Writing on the Wall

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Photo credit to Keith Patschka.

 

“Then Daniel answered and said before the king, ‘Let your gifts be to yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.’” (Daniel 5;17)

 
Today I’m thinking about seeing the writing on the wall. The problem is that most of us can see the writing on the wall but we have no idea what it means. There it is, right in front of us plain as day, but we are clueless to it’s impact for us. Sometimes we’re just as clueless as Belshazzar.

 
Belshazzar was king of Babylon. His reign followed that of Nebuchadnezzar. He’s also frequently referred to here as the son of Nebuchadnezzar. That’s a constant implication that he should have been more alert and have responded differently in his ruling than he chose to, considering the things that Nebuchadnezzar had learned about God before him. But let’s look back at the immediate story.

 
Let’s set the stage. It’s the beginning of the third year of Belshazzar’s reign. He calls a great feast with hordes of important people and lots of wine drinking. That can be a normal thing for kings. But then he decided that wasn’t enough. His pride got the better of him and he called for the sacred golden and silver vessels that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Those he would use to drink his wine and thank the the gods of his choosing. It was a way to mock God and say that He was no god. So they drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, and of iron, of wood, and of stone —all those idols made by men’s hands and imaginations, and mocked the God of creation who created their very hands and the intimate workings of their bodies that were able to sustain them and enable them to even appreciate the taste of the wine they were mocking Him with.

 
I’m wondering if Belshazzar was aware of what Daniel knew, that the 70 year reign of Babylon was coming to a close?  I mean, after all, he was surrounded with all these counselors who would be aware of prophecies about the kingdom. Daniel himself was the chief of the chief of counselors. But Belshazzar was a human being like us, and sometimes we choose to ignore the truth and choose, instead, what we want to believe. But you can only ignore the truth for so long. See, lies are like idols. They are not real and have no weight when push comes to shove. But truth, it always comes through in it’s time. Truth will always make itself known. You can’t hold it back. Especially when it’s God’s truth.

 
And that’s what happens. God shows up. It’s pretty terrifying. These fingers of a human hand appeared. It was just the fingers; not the rest of the body. And it was big enough for everyone to see. Now that’s a party stopper! And these fingers write on the plaster of the wall of the palace. The king is watching and his color changes, and he’s thinking, “Holy mackerel, what in the world?!” He was terrified, his legs forgot how to hold him up, and his knees clattered together. He called for the Chaldeans, the wise men to come in and interpret the writing but not a single one could. He even promised to cloth the one in scarlet and with a gold chain and make him third ruler. It didn’t matter. Everyone could see the writing on the wall but not one knew what it meant.

 
Belshazzar’s face was probably white as snow. His leaders were just as perplexed. It seems that the queen was the only one with a little understanding as to how to find the answer. I wonder if that was because her heart might have contemplated differently about the gods and things she had seen and learned about Daniel’s God? I don’t know, but of all the advisors she was the only one with the advice that would lead to the answer. “There is a man in your kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar your father, the king, I say, your father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers…”(Daniel 5:11) “ He is alive still and can show you the answer.”Why? Why can Daniel do this?

 
The queen actually lists 6 qualities or evidences of Daniel’s ability. Let’s look at them. The first was an excellent spirit. That didn’t just mean he had a great personality. That word for spirit is the same word, ruach, used for when God breathed His spirit into the first man Adam. This excellent spirit is the spirit of God Himself inside of Daniel that is over and above all spirits. This is the Only Spirit who is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20) The Holy Spirit of God Himself imparted wisdom and knowledge from above and of below to Daniel because that’s where Daniel sought his wisdom.

 
This Spirit of God imparted to Daniel that second quality of being able to rightly divine knowledge, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, and reason. I think it corresponds to how we relate our thoughts to the things around us like science and the things we’re conscious of. Maybe this is the practical and scientific application of what we know. And this most intelligent man above all others in the kingdom, retained his intelligence while retaining and promoting his personal belief in God in the midst of all he knew and in the midst of a foreign culture who didn’t know or want to acknowledge his God. Yet that knowledge and application of the inter-relatedness and power of his God in all of men’s affairs, was what led him to the top and brought him before the king of a whole nation as the only one with the answer.

 
When we as speakers of English see the words wisdom and knowledge and understanding, we think on the same terms. But these are different words in Hebrew and Chaldean and retain separate identities of meaning. Daniel had understanding, soklthanu, intelligence and understanding. How is that different? It’s from sekal which means to consider. So maybe truly understanding the writing on the wall around us only comes when we truly consider things God’s way. This is where we sit down and take the time to look at something closely, and set our minds or our eyes to it with attention. But I think this isn’t just looking at things and sitting down with them and thinking closely about them. That could bring us into a multitude of conclusions, each his own. But this is considering, sitting down with God, and thinking with Him, close by His side, and setting our thoughts to Yours, Lord. This is the kind of considering that led Daniel to be able to read the writing on the wall.

 
God gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. That was evidenced by the time he interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. But Daniel could also figure out the solutions to hard riddles or enigmas that others could not solve. No matter how concealed by obscure language, Danielle had the ability to figure out the hidden meaning. Proverbs 25:2 tells us, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” How do you find out something concealed by God? Do you seek it through false idols? Or do you go to the God who knows the answers? Daniel knew who to go to and God blessed him with the knowledge he sought from Him.

 
The last characteristic is that he could unravel riddles. The root of that is about freeing what has been captured. The King James Version says “dissolving of doubts.” Can you hear that? Some of our thinking and understanding and confusion over answers can cause us to be bound, to be knotted up. They can cause us to feel like Belshazzar. And we can be trapped and bound by those thoughts and feelings, feelings like guilt, pride, fear, insufficiency, worthlessness, superiority, anger, hurt, whatever. Or we can be set free by knowing the One who is the Truth, like Daniel knew Him. After all, Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18,19) This was the God of the Old Testament, the Isaiah 61 God, identifying Himself to the world in Jesus. This is the same God that Daniel worshiped and the same God who calls us to worship Him today.

 
So here is this woman, who seems to refer to Daniel more by his Hebrew name than his Chaldean name. And maybe that’s because she realized that Bel or Nebo weren’t gods who saved but Daniel’s God was. And you know, Daniel could care less about the scarlet robe or golden necklace or being third in the kingdom. Daniel just cared about God being made known. And he interpreted the writing. But before that, he reminded Belshazzar about the things he had forgotten or overlooked or chosen to ignore. Because Belshazzar should have remembered and acted upon those memories. Belshazzar should have remembered how all of Nebuchadnezzar’s power was given by the Most High God. He should have remembered what happened when Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up in pride and his spirit hardened to God, how he lived like a beast all those years until he remembered and knew that God rules the kingdom of man.

 
But Belshazzar was not like the queen. He had disregarded it all and lifted himself up against God. “Mene, mene, tekel, and upharsin.” Therefore, God had numbered his days and brought an end to his kingdom. He was weighed in the balance and found lacking. His kingdom would be divided and given to Medes and Persians just as had been foretold by Daniel according to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. And that very night, it came to pass. What did the purple robe, gold necklace, and third place in the kingdom mean to Daniel then? Nothing. It’s all emptiness if God isn’t in the heart of it. It was the end of Belshazzar and what a sad, empty end. But it was not the end for Daniel. The new ruler, Darius, noticed something about him and, get this, made him one of the three high officials. Belshazzar’s appointment didn’t matter. But God’s appointment does.

 
I want to be able to read the writing on the wall. I want my life to be totally guided by considering You and Your ways, Lord, all the days of my life. I want people to see something different in me that causes them to seek my two cents, my counsel on things. I don’t want it because they see me, but I want them to see something that leads them to You and to Your council. I want to be like a Daniel in this world today of so many gods. I want to live in Your wisdom, and knowledge, and blessing, and presence, and counsel. If kings won’t act like kings, I will. I’m not afraid to search Your ways and Your answers out, O Lord. So teach me to understand all that You are writing on the walls and floors and sky and people around me.

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Unwrapping the Knowledge

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Photo credit to Minden-Press Herald.

 

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” Hosea 4:5

Not just any people, but God’s people are perishing, are dumb, are silent, are failing, are being cut down and undone utterly. Why? For lack of knowledge. I’m wondering if “lack” here is the best interpretation of the Hebrew beliy. I mean, the truth is that Paul tells us “that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2) So there was no “lack” of “knowledge” as we think of these terms. It was there. They had it. So what was the problem?

You tell us the heart of the problem with your subsequent words, “because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you.” Therefore, I see, that one can have knowledge right there in their grasp and yet still not have knowledge. I can have a “form” of knowledge, yet it be totally worthless to me because I don’t acknowledge the knowledge for what it truly is.

The Psalmist in Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me.” But this is just the problem. The people of God turned their hearts to focus on worthless things and in so doing, treated their relationship with You as worthless and might I say, worth less. Your pleasure, Your will, Your image became to them good for nothing compared to the other things that lured them. They treated Your ways as garbage or trash and went after other gods who offered them things the way they wanted them. In treating You like garbage they fell into worshiping that which was garbage and that which couldn’t deliver anything but lies and harm.

That word translated as lack here is a strong emphatic word in Hebrew. It’s a pronouncement about the character of a thing and in this case, of a people. It’s usually about moral character. It’s about people choosing to “practice and promote disobedience to God and man” even though they have all the knowledge to know better and do better. But You look at their life and call it worthless, not because You see no value in them, but because they are depriving themselves of their own worth and their own purpose upon this earth. These people were choosing to defy God and practice and promote what was totally against Him. They would choose to defy their very purpose in creation. Now that’s a sticky situation.

So, what kind of knowledge was lacking or made worthless by the people? The knowledge of God. It’s the heart of all true knowledge. Solomon shared, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) That doesn’t just mean that we can know about things because we are afraid of God. It’s not just about a proper perspective on life. It’s about respecting and honoring God for who God is, for all the magnitude of who He is. And then it goes beyond respect and honor into a personal, intimate relation with Him as someone who is alive and cares and shows that care.

Do I know that God cares for me? Do I know the depths of Your caring? Later in Hosea, he will use the term “knowledge of God,” daath Elohim. And the truth is that knowledge in the Hebrew sense always means more than knowing with Your head or having a strong theological background. It’s all about being human, every range of it. Knowing, really knowing involves every aspect of the emotions, the will, and the intellect. The head and the heart work together. Head knowledge effects heart knowledge and, I suppose, vice versa. It’s not just cognitive. It’s not just rationalized thinking.

When examining the Hebrew word most often used for knowledge, yada, Heschel suggests it this way, “an act involving concern, inner engagement, dedication, or attachment to a person. It also means to have sympathy, pity, or affection for someone.” It’s the farthest cry from correct doctrine. It’s greater than obedience. It’s far greater.

“Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel: for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” (Hosea 4:1) God’s broken heart is crying out to his children. We see Your heart in the image of the marriage analogy. How would our hearts feel if that were to happen to us? Wouldn’t we feel it? Well, God feels it too because it’s not just reading about a relationship, it’s an actual real living relationship with real live attachment and commitment and hearts involved. God feels everything, all the hurt, the humiliation, the sorrow, the betrayal, and more. He knows the consequences of His lover’s choice. He knows what she is missing and what she will receive instead. Her problem is she is lacking a heart knowledge. She doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know Him at all or she would never leave His side. She didn’t even know what she had when she was there with Him. How tragic.

Knowledge is not about information. It’s about reciprocal feelings. It’s about reciprocal sympathy. It’s about feeling the way God feels, understanding how God understands, loving as He loves, acting as He acts, enjoying what He enjoys. And it’s not even about us each doing it on our own. It’s about doing all this along with You, God. It’s about a relationship of enjoying You as much as You desire to enjoy us. Knowledge is knowing You intimately and enjoying You intimately and personally as much as You enjoy us. It’s delighting in You as You delight in us.

But Israel and Gomer aren’t the only ones not weeping over the intimacy they are missing. Many nations and many of us in the nations are not weeping over the love we’ve thrown away and wasted and lost. We’ve numbed ourselves to the pain of separation. We no longer agonize over You, who ought to be our dearest One. There is no heart for You. And that’s the saddest part.

And then we read and hear about the divorce rate skyrocketing today. But here we have the contrast of God’s love. Because He holds on to the people of His own choosing. He refuses to let them go and give up even though they don’t even care about how He feels. They make love to everything You hate, and yet You continue to love and call them back. They choose to become animals instead of the Beloved. But You don’t give up hope.

No, it wasn’t because Israel lacked information. And it’s not that we lack information either. It’s that we lack “sensitivity, empathy with God.” (Skip Moen) Are we any different? Do I feel what You feel, Lord? Do I share the same sensitivity? Do I cry with You? Do I agonize over what You agonize over? Do I care enough about You to be willing to die to more than myself? Do I care enough about You to be willing to just die to whatever I had to, even if it meant death itself? Because this Husband gives more than I could ever imagine. His life, through Christ, was spent for mine, not out of duty, but out of immeasurable love. He owed me nothing, yet gave everything. And this is GOD who did that. This is GOD. This is the ONLY GOD who has ever and would ever go to those extremes for the love and redemption of His people, His own creation.

I can run around in the midst of my own lies, living any way I want, but it would just be an utter waste of my life. There is absolutely nothing that compares to You and Your love God. Absolutely nothing. I can choose my own way and disregard You and start perishing today. Or I can regard You in Your fullness and know You better than I know myself. I can delight myself in You, the only God who delights Himself in me. And in that kind of knowing and experiencing and living it out, I can see the desires of Your heart come to life in mine as Your love blossoms in me. It would be a shame to be destroyed for lack of knowledge when you held that knowledge right there all along and never experienced it because you never even opened it up and looked inside.

Centered in Your Heart

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“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.  Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”  Psalm 2:11-12

Psalm 2 opens with David speaking about the heathen raging against God and people in general focussing on empty things.  Together they counsel together against God’s anointed.  But God’s got it all covered.  He’s already decreed the Answer, the Deliverance.  “You are my Son; this day have I begotten You.”  And He’s already promised the heathen to His Son.

Well, that’s You, Lord, that David’s speaking about.  And that’s Jesus that You are speaking about.  And the heathen and vain ones are any that stand against You.  And they have the choice of being broken with a rod of iron and dashed into pieces like a clay pot thrown to the ground because it won’t conform to the potter’s plan, or they can be wise and instructed.  I had and have that same choice.

Maybe that seems kind of violent or rough. Maybe it is.  Oh, wait, but perfect love casts out fear, right?  1 John 4:18 tells us “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.”  Don’t these contradict each other?  No, they go together perfectly.

Isaiah 8:13 tells us that “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy, and He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.”  See, it’s that whole idea of repentance needing to come first.   I was listening to Ravi Zacharias answering a student’s question and the student was asking if it wasn’t sufficient enough to follow Jesus’s teachings to be a good person and accepted without committing to Jesus.  Wouldn’t that be acceptable worship before God?

Ravi pointed out three necessary responses that must occur in our lives in a specific order.  Basically they were repentance, redemption, and righteousness.  See, kings and queens, and people everywhere want to jump to the top and be righteous before You, God.  But there’s no way to meet Your righteousness, to be that kind of good, without You doing that in us.  Our good is no match for Yours.  Elsewhere Ravi observes, “Our hearts need to be transformed…We need a new birth…Only Jesus can give you the power to change.”  That comes only through redemption by Christ.  But how do we get to the point where we see our need for redemption?  “Redemption is prior to righteousness.  You cannot be righteous until you are first redeemed.”  So how do we get there?  How would these kings get there?  How does any one in any nation get there?

Here’s the first step.  “Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved.  No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone.” (Ravi Zacharias)  Isaiah tells us that “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy, and He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.”  Stop and think about it.  Whatever we fear controls our lives, doesn’t it?  If I fear failure, I’m driven to succeed.  If I fear flying, I avoid planes or take medicine.  If I fear heights, I don’t go up where it’s high.  If I fear what people think about me, I do all kinds of things to make them like me.  I modify my behavior depending on my fear.  So, what if I chose to fear God instead of anything else?  What if my mind was preoccupied with Him?  What if I cared most about Your acceptance, Lord?  What if You were my driving force behind my behavior?

The truth is, we ought to fear what matters.  If I’m going to serve and pay homage to something, it ought to be You, Lord, not something that really should have no control over me. So I guess, here You are, this fearful and terrible God and judge, giving these heathen kings and people a chance.  When You invite them to be wise and instructed, You’re not inviting them to take a rational and mental break to think about things here.  Your not telling them to think their way through things.  As frail and finite as we are, how could we do that?  How could we even think we are capable?  How could we ever see the big picture clearly enough?  So what are You saying?

Kings, wizen up.  Be teachable.  Rely on Me.  Rely on My Words.  You don’t have to understand all of what I’m doing or thinking.  Learn to discern my ways.  Let it warn you.  It’s not enough to discern without proper action.  After all, Herod and his counselors knew the prophesy of the Messiah, but they didn’t respond in obedience.  Instead of receiving the Messiah, they wanted to slaughter him.  Kings and all people, well, we need to act upon what we learn.  Only when we act in correct response will we avoid the evil consequences.  My thinking must lead to acting upon the right solution.  I can reason all day and get no where.  I can reason in the middle of a flood and drown.  Or my behavior can act upon what I’ve learned and respond appropriately.

I suppose I could also just choose to be instructed, to accept correction in my ears and walk on.  “Oh, look!  There’s a cliff!”  “Yes, isn’t that interesting.”  I can hear and then keep walking, keep walking right off that cliff to my death.  So it’s not just about being instructed but about understanding the punishment and accepting and responding to the correction, discipline, or chastening.  It’s not just rational.  It ought to involve my emotions.  It ought to be tangible.  Why?  Because the consequence is real.

King Solomon shared this thought in Proverbs 28:14, “How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Let’s think about this.  What if this is saying that the person who lives in continual fear that drives him to care most about what You, God, think, is a man to be envied because of that trust in You?  What if that person is blessed because they act upon what they know rightly?  Maybe it means that as a result of what they know about God, about You, they do something, they act appropriately and are filled with bliss because of that response.  What if that kind of response leads them to be overjoyed in You?

So, that means fear and be overjoyed?  Yeah, it does.  Because it all has to do with the object of our fear.  When we realize the greatness and power and omniscience and love and judgment and everything else that embodies You and that is Your right and we put it all together and we understand and begin to grasp it’s truth in You and I begin to see myself and see that I am no god but I am in need of a God, then I come to this point called repentance where I understand and act upon the greatness and necessity of You.  That realization brings me to a decision, a point of action where I come to fear and trembling.  Fear because You are worthy of being feared.  All things belong to You, we’re made by You, are under Your control and You alone are the judge of all.  Trembling  comes because You invite me to change my way of thinking and living and enter into the safety and protection of You.  Who wouldn’t twirl around in inexpressible joy to know and act upon the reality that though I should be judged guilty and spend an eternity separated from the holy God of my creation, I am forgiven, accepted, and made His?  Yes, I am overjoyed.  And I must never forget that fear.

Why not forget?  I’m under grace now, right?  Well, I don’t know who Moses Luzzatto is but he made this statement,  “A man may be apprehensive every moment of the day lest he stumble and commit some deed that is wholly, or in part, opposed to the glory of God’s name.”  Skip Moen continues with that, “In other words, ‘fearing’ is that state of mind attained when we are so concerned with the glory of God’s name that we dread doing anything that would diminish His magnificence. Being in such a state is, in fact, overwhelmingly joyful because it means that we are constantly aware of Him and thinking of His honor at every moment. True bliss is to be continually in His awareness, and that comes when we are caught up in magnifying Him at all times. In other words, we are so concerned with Him that we dread sin.”

That’s what the invitation is to, to constant living in You, to constant walking with Jesus.  It’s an invitation to being caught up in You moment by moment.  That’s what it is to serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  That’s what it is to kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.  That’s what it is to be blessed by putting our trust in Him.  That’s what it is to be more concerned with God and Your will than myself, my life, my circumstance, my friend, my ministry, or anything else.

Do you know why there’s no fear in love.  Because there’s only fear when our actions go against God.  Just like You said in Genesis 4:7, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  and if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”  The choice is ours.  I can choose God’s way and act in accord with Your word and feel the intensity and receive the depth of Your love.  Or I can act on my own accord, and receive the consequences of those actions, which bring fear.

I’m not the only one who thinks about this stuff.  I bet John might have been thinking about these things too.  So I’m going to share his thoughts in 1 John 4.   Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify:  the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.   Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.  And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.  If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.  We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.  Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”  We’re like the old time kings, just as good at making idols of ourselves.  What a warning!  But will I heed it?  Will I act appropriately to that instruction?

In searching for Ravi Zacharias’ answer earlier, I heard him say this, “God gives you the most sacred gift of the prerogative of choice, but God does not give you the privilege of determining a different outcome to what the choice will entail.  The consequences are bound to the choice and you go right back to the book of Genesis and it tells you ‘If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you don’t sin stalks at the door and desires to have you.'”  Every last one of us, king or pauper is given this sacred gift of being able to make the choice ourselves.  I can choose repentance and see how much I need You, God.  Or, I can refuse repentance.  But each choice comes with a different outcome and I must be willing to accept that outcome with my choice.

To choose repentance, leads to redemption.  And only through repentance and redemption will I attain righteousness.  I can’t skip one and attain the other.  Ravi states elsewhere, “Our hearts need to be transformed…We need a new birth.  Only Jesus can give you the power to change.  Has your heart been redeemed by Christ?”  He emphasizes, ““Redemption is prior to righteousness. You cannot be righteous until you are first redeemed…That is where it begins…We will never change the outside until we are changed within.  Then the world will see the beauty of Christ and follow Him.”  Quoted elsewhere, “Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone.”

If it were fear alone that held us to You, Lord, we would wind up being repulsed.  But it’s so much more because the One we ought to fear actually loves us so and makes a way for us to not have to be afraid.  The One whose wrath is terrible desires to be our Heavenly Father, our Abba.  The truth is that the One who is absolutely worthy of my fear and dread, loves me so much that He gave His one and only Son to die and be resurrected to bring me back to Him.

Well, Lord, that’s a lot to think about.  But I want to do more than just think about it.  I want to live like I fear You more than anything.  I want to live moment by moment as though I care about what You care about.  I want to be acceptable to You so I want to behave in ways that are acceptable to You.  I want to moment by moment walk with You and respond to You.  I want to do more than meditate on Your word and on You.  I want to walk it out.  Help me to do that.  Don’t let me use excuses about my own weaknesses.  Because the truth is You’ve got me covered and Your love is sufficient for all my needs.  I just have to keep myself centered in Your heart.

Who’s Your Daddy?

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“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”  1 Corinthians 2:5

“Who’s your daddy?”  That’s what coach Boone asked a prideful player on his team.  This was at a time when racial prejudice was high and the school system was desegregating their school in Alexandria, Virginia.  The young man came with his pride and request for his team mates and coach Boone refused the request, got in his face, and asked, “Who’s your daddy?”   Because to be on his football team, this young man would have to be under his authority, not his own, and not the authority of the world around him or even his parents.  When on that team, this young man was going to have to focus on everything this coach expected and demanded.  Would he start understanding that? “Who’s your daddy?”  His quiet answer was, “You.”  So, the question today is, “Who’s my daddy?”

In 2003, I meditated on 1 Corinthians 2.  And here are my thoughts and prayers from that morning.  Lord, let the only thing of importance be unto me Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Let Your Spirit and power be seen through and in me.  Don’t let it be just my words.  Oh, Lord, that my faith would never stand in the wisdom of men, but in Your power alone.  We are all fallible, but You are not.  Lord, You have shared Your wisdom with us who believe though those outside don’t understand.  Daily You reveal Yourself and Your promises to me by Your Spirit which not only seeks and investigates all hearts, but knows the depths of the things of God and shares them with me.  Lord, we as man don’t even know ourselves, except through Your Spirit.  How would we know You?  Open my heart to the things that You have freely given me.  Lord, I pray for spiritual discernment.  Teach me to judge all things.  I am not under the scrutiny of man.  You are my only judge.  Christ knows Your mind, oh Lord.  We may know it too because we have the mind of Christ.  I have the mind of Christ.  Let me live this truth.

Yes, today I still pray that I would live this truth, that when You look me in the face and ask, “Who’s Your Daddy?” I would not look with my head held down in shame, but with head held high and full of delight I want to answer “YOU!”  Paul was like that.  Here was a man, unlike me, who was a top-knotch scholar expected to be one of the greatest rabbis of his time.  But he didn’t approach preaching by using his excellent speech skills, power of persuasion, or all his stores of wisdom.  What was he declaring the power of God with?  What was he declaring the testimony, the witness of God with?  Jesus.

Paul decided, he determined, that nothing else mattered for sharing except to share the witness of Jesus Christ and the power of His crucifixion.  See, the crucifixion has this glorious supernatural outcome.  Everyone else who’s ever been crucified, well, they wind up dead and crucified.  But not Jesus, not You.  You wind up alive though crucified.  Now that’s something to declare!  The wisdom of man says that doesn’t happen and it can’t.  But the power of God says, “Look here, I can do what man can’t do.  I have done it.  I am alive.  I’m alive because I’m God and You can’t kill God.  And imagine if You are for me and You are mine.  Imagine the ramifications of that.”  Wow!  That’s the testimony of God speaking.  Blows the mind of the wise, doesn’t it?

But Paul goes on to say, “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”  What does that mean?  That word for weak is the Greek word “astheneia.”  That “a” is a negative in front of “sthenoo” which means “strength or power.”  Therefore, it means without strength or power.  It’s used for the sick people that Jesus healed who were sick in body and spirit.  When we are like that we can’t do it ourselves.  We’re helpless.  That’s pretty much our condition and Paul was saying it was his condition.  “I’m powerless.”  Admitting our weakness is the first step in getting over our addiction to ourself.  Think of all the things, like Paul, we’re powerless over.  I’m powerless to stop what rages inside of me, to stop doing what I don’t want to or ought not to, powerless to lift myself up out of the pit, and more.  We’re all there, just as Paul was.

But Paul doesn’t stop with weakness.  He also said they were together in fear.  What kind of fear?  Why?  I wish I understood.  I think Paul experienced fear in a way that I haven’t.  I mean, here in the U.S., I live a fairly sheltered life.  What do I know of real, every day, day after day fear?  I know that for Paul, not only was he handling false teachers rising up against him, but he’s experienced being stoned and being beaten many times.  Is that what he was afraid of?

In Hebrews 10:31, Paul tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Really?  Both places here are looking at the Greek word from “phobos.”  The Hebrew word equivalent is yare.  Skip Moen puts it this way, “Sudden, sheer terror–life turned into flying shrapnel–is more likely the message.”  I think of those who have to confront evil every day as an ordinary part of their lives.  I think of the testimony I see in them.  Those who haven’t avoided all confrontation with evil, those who have had to face it in their weakness and rely on Your strength and power alone, they are the ones who know, I mean really know, the majesty, the testimony, the witness of Your good.

And as though weakness and fear weren’t enough, Paul adds trembling, and not just trembling, but much trembling.  The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon defines this trembling as a “trembling or quaking with fear.”  It also is “used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty.”  Now, I don’t think that Paul was going through and fulfilling religious duty here.  But I do think that Paul distrusted his own ability, his own worthiness, his own skills of persuasion, his own heart.  And because he felt this way about his own weakness, and his fear, and his trembling; because they were a reflection of the dependence of not only his heart but his life on You, Lord, he could rely fully on His Daddy.

Therefore, he was the first to realize that his speaking and his preaching wasn’t of effect because he used all the right words or because he was charismatic or because he was wise or persuasive.  He knew that the power of his preaching was because the Holy Spirit was empowering his words, empowering his testimony of You, empowering the hearts of the listeners.  He knew that faith doesn’t come from man or from man’s wisdom or man’s understanding.  Faith comes from and is in the power of God.

The weak find faith.  They realize they need You.  They realize they are helpless, no matter how great they were in the world’s eyes.  The weak find strength in You.  The fearful need a Deliverer.  The one’s who live in fiery and fearful circumstances need a Rescuer.  They know what rescue and deliverance look like and feel like.  The one who trembles at his own frailty, his own disability, his own inability, is the one who looks to Another.

And Paul said, “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”  Is this the life of faith that we as believers are living together?  Paul was with the Corinthians in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  Am I with my fellow believers in the same way or am I just doing my own thing, thinking I’m doing good, but not really experiencing life, and I mean real life, together with them and with You?  It’s so easy to live life in a comfort zone, but I wonder if that’s Your zone at all God?  Maybe I’m not really living as You intended until I experience You in weakness, and in fear, and in trembling, with my brothers and sisters in You.

“Who’s my Daddy?”  You.  But that also means that I have brothers and sisters out there.  And I need to be a real sibling to them.  There’s experiences in You we were meant to have together so that we, together, would have a greater and living witness in the world.

A Higher IQ

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“Scripture says, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.  I will reject the intelligence of intelligent people.”  1 Corinthians 1:19

I was a good student but there are so many people who are so much smarter than me.  There are so many people with a much higher IQ.  I don’t know what mine is but I serve alongside someone who has a photographic memory.  Imagine that!  Not me.  I serve around doctors and nurses who have specialized in tough things.  They amaze me.  There are people who can outreason and outwit me.  Why would You choose me, Lord?  And then I read this verse.  Well, I read this verse and meditated on it twelve years ago.  And here’s what I saw then.

Lord, man’s greatest wisdom and understanding is nothing compared to You.  In Your wisdom You created the world and all within it.  We have the world to testify of You yet knew You not.  Yet through the simple teaching of words You save us who believe.  All creation cries out and praises You, yet we seek other miracles or signs and wisdom and knowledge.  The only knowledge that matters is knowing Christ’s sacrifice.  But that offends some and is difficult for some to accept.  But You have invited and appointed me in You and have opened my eyes and understanding to know that Christ is the power and wisdom of God.  Christ is the sign and the knowledge that we seek.

What men deem as foolishness of God, is wiser than man, and what they deem as being weakness concerning You is stronger than them.  You have made clear to me who You are and what You have done for me.  You have invited me into an intimate saving relationship with You and I experience Your grace daily.  If I had been proud, or wise, or haughty I never would have seen my need for You.  I would have never sought a relationship with You.  You would have invited, yet I would have ignored the invitation.  Lord, You have shared Your wisdom with someone like me- foolish, weak, base.

Those who lift themselves up are so confused that they block their minds and hearts to knowing You.  One day You will bring to nought all those that lift themselves above You.  One day we will all stand before You and they will learn that Yours alone is the glory and they will see themselves as they really are.  What a sad day that will be for many.  But I am Yours in Christ Jesus.   Through Him, I am made and given wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.  All glory for who I am and what has been done in my life goes to You, Lord  Your righteousness makes me righteous.  Because You are set apart and holy, it makes me set apart and holy,.  You are wisdom and through You it has been imputed to me.  You have redeemed me through the cross.

Lord, help me to realize all I am in You.   Help me to live in Your wisdom and righteousness, as one set apart, holy, and knowing all I owe You.  Let my life be a testimony.  Bring me into a deeper intimate knowledge of You.

I’m glad that You, Lord, had me meditate on these verses back then, but I’m also glad You’re having me meditate on them now.  Because there is still a warning.  You are still giving me and all those who read, the same warning that You gave the Israelites back through Isaiah.  And what was that?  Let me remind myself.

You were upset with Your people.  Why?  They were going through the motions of worship but it wasn’t true worship.  You said, “Go on and keep offering your sacrifices Your way.  I’ll let you do it a few more years.  But then I’m gonna change things up and I’m going to make You a fireplace on my altar for real.”  That’s a hard place to be.  You were going to bring nations against Your people in order to teach them true worship.  Why?

They knew the truth and were bearers of the truth but they were more concerned about the heart and teachings of man than the heart and teaching of God.  Isaiah 29 tells us that God’s own people had confused themselves, and made themselves confused.  Because they made themselves stupid, that’s where they stayed, in stupidness.  They blinded themselves, so they walked in blindness.  They were like drunkards but not from wine, staggering but not from liquor.  So You, Lord, let them stay where they brought themselves.  You let them experience even more what it was to walk in that deep sleep, that lethargy.  You closed the eyes of prophets and the seers.  If they weren’t going to see, You were going to show them what it was really like to not see.

Does that only happen in the old days?  Or do we bring ourselves to this point even today?  I know this happens outside the church, but isn’t this what happens sometimes, maybe more than we think, within the congregation of the “righteous”?  Sometimes, is there this lethargy amongst us as believers because we’ve held onto traditions of men instead of the living word of God?  Has the “church” sometimes come to the point where the things You want to show us are closed and sealed up to us?  We hand this Book to those who ought to be able to read it, but they don’t want to look at some things, or they can’t, and they say, “Oh, I can’t read it, it’s sealed up.”  Haven’t You given us the key to unseal Your word?  So then we hand the book to someone who can’t read.  Huh?  And of course they answer, “Oh, I can’t read.”

Why can’t we read?  Why can’t we open the seal?   Why can’t You be everything You always have been?  Why can’t You require what You’ve always required?  Why can’t we see things the way You do?  Why can’t we live like You live and love like You love?  And that’s where this verse starts coming to life.  You say, “These people worship Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips.  But their hearts are far from Me, and their worship of Me is based on rules made by humans.  That is why I am going to do something completely amazing for these people once again.  The wisdom of their wise people will disappear.  The intelligence of their intelligent people will be hidden.”  There’s coming a day when God is going to open blind eyes and deaf ears and fill hollow hearts.  “When that day comes, the deaf will hear the words written in the Book.  The blind will see out of their gloom and darkness.  Humble people again will find joy in the LORD.  The poorest of people will find joy in the Holy One of Israel.”  There’s coming a day when those who were blind and deaf and stupid will treat You as holy.  There’s coming a day when those who were wayward in spirit “will gain understanding, and those who complain will accept instruction.”  Jesus came to deliver us.  He’s the bringer of that day.

The question is, am I walking in to that day?  Will I let You have Your way in my heart and throw out my way?  Will I cry out to You to open my eyes and give me Your sight?  Do I really want to see You lifted high?  Will I cry out to You to open my ears that I would hear Your truth and obey it and love it and cherish it?  Or will I stick my fingers in my ears?  Will I count my wisdom as dung just to hear from You and be filled with Your wisdom and Your presence and the knowledge of You?  Will I let You teach me what it is to truly worship You in spirit and in truth?  Am I still in a stage of heart where I need to go through destruction and rejection in order to understand what I’m missing?  Or have I come to treasure Your wisdom and Your intelligence, Your intervention in my life and spirit, Your life, Your way more than anything?  Lord, help me to know were I stand, and I pray that I would be humbly bowed down at Your feet, ready to receive and be made complete in You.

Move Over My Fair Lady, I’m His Beloved Child!

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Photo credit goes to either Erin Gum or Christian Scrofani.

“…and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might…”  Ephesians 1:19

So I’m still here in Ephesians.  And now Paul is commending the believers in Ephesus because word of their faith in action and word of their love in action to each each other has reached him.  And now he shares how he has been praying for them.  Now, just maybe, it would be beneficial to get into Paul’s prayer to be able to understand the magnitude of the verse above.  So, Lord, let’s think about Paul’s words and what he’s telling about You.

Paul’s prayer begins like this, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him…”  I suppose, of number one importance, is knowing the One we pray to.  Paul is telling me and all who read or listen to this prayer that it’s not enough to trust in God without realizing that we must trust in Jesus Christ as Lord.  It is only through Jesus Christ that I have access to God, the Father of glory.  Now if Paul can ask God to grant believers the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, then that means that I, as a believer, who has placed my trust in Christ and who am under Your lordship, have the priviledge to ask the same for myself.  But what is the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of You?

Well, let’s start with the spirit of wisdom.  Actually, I think it ought to be the Spirit of wisdom, because that’s Who teaches me of God.  It’s not something I can learn on my own or without His power.   But what is this wisdom?  I’m going to hop to James momentarily because I think he can help me understand.  James 1:5 shares, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  What is this wisdom that comes from God and that God wants to give me generously?

James, as well, as Paul, use the Greek word “sophia” for wisdom.  But I can’t help remember that these men were Jewish “thinkers” at heart, and though the words are Greek for sharing with the masses, what if their hearts were trying to relate Jewish ideas to a different culture the best way they could.  See, the idea for wisdom in the Greek mindset is all about accumulating intellectual knowledge.  But the Hebrew idea, expressed by the word “hokmah” is so different from that.  Wisdom does not come from man’s searching.  First and foremost, it is a gift from God.  I can’t find it on my own and it isn’t dependent upon my intellectual, educational, or mental status.  My mind can’t attain it on it’s own and my will isn’t strong enough to attain it either.

That’s not all the Hebrew idea entails about wisdom.  Where Greek wisdom is theoretical, the Hebrew idea of wisdom is practical.  So how would I display my wisdom?  In correct actions.  I act as God would act.  I know what to do so I do it.  “To not to,” as Mater would say, would make me a sinner.

Greek wisdom sees the world through man’s perspective.  But the Hebrew idea of wisdom is “to see the world from God’s perspective and to act accordingly in practical, everyday matters. The wise person lives a life based in fear and respect for a holy God.  Conduct is determined not by my reason but by God’s revelation…God gives instruction in righteousness.  God tells you how to live, how to think, how to act, and how to love your neighbor.  If you don’t know what God would have you do in any particular situation, ask Him!  He will tell you what the proper action is that will delight Him and keep the covenant.” (Skip Moen)

But it’s not just the Spirit of wisdom.  It’s also the Spirit of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  This is sooooo exciting!  The word that Paul uses is “apokalupsis.”  The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon defines this word as “laying bear, making naked; a disclosure of truth, instruction concerning things before unknown, used of events by which things or states or persons hitherto withdrawn from view are made visible to all; manifestation, appearance.”  Paul is praying that things of You, Lord, and of Your ways, and of Your delights, and of Your heart, that were once kept secret from me, can now be made known to me!  What was once veiled is being unveiled.  What I couldn’t see and know about You is now being made clear to me.  And, I can come to You and ask You to show me more about Yourself as I faithfully act upon what You show me.

Because You share Yourself in this way with me, the eyes of my understanding can be enlightened.  I can see and understand and get what You want and who You are!  Just like Paul, You can take the scales off of my eyes and I can learn to obey You and follow Your ways and love You more than anything.  I can know the great extent of the hope of Your calling.  Listen to what Oswald Chambers shared about our calling, ““God did not direct His call to Isaiah— Isaiah overheard God saying, “. . . who will go for Us?” The call of God is not just for a select few but for everyone. Whether I hear God’s call or not depends on the condition of my ears, and exactly what I hear depends upon my spiritual attitude.” You don’t have to slap my on the ground as I walk to Emaus.  If my heart is adequately prepared and I  am listening, I can hear You as You speak to Paul, or make announcements before the angels, or as I read Your Word, or listen to another believer.  Your Spirit of wisdom and revelation, makes it jump out to me when You want me to hear it.  And as I listen and act upon what You share of You, I experience the riches of the glory of Your inheritance together with all my brothers and sisters in You.

And as I listen and act upon what You reveal, I experience the exceeding greatness of Your power toward us, toward me, toward those who are Yours and who are living as Yours in You.  But I also see those who could be receiving a deeper wisdom and revelation in You, but aren’t because though they hear, they act as though it’s not for them.  Or though they hear, they don’t obey, they don’t change their life to walk in what You say.  It’s the same for me if I don’t act upon what You reveal to me.  I miss out on the power of what You would do through that obedience.  I miss out on drawing closer to You in that area of my life.  Well, maybe I can get by without the power.  But I don’t want to miss out on any part of drawing closer to You.

It’s Your power in the first place that drew me to You.  And it’s Your mighty power that keeps me in You.  But I have a responsibility to stay in You, and that’s where my obedience, my acting in faith upon what You share comes in.  As I persevere in You, You keep me.  You work Your mighty power in me and through me.  Somehow, You bring me to glorify You, which is a miracle in itself.  That is something I could never do on my own.  My greatest works would all look like selfishness outside of You

But You, You have wrought all this wonderful miracle working power in Christ.  You raised Him from the dead and set Him over everything, absolutely everything.  Everything is under His authority.  Everything is under His control.  Everything.  And He is head over the ones who have been called out of the world, call them the church if you will.  Which means that You are head over me.

But there is something otherworldly about this called out body of believers.  If you are one of them, you and I are otherworldly.  We are the body of Christ in this world.  We are His fullness, the fullness of the One who fills everything.   Now how close do I actually come to that mark in my life right now?  Do I feel like the fullness of Him that fills all?

That idea of filling is from the Greek word “pleroo”.  But what if I go back to the “Hebrew verb ‘male’, a word that means ‘to be completely satisfied, filled to the brim'”?   Here’s that idea in Isaiah 6:1, “…I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.”  And in Jeremiah 23:24, You, Lord, say, “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”  Am I really that full of You, Lord?  Because that is what Paul is praying for and what I can pray for.

The truth is that Jesus is filling me, but I’m not full yet.  His goal is to completely fill me in His proper timing.  My goal ought to be to walk in His ways so that He can fill me.  Oswald Chambers shares this insight, “The golden rule for understanding spiritually is not intellect, but obedience. If a man wants scientific knowledge, intellectual curiosity is his guide; but if he wants insight into what Jesus Christ teaches, he can only get it by obedience.”  Listening and obeying is the means to my filling.

According to Paul, my hope is that I can be “completely satisfied to overflowing with the knowledge of God’s will.”  When I ask, “God, what is Your will for me?”, Paul is telling me I can know the answer and that I can know the answer to overflowing satisfaction.  So why am I crying out so much to know Your will, Lord, in so many different situations?

I suppose it’s because You use something in our lives known as the “normal Christian life.”  I learn as a I walk it out.  Your filling is a continual process based on my response to You, day by day, moment by moment.  The Father revealed His will to You because You were constantly about His will, constantly hearing and doing it.  Well, how about me?  Am I being obedient to the knowledge, wisdom, that You are giving me moment by moment?  Or do I treat it as though it is for the other guy and not me?  If I thought of all Your principles and truths as being extensions of what is at the center of Your heart, and my goal is to be like You, then how can I ignore any principles You reveal to me?  What You tell me of Yourself, I must respond to.  How can I expect to move on if I have not responded to what I already know?  Have I responded rightly to the knowledge that You have already revealed to me?  Am I acting on the truth I know?  How can I expect more when I can’t handle what I already know?

Lord, You don’t stick fine wine in wineskins that aren’t going to hold it.  You know what to put in and when.  You reveal Your perfect will to us as we are able to respond to it.  You are precise in Your moments of revelation.  Am I as precise in my obedience at each moment?  Your perfect and good will is for me to obey as You reveal.  And You continually reveal Your good and perfect will, piece by piece, moment by moment, more and more, as I obey and respond in appropriate action.  It’s the normal Christian life.  But, it’s a powerful life, lived in moment by moment contentment in obedience to Your revealed will.

Lord, it is beyond measure and beyond human imagination, the patience and love that You bestow on me, on each of us.  Every day, You are faithfully revealing more of Yourself, more of Your will, to me and in me.  And some days I respond rightly and some days I don’t.  And some days there are so many things going on that sometimes I am not listening well.  And some days I’m just really focussed on You.  But You are always faithful and patient.  I think the appropriate word is longsuffering.  And I don’t deserve Your faithfulness and patience to me, but You lavish me with it.  Why?  Because I’ve become Your workmanship.  I’m Your masterpiece and You are about doing Your work in me, bringing me into Your glory, so that I will bring glory to You.  You don’t take Your work in me lightly.  And You always finish the work You started.  So I’m a done deal, in the right time, Your time.  One day, I’ll shine, full of the glory of Jesus, of You God, and all Your glory and Your power to do the impossible will shine in me.  May I respond obediently to You step by step, day by day.  Thank You, for the exceeding greatness of Your power to me.  I love every step, even the hard ones.  And I can’t believe that I’m a recipient of this great gift.  It’s better than My Fair Lady.  You love, You gave Your life for me, and You impart Yourself in me.  There is no greater love than this!  You are making me Your beloved child!

The Foolishness of Preaching

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“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”  1 Corinthians 1:21

There is a wisdom of God and there is a wisdom of the world.  They are not the same.  Isn’t it sad that God can lay His wisdom out for all to see and to know and to experience but we can refuse it?  We can choose our own wisdom as better.  But the truth of the matter is that our wisdom is not better.  It never will be.  Our wisdom is shallow and empty.  And this is what we choose?  I don’t want to choose that shallow wisdom.

How can I come to understand Your wisdom God?  Paul tells me in Romans 10:17  that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  And I think that’s what Paul is trying to get across here in 1 Corinthians.  But it’s not just about getting the word out.  It’s not just about proclaiming the word.  It’s about proclaiming the word as we live it out, as we let You live it out through us.  It’s the “foolishness of preaching” that You, Lord, use to save those who will come to believe.  So what does that mean?  What is the foolishness of preaching?

Sometimes I use other versions of the Bible to share Your word in easier “English” than the King James Version.  But we need to be careful with sticking as closely to the original intent as we can if we want to understand Your intent.  So I have to ask myself, is there a difference between “preaching”  and “what we preach”, or between “preaching” and “the message preached”?

In Hebrew thought there was not a division between hearing and doing.  If you said you heard something, then the evidence was in your doing what you heard.  This is faith.  I hear God, therefore I do what He says.  Preaching carries that same connotation.  Preaching is an action.  It’s not about a set of beliefs.  It’s about living out those sets of beliefs.  It’s all about living what You are teaching.  Preaching isn’t about my words as much as it is about my life.  Both actually go hand in hand.  It’s not just about the message.  It’s about the power of the wisdom of God being evidenced in my life.  Yes, I am announcing through words the truth of the whole Gospel, the Good News about everything that You, Jesus, have done, from start to finish and how we actively and participantly live in that truth, but it can never be separated from my life, from my living.

Preaching is not about propositions.  The Greek word here is “kerugma.”  It’s a noun that means “message or proclamation.”  But it can signify the content and the act.  If we go back to the Hebrew equivalent, “qol,” it’s more about the action of “calling aloud.”  So what does that imply?

Maybe the implication here is that the foolishness that You, Lord, are using isn’t just Your word that we are proclaiming.  Maybe the foolishness is what we are showing with our lives and actions.  It’s one thing to say a thing, it’s another to show we really live it out in truth.  It’s one thing to say we forgive, but it’s actually counter-cultural to forgive the horrendous.  Like, what about a child molestor?  I don’t ever excuse their actions but can I really forgive them?  I mean, what if it were my own child?  Could I live out forgiveness? What if it’s more about putting Your word into action in my life so that the Gospel I preach is being lived out in living colors in my life?  What if it’s not allowing room for hypocrisy because my actions speak everything my words do?  And now, what people hear becomes something they have to see demonstrated right in front of their very eyes.  And it’s not like what they are used too.

If I want people to believe the words I preach, there cannot be a discrepancy between the words and my life.  I can’t be a fraud.  How can I profess to have the truth, if I live another way?  If my actions don’t back my words, then I am a liar.  God, You are not a liar.  I must be like You if I am Yours.  My life actions and my message must be intertwined.

And it’s not my message and it’s not about my preaching.  It’s all about me lining myself up with Your preaching and letting You bring it to life in my life.  It’s about true religion and desperate relationship entwined together.  And if I have this religion and this relationship in You, it carries over into my other relationships.

So what is the foolishness of preaching?  What if the whole idea of the divinity and death of You, Lord, looks like foolishness?  What if the whole idea of someone bigger and better than us seems silly to someone who has been so busy leading their own way, taking care of themselves, and handling things on their own?  Why do I need a God?  Why would a God have to die?  But isn’t that where wisdom actually starts?  When we finally realize that God is God.  You are in charge.  You are holy and I am not.  I need You to change me because I can’t.  I need a Savior to pay the penalty for my sins.  So, what is the most beautiful truth in the whole universe, seems like foolishness until my eyes are opened.  The Jews thought it a scandal and refused to obey.  We think it foolishness and refuse to acknowledge Your deity and the value of Jesus’ death.

In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul instructs Timothy to “preach the word.”  It’s not just about going out to tell the Good News.  Paul was always taking the Good News deeper.  James stated in Acts 15:20, “For in every city from ancient generations Moses has those preaching him, having been read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”  So, what’s the point?  Maybe we understand our salvation better the deeper we are brought into a deeper understanding of all of Scripture.  Somehow, I tend to want to go back to living like the first through third century believers.   Even with the persecution.  I think there was a closeness like real family, they met in homes, sometimes secretly, they had to watch carefully and be alert to the hearts of the people around them.  They had to be genuine.  You either acted like Jesus or you weren’t one of His.  It reminds me of believers in persecuted areas now.  A Bible is a treasure to weep over and hide it’s words in your heart.  There is true passion for the Lord and for others.  They are unlike the world around them.  They are free to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Look at this list of words that were part of the life of the early believers as they met in homes and lived out what they believed and shared that with others.  “Suffering, Repentance, Restitution, Dependence, Confession, Intercession, Obedience, Teaching, Devotion, Prayer, Petition, More dependence, Relinquishing, Joy, Purity, Compassion” (Skip Moen)  Am I living, breathing, and acting out these words, these characteristics of You, Lord, in my life?  Because I’ve been called unto You and unto the power of this Gospel so that it’s not foolishness to me or a stumblingblock, but Your power and wisdom in me and through me.  So what is my calling?

You chose each believer to “confound the wise.”  What?  You want me to shame people?  No, that’s not it at all.  My life and message are to bring people to the point where they see themselves as they truly are before You and see You for who You truly are.  You bring us to shame by nature of who You are when we come to the truth.  And You have called us, the ones the world sees as weak, by our dependence on You, to put the ideas of the world about You to shame.  Even the mighty ideas puffed up against You won’t be able to stand up against what they see in our lives when we start really living out our preaching.

And I love the next verse.  1 Corinthians 1:28 continues, “And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are…”   Do you know that base things based on the word “agenes” means “without kin, ignoble”?  So what?  Well, it makes me think of You, Jesus.  I know You were not illegitimate because I know who Your Father is.  But the world thought You were.  They didn’t recognize Your kin.  You were despised.  But You were the Chosen One above all.  And You have chosen us to be Your examples in the world.  You take what the world sees as nothing and make everything of it in You.  And that’s the Gospel, that’s what we are preaching.  Our glory is in You.  And You are made in us and through us and for us and unto us the wisdom of God, His righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption.  It’s not just the Gospel I preach, it’s the Gospel I live.

So who’s the foolish one?  Is it the one who lives in the truth or is it the one who lives out the lie?  Call me what you will but what’s it worth?  I know Who is worthy of glory, and He’s the one I’ll listen to.  He’s the one I’ll follow and exemplify.  He’s the one who has become my kin.   I’m just wondering what your kin can actually do for you.  Because my Kin controls everything. And I am more than content to be under His control.

Lord, make my words and my life a mirror image of each other.  I want to live You out in my life.  I want Your word to be the essence of who I am.  Have Your way in me no matter the cost.  May I be wholly committed to You in word and deed.  May Your word and Your ways and You be so written on my heart that it effects every stitch of blood that pumps through my veins.  In my weakness be my strength.