The Pilgrim and The Monk: Lady Wisdom

Pilgrim: I was reading Proverbs and discovered something I never noticed before.

Monk: I enjoy hearing about how the Spirit reveals truths through Scripture. What did you find?

Pilgrim: The writer characterizes Wisdom as a lady. It’s so odd to think of wisdom as an actual person.

Monk: What chapter were you reading?

Pilgrim: Proverbs eight.

Monk: That is a wonderful passage of Scripture. We learn so much about her there.

Pilgrim: Do you really think of Wisdom as a lady?

Monk: I do. Wisdom is someone you should walk with through life. She is an excellent companion.

Pilgrim: That seems counterintuitive to me. Shouldn’t we walk with God?

Monk: Why walk only with God when others can also share in your journey? Lady Wisdom will always guide you in the way of our Lord.

Pilgrim: I hadn’t thought of that before.

Monk: Consider how special she is. According to the chapter you read, Wisdom was created by God before he created anything else.

Pilgrim: She’s ancient. But is it polite to talk about a lady’s age?

Monk: I enjoy your wit, Pilgrim. Not only does she come before the creation, she tells us she is the architect of creation.

Pilgrim: Does this mean the laws of nature are wise?

Monk: There is great wisdom to the order of the universe. Some scientists refer to it as ‘intelligent design’. I know her name as Lady Wisdom.

Pilgrim: But she’s not a god to be worshipped, right?

Monk: Correct, Pilgrim. She is a creation. In order to know her, however, you must know her Creator. Earlier in the book of Proverbs we learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.

Pilgrim: If that’s true, then it’s impossible to know Wisdom without first having a relationship with God.

Monk: Excellent observation. Knowing Wisdom also introduces us to good judgment, knowledge and discernment. That is also mentioned in the same chapter.

Pilgrim: It seems like the benefits of knowing her are numerous.

Monk: They also come at a cost. If you walk with Lady Wisdom, you must move against the flow of the world. You will face opposition and hostility.

Pilgrim: But the benefits outweigh the costs.

Monk: Absolutely. I just do not want you to be misinformed.

Pilgrim: That’s fair. You know, I always thought of wisdom as something to possess. It never occurred to me she could be a companion.

Monk: She is a remarkable lady. I am privileged to know her.

Pilgrim: How do I meet her?

Monk: That is an important question. You ask the Lord for an introduction. He will faithfully oblige.

Pilgrim: Monk, you have a way of making my head spin.

Monk: I will take that as a compliment.

Pilgrim: Please do.

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The Pilgrim and The Monk: Influence

Pilgrim: You’ll have to forgive me today, Monk. I’m mad at myself.

Monk: What is troubling you, Pilgrim?

Pilgrim: I realized something about myself I really hate. I’m a lot easier to influence than I thought. I really believed I was more sophisticated than that. I’m such a fool.

Monk: Do not be too hard on yourself, Pilgrim. That is a natural condition of humanity, I am afraid. That is why we must always be careful what content we consume. The Scriptures tell us to guard our heart.

Pilgrim: It’s not just that. It bothers me how much the opinions of others affect me. It’s like I’m being controlled by them, like I’m addicted to their positive affirmations.

Monk: That is not entirely a bad thing, Pilgrim. Positive affirmation can encourage good behaviour. It is how we establish community norms and protect against negative actions.

Pilgrim: I can see that, but when does it go too far, where I become just a mindless follower of someone else’s will?

Monk: That is an interesting question. It reminds me of something written by John in his gospel. There were many who secretly believed in Jesus, but would not confess it openly for fear of the Pharisees. John wrote, ‘For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.’

Pilgrim: How does that relate to my question?

Monk: We must realize we all serve someone or something. For many it is money and power. For others, family and friends. A few serve God, but more and more serve only themselves.

Pilgrim: What do you suggest I do?

Monk: Choose this day who you will serve. Whose approval you seek will motivate your actions. Remind yourself of this question often: who do I want to please right now?

Pilgrim: I guess this means I need to avoid things that keep me from pleasing God.

Monk: Discernment is an important element in our spiritual maturity.

Pilgrim: You know, Monk, I don’t fell any better. All you’ve done is replace one problem with another.

Monk: I do not believe that is what I have done. I have provided you a way forward.

Pilgrim: Sure, but it’s a hard way.

Monk: Not to worry, Pilgrim. When you walk with God, he always directs your paths.

Pilgrim: Another step forward, then.

Monk: Be blessed on your way, Pilgrim.

Pilgrim: You too, Monk.

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The Pilgrim and The Monk: Uncommon

Pilgrim: I’ve told you a lot about my father, but have I ever told you about my mother?

Monk: I cannot say that you have, Pilgrim.

Pilgrim: She was exceedingly well-spoken. In fact, she made sure her children spoke well, too.

Monk: It is a skill not often highly considered.

Pilgrim: I thought it was silly. One day I intentionally swore in front of her. I wanted to see how she’d react.

Monk: I imagine she was vigorous in her response.

Pilgrim: No joke. She tore a strip off me. I told her I was only using the common language.

Monk: It seems like you enjoyed burying yourself deep into trouble.

Pilgrim: Well, I was mouthy. She responded with something that changed my life. She looked at me with steely eyes and said, ‘I didn’t raise you to be common!’

Monk: What a remarkable thing to say! Your mother was extraordinary.

Pilgrim: She was certainly that.

Monk: How you speak influences how people consider you. If you want to make a good impression, speak well.

Pilgrim: That’s true. She also wanted her children to strive to be more than just the lowest common denominator. She recognized all our gifts and abilities, and demanded that we develop them to their fullest potential.

Monk: The Apostle Paul urged that we not let any foolish talk come from our mouths. I wonder if that not only relates to what we say, but how we say it.

Pilgrim: That’s an interesting thought, Monk. I suppose it’s a reminder that our tone has spiritual significance, too.

Monk: Thinking about what your mother said, to be a disciple of Christ is to be uncommon. Not only in our actions, but in our speech.

Pilgrim: I see how it’s all connected.

Monk: Your mother was on to something profound.

Pilgrim: It changed the way I saw myself. It was like she was calling me to be something more. I didn’t realize it until now, but my mother was preparing me to hear the call of the Lord.

Monk: She was quite a blessing.

Pilgrim: She still is. Her teaching remains with me to this very day.

Monk: Thank God for her legacy.

Pilgrim: And may I pass it along some day to the next generation.

Monk: Amen to that.

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The Pilgrim and The Monk: Sin and Consequence

Pilgrim: The other day I was thinking about Moses. I think he got a raw deal from God.

Monk: Why do you say that, Pilgrim?

Pilgrim: Here’s a guy, called by God. He delivers his people out of slavery, parts the Red Sea, receives the Ten Commandments, and preserves their lives through the wilderness all those years. One day he hits a rock in anger, suddenly he’s denied entrance to the Promised Land. That hardly seems fair.

Monk: Moses took credit for drawing water from the rock. Not only did he disobey God, he claimed the glory for himself.

Pilgrim: Is that bad enough for God to ban Moses from the Promised Land?

Monk: Yes. We must never forget that God is God. He is not to be disrespected.

Pilgrim: What about forgiveness? Moses could have been forgiven for his sins.

Monk: Sin can be forgiven, but the consequences of sin remain. Sin always leaves wounds. Forgiveness brings healing, but it leaves scars.

Pilgrim: That’s not something you hear preached from the pulpit.

Monk: I do not know if that is true or not. If it is, then it is a disservice to the church.

Pilgrim: How so?

Monk: Because the truth of God is much greater than any one characteristic of him we latch on to.

Pilgrim: Like, ‘God is love’?

Monk: Precisely. There are several ‘God is’ statements in Scripture. ‘God is Holy’, ‘God is spirit’, ‘God is jealous’, are but a few examples.

Pilgrim: ‘God is love’ is a lot friendlier than those others.

Monk: Yet, God is all of them. If we are to genuinely know God, we must embrace all of him, even parts of his character that make us uncomfortable.

Pilgrim: Like the fact that sin can be forgiven, but it still exacts a terrible cost.

Monk: We cannot separate one from the other.

Pilgrim: Just when I think I understand God, he shatters my arrogance.

Monk: I know what you mean, Pilgrim. He does that to us all.

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The Pilgrim and The Monk: Isaiah

Pilgrim: I’ve been thinking about the call to ministry. Do you think our Lord ever calls us to fail?

Monk: I suppose it depends on how you define success. From a worldly perspective, success might be understood as a growing, vibrant church.

Pilgrim: That isn’t wrong, is it? Shouldn’t we want to see the church grow?

Monk: Certainly, but I am not sure how much that had to do with us.

Pilgrim: Is this about the balance between our effort and our Lord accomplishing his will?

Monk: Not exactly. I am reminded of the call of Isaiah. He was commanded to prophesy to Israel, yet he was told from the outset the people would not listen. Would that be classified as a failure?

Pilgrim: That has to be discouraging.

Monk: Only if we understand things from a worldly perspective. In the Kingdom of God, our success is defined by our obedience to his call.

Pilgrim: That means Isaiah’s obedience made him a successful prophet.

Monk: Precisely.

Pilgrim: What about all those people who reject God? If I was in Isaiah’s position, I’d be awfully frustrated.

Monk: I imagine so. We must remember, Pilgrim, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin. It is the same Spirit who brings new life in Christ. We save no one. All we can do is make introductions with the Saviour.

Pilgrim: That’s sobering, Monk. It takes a lot of the responsibility out of our hands. Then again, it’s still our responsibility to love others as our Lord does.

Monk: That is true. It is how we express our obedience to God. That is also what made Isaiah such and excellent prophet. He loved the people of God by declaring his prophesies. By contrast, remember how Jonah ran from his call? He never did love the people of Nineveh.

Pilgrim: Still, it’s counter-intuitive to everything we see in this world.

Monk: It is a definition of success that is not corrupted by sin.

Pilgrim: That’s so humbling.

Monk: Humility is the foundation for greatness in the Kingdom of God.

Pilgrim: Monk, I have so much to learn.

Monk: We all do, Pilgrim. We all do.

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The Pilgrim and The Monk: David and Goliath

Pilgrim: I read the story of David and Goliath the other day.

Monk: That is an event which has captivated the minds of children and deep thinkers for centuries.

Pilgrim: And now a pilgrim. May I share my thoughts with you?

Monk: By all means.

Pilgrim: Keep in mind, Monk, these aren’t insights as much as they are observations.

Monk: Of course, Pilgrim. Perhaps we can think through these things together.

Pilgrim: That’s what I was hoping. David was incredibly clever. He knew his limitations, but also knew how to play to his strengths.

Monk: That is interesting, Pilgrim. Tell me more about that.

Pilgrim: David was well aware he wasn’t a trained soldier. He was a shepherd. Knowing that gave him a tactical advantage. He couldn’t fight Goliath in a traditional battle, so he changed it. David fought on his terms.

Monk: The strength of God played no small part, as well.

Pilgrim: That doesn’t diminish what David did, either. Having God on our side doesn’t mean we don’t work hard.

Monk: What you say leads to a curious thought. How much do we have an impact on God’s will? David took on great responsibility in fighting Goliath, but how much was actually dependent on David?

Pilgrim: God demands that we put more than the minimal amount of effort. He just doesn’t need our effort to accomplish his purposes. I agree with you, Monk. It’s a peculiar dynamic. How can we understand it?

Monk: God does not need us, but he allows us to participate in his will. I think of it as a father who allows his small child to turn a wrench or hammer a nail when working on a project. How much does the child actually contribute?

Pilgrim: Not much.

Monk: Precisely. The father could accomplish the project alone, but how much does it strengthen the relationship to work on it together?

Pilgrim: Even if we don’t have much to contribute?

Monk: Yes. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, the Lord declares, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

Pilgrim: That wasn’t what Paul was writing about.

Monk: Not exactly, but Paul acknowledges that our Lord’s strength shines through our weakness, like the father and small child working together.

Pilgrim: Okay, so what do we lose if we give a minimal effort?

Monk: I believe we lose some of the blessings God has to offer. Our relationship with him suffers.

Pilgrim: How so?

Monk: We do not trust him with our gifts, we do not worship him through our obedience. The point is not to accomplish his will. Our task is to worship and fellowship with him in the process.

Pilgrim: How would you apply to the battle between David and Goliath?

Monk: David was spurred to action in order to bring glory to God.

Pilgrim: Are you saying the battle was David’s act of worship?

Monk: Exactly.

Pilgrim: This blows my mind, Monk. Worship takes on a whole new meaning.

Monk: It is what happens when we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. We become worship through our obedience.

Pilgrim: I’m stunned. That’s not where I thought this would go.

Monk: That is why it is good to talk things out. The Spirit is always prepared to deepen our understanding of him.

Pilgrim: Praise God for that.

Monk: Indeed.

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The Pilgrim and The Monk: Remembrance

Pilgrim: Have you ever noticed how often in Scripture people review the history of Israel? They repeat over and over how God rescued Israel from Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. Paul even did that in a sermon to Antioch.

Monk: The people needed to be reminded because they too often forget what our God has done.

Pilgrim: I don’t like to dwell in the past. I prefer to look forward.

Monk: As a wise man once taught me, never forget where you came from, and never forget who brought you here.

Pilgrim: I’ll admit that’s pithy.

Monk: It is more than that. It is a reminder of the dynamic relationship we have with God. It is the very substance of our testimony.

Pilgrim: I hadn’t thought of it like that.

Monk: Remembrance also offers a promise to the future. The God who transformed my past is the same God who shapes my future.

Pilgrim: How do you do that, exactly? Is it something you think about every once in a while?

Monk: The practice of remembrance is something I do every month.

Pilgrim: Is there so sort of plan you use? What does that look like?

Monk: I rewrite my testimony every month. And with each month I include how God is currently working in my life.

Pilgrim: I imagine that gets long after a while.

Monk: What a blessing it is to have so much to write down! It is an encouragement to see the hand of God move in my life.

Pilgrim: That makes a lot of sense, Monk.

Monk: It is not always easy, Pilgrim. There are times when it feels like the Lord is absent. But recalling the past moments helps to be ready for his plan for my future. I encourage you to give it a try.

Pilgrim: Thank-you, Monk. I think I will.

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The Pilgrim and The Monk: Divine Hand

Pilgrim: Yesterday, I was reminded of another lesson my father taught me.

Monk: I enjoy hearing these lessons. Your father was a wise man.

Pilgrim: I feel like every time I remember something he taught me, I stay connected to him.

Monk: There is something to that. You honour him with your remembrance.

Pilgrim: I’m not sure if your follow hockey, but every year another crop of young players enter the professional leagues. Some enter with a great deal of potential. A handful are even dubbed, ‘The Next Great One’.

Monk: I believe that could be said in every career, Pilgrim.

Pilgrim: Absolutely. What is so interesting is how few of those potential superstars ever develop. Even more interesting is how many overlooked players grow into superstars. My father used to say the distance between potential and failure is a lot shorter than the distance between potential and success.

Monk: I never considered that before. Did your father ever elaborate on that?

Pilgrim: I can’t tell you how many hours he talked about that with us. He seemed obsessed by the topic.

Monk: If I were to guess, I would say that the work ethic of the player has a role in their success.

Pilgrim: My father preferred the term discipline. Highly talented people will often get by on talent alone. They don’t establish the habits necessary to develop success because they didn’t need to. When they reach the highest levels, they don’t have the self-discipline to reach their potential. Call it pride or arrogance, but whatever it is, it sets them up for failure.

Monk: Discipline and humility often go hand-in-hand.

Pilgrim: That’s true. Successful people are constantly learning. They understand the need to develop and refine their talents. Talent is merely a foundation to build upon.

Monk: What about promising athletes who suffer career ending injuries? A career might fail for any number of reasons.

Pilgrim: That’s what really fascinated my dad. He wondered how many people never even discovered their true talents. What if circumstances of life got in the way? Can you imagine, the most talented hockey player to ever exist might serve you in a restaurant because he lives in poverty and needs to support his family? He might never have known what he could have been.

Monk: How rare are those who ever succeed.

Pilgrim: Talent, discipline, opportunity, ambition, are all necessary in order to succeed. Then again, a few enjoy success without one or all of these.

Monk: It seems like success is random. Or perhaps it is better to say, guided by a Divine Hand.

Pilgrim: Of course, we haven’t even bothered to define what the idea of success. That question haunted my father.

Monk: Your father certainly had an active mind.

Pilgrim: He once told me, if you believe in success, you must also believe in miracles. He saw little difference between the two.

Monk: As I said before, a Divine Hand is at work.

Pilgrim: I think of it as another proof for the reality of God.

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The Pilgrim and The Monk: Investing Time

Pilgrim: Monk, do you have much free time? What do you do for entertainment?

Monk: I do have free time, but entertainment is a myth.

Pilgrim: There’s a whole industry built around it, Monk.

Monk: I disagree, Pilgrim. There is no such thing as entertainment for its own sake. What we invest our time into helps shape our character. The idea that we unplug our brains and watch TV or movies is a fallacy. It is at these times we are particularly susceptible to influence.

Pilgrim: I don’t know, Monk. Some things are just harmless fun.

Monk: If that were so, then why are we inundated with so many advertisements? Even subliminal messages have power to infect our minds.

Pilgrim: You make it sound like a virus we catch.

Monk: Perhaps not a virus, but there is a war of ideas being waged around us every day. How is it fought if not through the content we consume?

Pilgrim: I’m not sure it’s all that dire, Monk. I mean, a movie might have a bad scene or two. I might not agree with everything it’s saying. That doesn’t spoil the whole the whole thing, does it?

Monk: All content presupposes a world view. Most present a world that deny the sovereignty of God. By consuming that content, at the very least, we support those who defy our God. Why would we wish to do that?

Pilgrim: I think you’re being too harsh. There’s nothing wrong with spending an hour or two relaxing. It’s important to rest every once in a while. Even our Lord did that.

Monk: I understand that, Pilgrim. But know that everything you open your mind to has an influence. The Psalmist encourages us to meditate on God’s word at all times.

Pilgrim: You’re asking me to rethink how I spend every hour of my day. I don’t like that.

Monk: We should always be willing to consider what we allow to define us.

Pilgrim: You may have a point, but it seems like a lot of effort. If I do what you’re suggesting, I’ll need to make some big changes in my life.

Monk: I agree, Pilgrim. It certainly might.

Pilgrim: Now this is going to weigh on my mind.

Monk: It pleases me to hear that.

Pilgrim: Somehow, I knew it would.

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The Pilgrim and The Monk: The Bell Choir

Pilgrim: Last Sunday I saw the funniest thing at church.

Monk: What was it?

Pilgrim: For special music, the young children formed a bell choir. One little guy, he was about three or four, rang his bell for all he was worth. He wasn’t in time with the song, but he was enthusiastic.

Monk: There is something amazing about the energy of children.

Pilgrim: Wait, it gets better. In the middle of the song, he rings his bell so hard, he smacks himself in the head. Tears start flowing and he covers his face with this other hand. But, to his credit, he kept ringing that bell.

Monk: Good for him. I admire his persistence.

Pilgrim: It was so cute, but I couldn’t stop laughing.

Monk: Those spontaneous moments add meaning to our worship.

Pilgrim: You think so? I heard some grumbling after the service that children shouldn’t be included in worship.

Monk: I wholeheartedly disagree. We know our Lord has a heart for children. We should be teaching them from their earliest days that they have a place in worship.

Pilgrim: You’re preaching to the choir, Monk. As funny as that was, it was also encouraging to see their involvement.

Monk: Children are a blessing from the Lord. How often do we forget that?

Pilgrim: I think moments like we had Sunday morning are special. I wonder if God laughed at it, too?

Monk: I could only speculate on that. I am sure he was glorified in it.

Pilgrim: Why do you say that?

Monk: Your church is obedient to the command of God. We are told to train children to know and love him. Including them in worship is an important part of that.

Pilgrim: It was a blessing to be part of, that’s for sure.

Monk: It warms my heart to hear, Pilgrim.

Pilgrim: You know what? It encourages my faith, too.

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