
Search for it like hidden treasure
Do you get the sense of proactivity and of passion here…almost desperation for wisdom?
I have read Proverbs casually for decades…that has been my error.
Maybe even more so…I’ve sometimes been casual about how I pursue wisdom overall…unless think I need it for some pressing decision or difficulty.
I become very passionate then… “oh God, what do I do here?”
When the pressure is off…my pursuit of wisdom(and God)…reverts to the equivalent of a casual walk on the beach…there is no wisdom in this.
We are being called to live in ongoing passionate pursuit of wisdom.…whether you feel it, or whether it is immediately obvious or not…our need for wisdom is always desperate.
As is the ongoing danger of not pursuing wisdom…of thinking there is no threat of walking into folly.
Jim Lewis told me that when he was deployed to Korea he often saw airmen who had done well for almost a full year…do foolish things at the very end…they let down their guard.
-He has seen, more than once…military members on the plane, literally ready to Return home…pulled off the plane by military police and taken away.
Dramatic example of our desperate need for wisdom…to never let down our guard…to keep the threat level high.
- 2: Look at how the ear and the heart are poetically paired together.
-We listen with our ears…but more is required than just hearing(sound waves vibrating ear drums)…our hearts must go after wisdom…God.
The heart stands for the whole inner person…the real…thinking, choosing, feeling “you”
The whole flow of these opening verses are urging us to run after wisdom…nothing casual, passive, nonchalant here.
- Then you will understand the fear of Yahweh, and you will find the knowledge of God. 6 For Yahweh bestows wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Some translations use “Lord” instead of Yahweh.
Yahweh is the personal, holy name of God…in the Hebrew there are four letters (consonants without vowels) for God’s personal name.
His name was not spoken so we don’t know exactly how to pronounce it…but most agree that Yahweh is accurate.
The reason this is important to realize is that we are dealing with more than common things here…more than just “wise tidbits” for life…be nice, be smart.
We are dealing with the Holy God…the source of all wisdom…the one who is so holy we should reverence his very name.
He has condescended to give us access to some of his wisdom in ways that we can understand it and apply it…in so doing…become more like him.
So now…look at this big conditional clause… “If…then”
If we passionately pursue wisdom (which is the same as pursuing God)
Then we will know wisdom and we will know God
See why this year of wisdom is so important? (life of pursuit of wisdom)
To seek wisdom is not different than seeking God…it is a fine-tuned, zeroed in way of seeking God.
To seek Wisdom is to seek God…to know true wisdom, is to know God.
Let’s go on: verses 9-15
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and integrity, every good course. 10 For wisdom will penetrate your heart, and knowledge will be attractive to you. 11 Discretion will guard you; competence will protect you, 12 extricating you from the evil path, from the people who speak perversities, 13 who abandon the way of integrity to go on dark paths, 14 who enjoy doing evil; they rejoice in evil perversities; 15 whose ways are twisted and who go on the wrong courses;
Remember this is one long speech…so when verse nine begins with another “then” it’s all tied to the original “If”…if we passionately pursue wisdom (God)
Then…we will embrace ethics…righteousness, justice, integrity…we will become people who love the good path.
For…wisdom will penetrate your heart and knowledge will look good(be attractive)…this is transformation.
Wisdom is changing our “wanting”
We are doing what wisdom does…but amazingly…we are beginning to want what wisdom wants…we are “becoming wise.”
Everyone does what makes sense to them…when facing decisions…we do the math, weigh the costs…what are the risks, what are the benefits.
Actually becoming wise…means we don’t just ask…what are the costs, the risks, the benefits…we ask ourselves a different set of questions…questions that indicate we understand who are before God.
- Who am I? (Child of God, follower of Christ)
- What is this situation? (God is at work)
- What does someone like me do this in this situation?
Do you see the difference…a simple cost/benefit analysis versus…Who am I?
What does someone like me (follower of Jesus) do in this situation?
As we become wise…wisdom…is what makes sense to us…we want it.
Specifically, here, there is the wisdom of avoiding fellowship with people who have learned to love the “dark path”
It is not avoiding contact with people who are far from God…we are to be lights to people on the dark path.
The principle here is that we do not walk in the dark as they do…we walk in the light.
We may be in the same house, job, classroom with them…but we walk a different path among them…even if it costs us…we do what people like us do…wherever we are.
We are to live in but not of the world…Jesus, as in all things, set the pace in this…he was the light of the world…and he walked with those who walked in darkness…but he did not walk in their darkness.
Let’s go on.
(16 extricating you from the strange woman, from the foreign woman with her flattering speech, 17 abandoning the intimate relationship of her youth, forgetting the covenant of her God. 18 For her house sinks down to death, and her courses to the departed ancestors. 19 All who go to her will not return; they will not reach the ways of the living.)
This section introduces what will be a reoccurring topic in Proverbs…the warnings against the “wayward woman” who will destroy your life.
Women are not being picked on here…if you are a “daughter” not the son…this could be the “wayward” man.
Think of anyone or anything that takes the place of God’s best in your heart…and will lead to ruin.
Why are two Hebrew words for “strange” and “foreign” used here to describe this woman?
It is likely not that she was a foreign national…but because this woman is operating outside the boundaries of moral and covenant restraints…she fails to keep her own marriage covenant commitment…she takes others down with her…out of their covenant marriage.
She is acting as a stranger to the ways of the Covenant God.
- 18…her house sinks down to death…and she takes others with her.
She is “temptation personified”…her primary strategy for seducing others is her “flattering speech.”
Her secondary seduction strategy we will see elsewhere to be physical attraction…but flattering speech is more effective overall.
Temptation onto the dark path comes most often as “flattering speech”…telling you what you want to hear.
Your spouse…she or he may tell you what you need to hear…because they want relationship with you…honesty is important.
Flatterers speak words to draw you in so they can use you to their own ends…you are a tool to the flatterer.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Pr 27:6
Satan is the ultimate flatterer… he wants to “fatten up our pride, so he can consume our lives.”
“This doesn’t apply to you, you are special”
“You deserve this, look at how hard you have worked”
“She doesn’t deserve you, you could do better”
“He doesn’t appreciate you, you deserve better”
“You should stay bitter…you have every right…look at how you have been hurt.”
“Your life is harder than others…you are not like others.”
Flattery is a very effective strategy to draw us onto the dark path…our pride makes us especially susceptible to this.
We think much ourselves…so when others use flattering words…we are drawn in.
That’s why we will see as we proceed…that humility is foundational for wisdom.
Humble people are virtually immune to the effects of flattery…they know better.
Look at the last three verses in chapter two…
20 So you will go on the path of good people, and you will keep on the ways of the righteous. 21 For those with integrity will dwell in the land, and the innocent will remain in it, 22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the faithless will be uprooted from it.
The chapter ends with the two paths and two destinations clearly in view.
Two things stand out here:
- Folly and wisdom are communal paths.
- Paths have distinct destinations…it matters which one you choose to travel.
Folly and wisdom are communal paths.
The good path and the bad path…as I said last week are not traveled alone.
People walk them in community with others…
“He who walks with the wise grows wise, a companion of fools suffers harm.” 13:20
It is arrogant to believe you can successfully navigate life by yourself, trusting yourself.
I heard a large, loud Army general speak two weeks ago…he looked like a character from guardians of the galaxy.
-Hands were huge
-Tall, hulking figure
-Face chiseled granite
-Voice booming in the hall
I’m in the front row…I thought “What is this guy going to say or do?”
Here’s the gist of what he said… “When I was a young officer…I didn’t need chaplains, didn’t really need anyone…so I thought.”
“Now, I know better…from many personal difficulties…I know better.”
“Young officers (he said) they think they don’t need help…they will figure it out…one way or another they will figure it out…they need help.”
I have lost track of the number of Sr. Leaders I’ve heard say this…I thought I needed no one…I was so wrong.
I’m looking forward to the day when I hear a senior leader say “I was young, confident, didn’t think I needed others…but I believed the truth…and so I choose to trust others early on…I didn’t learn the hard way what I didn’t need to learn the hard way…I leaned on others…early on.”
That’s what wisdom is saying to us…to you if you are young or old and don’t think you need anyone.
We are going to be influenced…it’s arrogance to think otherwise…so we are to pursue the influence of the godly on the good path.
And to avoid the influence of the wicked on the dark path.
Humility is essential to wisdom…you will not thrive without connected community.
You may believe you are doing fine…maybe for now you are…but you don’t even know the good that is not happening in your life that could be happening if you let wise people influence you.
And you do not know what lies ahead…and when the path turns difficult it’s often too late to form friendships deep enough to help you navigate those times.
Hannah and Noah: “We were not in connected community several years ago; it was our fault and we suffered more than we needed to.”
“This past year we have been in community…it has been transformational in our lives.”
Friendly word here: Part of the flattery of Satan and our own sin nature tells us… “They are keeping you out…they have their favorites…you are on outside of the circle because they don’t want you in.”
I say flattery because this kind of thinking gives you an alibi for why you are not in connected community that does not relate to your own choices or fears…not my fault…it is theirs.
This is not true and not helpful…reframe your thinking.
Dave and Lindsey Peters showed up a few years ago…outsiders to River, outsiders to church culture at large…but they did something that I have seen work like magic every time it’s been tried.
They showed up.
For what? For life in community.
Worship, groups, parties, to help, church events…they showed up…when they moved to California recently the Café was full of people they had connected with on a deep level.
Dave is a linesman…both him and Lindsey are straight shooters…neither are theologically trained…not polished…they are just themselves.
They connected in community because they just kept showing up…it is your responsibility to show up if you want to become wise.
There is no conspiracy against you and it is not complicated…it’s difficult but not complicated…to connect in community…you have to show up…and take responsibility to be a part of community.
Don’t wait for wisdom to come to you…don’t wait for community to come to you…go to it.
Living connected…it’s often inconvenient…but it is a key part of walking the good path.
- Paths have distinct destinations…it matters which one you choose to travel.
This seems like common sense…but what’s common is to believe we can choose the path headed east and yet somehow end up west.
Here’s what I mean…the wind is blowing in our face from the west and path is uphill going west…but we really want to arrive at a beautiful destination that is to the west.
So…being the rational people we are…we run downhill with the wind at our backs…to the east…why?…duhh! “It’s downhill and a tailwind.”
Then we are dismayed, discouraged, even enraged…that we don’t arrive at the beautiful destination to the west…because…we choose to run east.
It’s an illustration…but it illustrates a common tendency…I want the good destination and I walk the easy path.
Paths have destinations…choices have consequences…it matters what we do and think and believe…it matters what path we take.
Everything we choose is a shaping choice…making us more foolish, wiser.
We can’t take the bad path and get to the good destination.
The language used here in terms of the destinations of the two paths resembles Covenant blessings and curses delivered by God through Moses.
What followed in the OT narrative was that the people choose the dark path and lost their land…were taken into exile…the path they choose…means they choose a destination.
But God in his mercy restored them…like he continues to restore us…but the warnings and the opportunities remain…choose your path.
Choose your path you choose your destination.
Want to end up in a place where you have relationship with God and others…a place where your life has been full of meaning and impact.
You can choose that path.
But God has set before us…blessings and curses…and the choice of path.
Choose the path…choose the destination…the outcome.
There is a paradox at the center of this chapter
A paradox is an apparent but not real contradiction. (Greek words)
Here it is:
“Wisdom is something we must passionately and consistently pursue and wisdom is a gift from God.”
What do you do with a biblical paradox?
You embrace both sides of tension…and find out it works in practice.
- Cry out for wisdom. Desperately pursue it. Seek it with urgent passion…do not wait for it to find you…go find it…give full effort to becoming wise.
- When you find wisdom…realize wisdom has found you. If you have grown in wisdom, give thanks to God. Growth in wisdom is growth in relationship with God.
Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
In Proverbs 1 Wisdom is shouting out to the young man…now in chapter 2 the young man is shouting out to wisdom.
Which is it?
Both of course.
God is pursuing us…we must pursue him.
We will not become wise if we are not passionate in the pursuit of God and his wisdom.
When we find ourselves becoming wiser…we give full credit to God.
Here is how Paul describes this reality in Phil 2
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and act according to his good purpose.”
-Ask God to give you passionate drive for wisdom
-Ask him to give you his wisdom
Say this to him, if you dare… “God your wisdom is supreme, I want it…I want you. Though it cost me all I have, I want understanding.” Proverbs 4:7