Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

13 August 2009

Proverbs 23:12

Another proverb that stood out for me during my recent tour of Proverbs was this one:

Apply your heart to instruction
and your ears to words of knowledge.

Like most proverbs in this part of the Bible, this one contains two small statements and it's worthwhile slowing down the reading process to take note of both parts.

Apply your heart to instruction.

The striking thing here is the instruction to apply our hearts and not our minds to instruction. It is easy for me to become puffed up by knowledge and I am especially mindful of this as I embark upon cultivating a habit of reading again – particularly given the lion's share of my reading list consists of books with respect to growing in my knowledge of the things of God.

What does this look like in practical terms? Some ideas I have thought of include:-

* Making sure that I keep reading the Bible. That means no reading (books or blogs) unless I have read the Bible. This is not a checklist box that I tick each day. This is truly a decision aimed at guarding my heart.
* Choosing texts carefully – given that my reading time is limited, only reading quality texts that come with high and trustworthy recommendations with the aim of growing in my relationship with God.
* Praying as I read and seeking to find the pastoral application from the content.
* Praying against feeling smug about how much I have read, how smart my reading list looks or thinking I am a "full bottle" on any given topic.

"We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God." 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
Apply your ears to words of knowledge.

This is interesting. We live in a noisy world. Television, radio, telephones and of course conversation all fill the silence. It is easy enough to control what we read but it is less easy to guard what crosses our ears. And yet the second half of this proverb instructs us to be careful about what we listen to – to make sure that what we allow ourselves to hear is instructive and edifying.

So how does this work out in practice?

* I guess the obvious one is to set about the task of listening to good material – good sermons, lectures and talks – on a regular basis.
* And listening to good music with good lyrics too. I love hearing our boys sing scripture and good theology from the songs that we listen to particularly as we travel in the car. If it is beneficial for them then it must be beneficial for us too.
* Being careful with our conversations to make sure that they too are edifying.
* Being careful about television and radio content. Which means being prepared to make use of the OFF switch. Silence is better than bad content.

"…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." Philippians 4:8

Two little statements…so much to think about!

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