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Apple Peeling Foundations

November 17th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 9: 10 (NLT)

10 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.
      Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

A few nights ago, I found myself watching the premiere of Top Chef, a Food Network reality television show that pits chefs from all walks of life against each other in culinary competition.  Some of the contestants are young cooking prodigies, fresh out of culinary arts schools and eager to show off the “fruits” of their talent.  Others are older, more seasoned veterans of their craft.  But whether the participants are novice chefs or experienced restauranteers, they each must demonstrate that they understand the foundations of good food preparation.

Foundations.  They aren’t flashy.  They are rarely seen beneath the structure and decor of whatever is built around them.  They get little aesthetic recognition, but foundations are essential to strength, longevity, and safety.  If you are sitting in a building at the moment, I doubt if you inspected its foundation before you entered. No, foundations are trusted by most people, even if they have no basis for such confidence.  We expect them to be solid.  We expect them to be level.  We expect them to hold up whatever structures they support.  That’s quite some trust we have.

Since most people are inclined to look over the foundation, you can imagine the surprise of the Top Chef contestants when their first challenge had nothing to do with how well they can cook or what brilliant conglomerations of exotic tastes they could concoct.  No, they were required to demonstrate a basic foundational skill of cooking: apple peeling.

Apple peeling?  This is Top Chef!  Shouldn’t they have been basting or broasting or baking or something like that?  Negatory.  They were each given a bowl full of apples and a knife.  

The personal interviews with the individual chefs revealed their insecurities and shed light on which ones had a comfortable mastery of this particular foundational skill and which ones were relying on their flashiness and talent to get them through.  At the end of the first challenge, one contestant was sent home before she ever had a chance to cook any real dishes for the judges.  At the end of the day, she just didn’t have a solid foundation for cooking.

In our society, we loathe foundational skills.  Studying phonics is way too much repetitive work; let’s just watch the movie.  How long do we have to stay in the weight room, coach?  Can’t we just play the game?  I like the guitar and I would love to play, but developing the callouses on my fingers was just taking too long– now I just play Guitar Hero instead.

Our culture sometimes overlooks the foundations of life in favor of the bells and whistles.  We don’t like the time or energy it takes to prepare oneself for success. That’s why I get ridiculous emails all the time from “educational” companies who offer to give anyone a college degree, even a doctorate, with “no study required.” What?  

How would you like to be in the chair at the dentist’s office only to glance at the wall just before your eyes close under the anesthesia and notice that the man who is about to slice open your gums like an apple has never actually studied dentistry?  I’m guessing that in that case, you would prefer someone for whom “study” was required.  

Why?  Because we all know deep down inside that foundations are the key to strength and success.  Therefore, the quest to build wisdom in our lives hinges upon laying the appropriate foundation.  Wisdom . . . hmmm.  If we were to just speculate on wisdom’s foundations, we would probably pick things that make sense.  Study. Read. Learn.  Listen.  Take good notes.  Read The Daily Thread.  Take Ginko Biloba supplements. Because it was so thought-provokingly intriguing and blissfully entertaining at the same time, read The Daily Thread again.  But I digress.

In fact, considering the modern scientific movement to separate principles of education from principles of faith, the last thing you would expect to discover as the foundation for wisdom would be “fear of the Lord.”  

What is this kind of fear, anyway?  I thought fear was bad.  How interesting that a very modern translation of the Bible still uses a seemingly archaic phrase such as “fear of the Lord.”  You know why this is?  Because it still is the best description of the mystery it depicts.  To me, the fear of the Lord can’t be reduced down (as many in the modern Christian era have attempted) to just respect.  Neither does it mean that we should lie in our beds at night terrified that God may at any moment turn us into piles of sawdust.  No, the fear of the Lord is somewhere in between.  

The idea is not really to understand it, but to live it.  Hmmm, that sounds a lot like how we carry on relationships.  We don’t really comprehend every nuance of the person we interact with; instead, we act and react to how they act and react which results in greater depth in the relationship over time.  

In the case of God, this relationship has “fear” in the description because we are acting and reacting to the very Initiator of all things that are seen and unseen. Though He is our friend, a sole “buddy-buddy” approach is not appropriate and cannot contain the depth of His majesty.  On the flip side, writhing in complete horror on the ground because of the uncertainty that God may destroy us at any moment is also not appropriate.  The fear of God is a relationship with God where within we are cognizant and humble before His majesty; yet bold and trusting before His grace.

Such a relationship is the foundation of real wisdom.  Knowledge is infinite.  We can learn and learn until our brains refuse to accept any new additions, but raw knowledge doesn’t have to benefit us.  It’s quantity doesn’t produce change or better our world.  Data is just data.

However, knowledge of the “Holy One” and interaction with Him results in “good judgment.”  As phonics exercises lay the foundation for good reading skills, knowing God lays the foundation for useful wisdom– the kind that helps with daily life.

So don’t be afraid to “peel the apples” of your walk with God . . . spiritually, of course. The foundations of knowing Him are more important than the flashiness of our gifts or the fame of our ministries.





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