Fear and Chariots of Fire

In my devotions this morning I read about Elisha and the chariots of fire. Long and short of it, the king of a neighboring country has been doing raids into Israel. Elisha tells the king of Israel that the raids are happening and where so the king moves his army and everyone is safe. This ticks off the king of the neighboring country and finds out that Elisha has been doing this. So he sends a huge army after Elisha and surrounds the town that Elisha is in with this huge army. Elisha’s servant is afraid. He tells Elisha that he’s afraid. Elisha prays to God to show the servant what Elisha sees. And God shows the servant that the army surrounding the village is surrounded by an army of chariots of fire. A heavenly army. Wow. So Elisha then prays that God makes the human army blind. God does. And Elisha then, with a lot of fun, convinces this human army that they are lost and leads them into a province of Israel. Elisha then shows mercy on the human army and convinces the king of Israel to throw them a banquet before sending them off on their way.

As I meditate on this passage from this morning, I begin to wonder about my own fears. I have a lot of them. A lot has gone on over the last three years. Not good things. Frustrating things. Things that would make you want to just give up. And at times I’ve felt like it. Oh how I’ve needed to see these chariots of fire surrounding my troubles. But I haven’t. They haven’t been revealed to me. My eyes haven’t been opened to see them. I don’t have an Elisha right now to guide me.

But that shouldn’t have me give up and just walk away. The chariots of fire were there regardless of if the servant saw them or not. Reflecting on this passage, I begin to see that fear hides a lot of things. When you get afraid, you start to think with blinders on. You only see what’s straight ahead and not what is or could be. I’ve been doing that with fear a lot lately. The blinders have been on and I just see what’s ahead the next few steps instead of seeing the chariots of fire. Instead of these chariots of fire I just see the human and earthly things. And I struggle. I get frustrated.

It’s hard to see the chariots of fire sometimes. It really is. But they are there. It’s hard to say “God’s got this” when we don’t fully believe it. It takes a lot of trust and courage to see the chariots of fire. It takes even more trust and courage to then follow God with the chariots of fire being present. This makes me ask for a deeper faith, a stronger faith, a faith that is huge.

And then I think of the words of Jesus. He says that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain to move and it will be moved.

So how big is my faith?

I so want to see the chariots of fire. I so want to see them surrounding my problems. I so want a faith the size of a mustard seed so that I can move mountains. Right now I’d settle for moving rocks.

Fear is a liar. Fear will tell you that you can’t do these things. Fear will tell you that the chariots of fire aren’t there. Fear will tell you that you can’t move mountains. Fear is a liar.

My goal for today is to trust. My goal for today strain as hard as I can to see these chariots of fire surrounding my problems. And then to step forward in trusting God to lead me through all life’s demands.

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I Hope the Stones Don’t Sing

Mick Jagger

From nova.ie

There are times were I see a red door and I want to paint it black. Okay, not really but it’s one of my favorite songs by the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger said he wrote it after reading Ulysses by James Joyce. The English Major rock ‘n’ roll lover in me just sqeels with delight in that

But this post isn’t about the Rolling Stones or the song Paint it Black. It is about actual stones.

In my devotions this morning, I came across this from Luke 19. Jesus is making his way in to Jerusalem and the people start waving palm branches and shouting Hossana. They are praising Jesus as the coming king into Jerusalem. There are Pharisees in the crowd and they tell Jesus to make his followers be silent.

“I tell you,” he replied,” if they keep silent, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:40

This got me to thinking. Why stones? Why not trees or animals? They were in a garden at the time. Why not the grapes on the vine? Why stones? What is it about stones crying out that would be so important?

I began to wonder about stones. They are lifeless. They are inanimate. They have no breath in them. They are old. They are cold. They don’t move unless done so by an outside force.

I wondered more about it still. Why stones in particular. Why not rocks. What made stones so important over rocks.

This might be a stretch, but my ADD mind went to Joshua 3 and 4. In the book of Joshua, the people of Israel are at the banks of the Jordan River, wanting to cross. The Jordan River is at flood stage during the spring and so cannot be forded like you would a regular river. Too dangerous. God then has the Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant to step foot into the flooded river. The Jordan River stops way up stream and they cross on dry land entering into the Promise Land. God then commands Joshua to have a representative from each tribe to pick up a huge river stone and place it on the other side of the bank as a remembrance to what God has done. (You can read more about it here).

Could this be what Jesus is referring to? To these stones that are a remembrance of what God has done in the past and will continue to do in the future. These stones were to be a testament about what God had done for His people and a promise of what is to come.

Jesus is referred to many times as the living stone or the cornerstone. Could this be it? That Jesus himself would cry out if the people didn’t.

Then I wondered about us. About me in particular but about Christians as a whole. How are we praising God today? During this COVID 19 pandemic, I begin to wonder if we’re praising Him enough in the middle of the storm we’re in.

We can praise God in many ways during this time. I’m not discounting what people are doing now. Singing hymns from balconies and doors is good start. Helping those in need is a good start. The people singing Hosannas on that first Palm Sunday saw Jesus as a king who would kick out the Romans. The Pharisees saw him as someone trying to usurp their power. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of Lords (glory, hallelujah).

Praising Jesus during this pandemic is going to be hard. Churches aren’t meeting like the used to. They can’t. The church goes beyond the walls and beyond video conferencing with Zoom.

Here in Michigan, we’re stuck inside. We are to shelter in place. We are to stay home and stay healthy.

We each can praise God differently during this time. But we need to continue to praise Him in Jesus’ name or the stones will one day cry out and put us to shame.

How can you praise Him today?

 

 

 

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Trusting in God during COVID 19

This is a short video my son and I made for my blog. Things are tough right now and we’re all in this together.

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What Happened to the Acts 2 Church

feast usda gov

From usda.gov

Last night I went to the grocery store to pick up a few odds and ends that we needed because we couldn’t find them at a different grocery store. I noticed that not just the toilet paper was all gone, but so was the flour. My first thought was “Who’s making paper mâché during this pandemic?” I thought it was funny so I posted my thought to Facebook. The first response to the post was chilling and scared me. The person posted “The short term thinkers are buying all the TP and the bottled water, the long term planners are buying the flour, sugar, and salt.” This chilled me to the bone.

Why?

Why did this chill me to the bone though?

It was then I realized that the Acts 2 church and the ancient church are no longer around.

In the Book of Acts, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension to heaven we have the day of Pentecost (literally 50 days later in Greek). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given and Peter gave a huge rousing speech to a huge group of people gathered in Jerusalem for a feast. Over 3,000 believed in Jesus Christ and were saved that day. Amazing.

Then we read later on in Acts 2 that the new believers met together on a regular basis, they listened to the Apostle’s teachings (Peter and the other original followers of Jesus). They shared all they had with others and if there was someone in need they’d gather together to help. This is the Acts 2 church. Amazing to think of. Some people call it Socialism. Some call it unattainable today. I call it sharing the love of Christ with others.

And then, around the 3rd century CE (AD), there was a huge plague that hit the Roman Empire. It was the Christians who stayed to help the sick and the poor and the orphan and the needy. They stayed when others ran and fled the sick. They ran into the fire while others were running out to save themselves. This was a self-sacrificial love. This type of love won over the people of the Roman Empire. This is why the Roman Empire became mostly Christian. Not because of politics or because of some clever emperor named Constantine. It was because Christians were, well, Christians like they were supposed to be.

But what about today?

With this coronavirus wrecking havoc on our daily lives, shutting down restaurants, bars, and churches, what are we supposed to do?

Stock pile toilet paper I guess.

But that isn’t what Christ calls us to do. He calls us to love, to love completely and unapologetically. He calls us to run towards the trouble with love as our weapon rather than run away from it. Yet many Christians are hoarding stuff. And what of the poor? What of the elderly? What are Christians doing to help them? So far I haven’t heard a thing.

Now don’t get me wrong, it is good to social distance right now. Churches are having the right idea of streaming Sunday services over the internet. This technology that we have today is amazing.

But what if, what if we decided to also gather in smaller groups? What if we decided to meet in homes since we can’t meet in churches or restaurants or bars? What if we decided to still help others learn about who Jesus is through our love and compassion. Jesus said that he who had two cloaks (jackets) should give one to the one who had none. He said that when a soldier commanded you to carrying their items a mile (which they were allowed to do under Roman law) carry it two miles. If you have stockpiled toilet paper, share. If you’ve hoarded flour, sugar, and salt, bake extra loaves of bread and share.

This time we’re in is scary. The United States was built on rugged individualism. It was built on people taking care of themselves and doing what they can to provide for themselves. It was built on the Puritan work ethic, to work hard no matter what. But our rugged individualism and our work ethic of taking care of our own isn’t what we need right now.

Fellow believers, fellow followers of Jesus, now is the time. Today. Now is the time to rise up and show you believe in Jesus by the love you show others. Today. Not tomorrow. Today is the day to check on your neighbor who is elderly and by themself. Today is the day to bake that extra loaf of bread and give to the ones who don’t have. Today is the day to help the poor, the needy, the orphan, the widow, and the aliens within your gates.

Rise up Christians and do your thing less the world look upon us and think we’re just asses.

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Hello, I am a Racist

Racism word written on cube wooden blocks.

from Getty Images

This is a realization I came to a few years back. I am a racist. Now, I’m not a card-carrying-hood-wearing-out-right racist. I’m your run of the mill unintentional racist. I do racist thins without realizing it. I do microaggressions without meaning to. In fact, the very definition of a microaggression is the unintentional act of racism in small ways. I am still coming to terms about my Whiteness. I’m coming to terms about my privilege in this world I live in.

Many many White people don’t want to be called a racist. They are good people. They are nice people. They are people who choose to be colorblind, marking get words of Dr. Martin Luther King jr.’s speech “I have a Dream.” And stating that they don’t judge on the color of skin but on character. Problem is, is that our idea of character stems from our Whiteness and how we view culture all together. As part of the dominant culture, we don’t see how we control the concept of culture nor the idea of what makes good character. We just kinda do it.

To tell the truth, I’m not “woke.” Honestly, I don’t even know what that means half the time. All I do know is that I grapple with my own White identity and what it means to be a racist when I don’t intend to be. Many Whites have this issue. They don’t want to be labeled a racist. And when they are, they get defensive. “I’m not racist, I’m Italian.” “I’m not racist, I’m Irish.” “I have Black friends.” “My family never owned slaves.” “I’m third generation Dutch, I wasn’t even here for that stuff.” Me? I got a whole lotta German in me so I can’t say much.

I remember when my mind changed on being color blind and not being a racist. I was in a play back in the Spring of 2000 when castmates started discussing Gender and Race. I thought I knew it all (what 20 something year-old doesn’t) and said I was colorblind. A castmate took one look at me and said “No. Don’t be. I want you to see my blackness. I am a proud Black man and I want you to see it.” That knocked me back. I never thought of it that way. I was always told that we are the same under our skin. That skin color is just that, color. I never knew that someone would be angry for not being seen by the color of their skin and allowed to be proud to do so. That changed me.

Again, I’m still struggling with this. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. But in all honesty, if you’re White, you’re probably a racist too and just don’t know it. And that’s fine. We don’t like being called racist. We are good people. We are nice people. We don’t burn crosses or discriminate…or do we?

This is a hard tough topic to write on. I’ve been mulling it over in my mind for a while. Friday, as I was doing my devotions, I came across Paul’s words in Colossians:

Here there is no Gentile (a non Jewish person) or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11

It is interesting that Paul mentions Scythian. The Scythians were seen as the barbarians of the barbarians. The barbarians were of the northern German tribes and were mocked by the Greeks for having an ununderstandable language and just said “Bar bar bar” all the time, hence barbarian. A Scythian was worse. Way worse. They were seen as even more disgusting as a common barbarian. The Scythians were nomadic warriors who mastered mountain warfare. They lived in the Carpathian Mountains and along the Pontic Steppes. They were fierce and strong and scary. They weren’t liked. Yet even Scythians were becoming Christians.

Scary.

Them? Christians?

Yes.

Now this is where I get a bit preachy (this is Spiritual Musclehead after all). If Paul had to make this list to the church in Colosse, there was a reason to. He makes a list like this in Galatians as well. People back then were a lot like they are now–racist. They didn’t like each other because of different ethnicities. They didn’t like each other because of their past religious affiliations. Yet Paul says that they are all one in Christ because they were all made through Christ.

Now this is the kicker. The Apostle John sees a vision of heaven in the book of Revelation.  And he sees what heaven is supposed to be like. He sees thousands upon thousands of people who are from every nation, tribe, and language (You can read more about it here). Even in heaven, though we are one in Christ, we are still distinct enough to be noticed as different. Our differences make us together as one. Our differences make is together as the people of God, made in His image.

Yes, I am a racist. I try hard not to be but I still keep stumbling into it. I try hard not to be but I do a new microaggression when I least suspect it. So what am I to do? Take in the the fact that I’m a racist. Take in the fact that I will mess up and step forward by the grace of God in the understanding of forgiveness but also trying to do my best to point to Christ, to be Christ, and to be more and more aware of who I am in Christ in order to understand how I too will be distinct in that great multitude which John saw. And when Kingdom come, I won’t be a racist any more.

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God of the Now

math clock

Photo by Josh Benton

One of the goals I’ve had over the last month is to be more mindful of the present. I’ve dealt with anxiety concerning the past and dreading the future. Because of this, I’ve been working on living in today. This is easier said then done. And then someone said something profound that after I heard it it became a no brainer. They said that God is the God of the now. He lives in the now.

My brain started swirling. And then my mind went to Exodus where God meets Moses in the burning bush. God tells Moses to go to the Israelites with a message of freedom and liberation. Moses doubts that they’ll listen to him and so asks for God’s name so he can tell the people who sent him.

God responds:

I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Exodus 3:14

This says something interesting about God. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–people. He isn’t the God associated with thunder or rain or rivers or animals but people. More than that, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all promised by God to be a great nation. God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He keeps His promises.

Jesus picks up on this when He says that God is the God of the living not the dead (Mark 12:27). Not just that, but Jesus uses “I am” a lot in the Gospel of John.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” John 11:25

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:36

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

That’s just to name a few.

Jesus never said “I will be.” He said “I am.” Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity. He is God in the flesh. This is for a whole ‘nother post or a huge series of books to explain these last two sentences. Suffice it to say, things just got real when Jesus says “I am.” In the Book of Revelation, we hear that God is, was, and always will be. He is the ever present God who loves us (present tense) in today’s world (Revelation 1:4-8). Not only is God ever present, but He is outside of time itself (mind blown). Peter writes that for God a thousand years is like a day and a day is like a thousand years. God isn’t slow (2 Peter 3:8-9). He who created time is not bound by it. Instead He lives in the now because He is the great I AM.

So what does this mean for right now? Part of my own personal anxiety is trying to figure out God’s timing. I’ve said a lot to myself that God is not always early but He’s never late. It’s a great platitude to say to myself but it doesn’t pay the bills. But living in the past doesn’t pay the bills either. Living in the past means you never look forward to the present. And living in the future doesn’t pay the bills either. When we live in the future, we get comfortable with a future that doesn’t exist and get so mired there that we forget the present. One person said that when you’re having one foot in the past and one foot in the future you’re [peeing] on your present.

God is the God of the Now. He lives in the Now. So do we. The past is gone and tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. We are people of the Now. Yet for some reason we don’t live in that Now that God has created. We can’t handle the Now.

My goal is to try to be mindful of Christ’s presence in the Now. My goal is to try to live in the Now. I’m going to mess up. I’m going to be focused on the mistakes of the past and worried about what the future might bring. But when living in the Now, God is present with us. Christ is present is with us. Living in the Now allows for you, for me, to experience grace today in the now.

Living in the Now with the God of the Now is hard but it is doable. It is able to be done. So live in the Now today with God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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The Sexiness of the Bible

The_Kiss_-_Gustav_Klimt_-_Google_Cultural_Institute

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt from Wikipedia

Wait…what? The Bible isn’t sexy…is it? Many see the Bible as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Or as a moral compass. Others see the Bible as the story of Jesus, salvation, and how to become closer to God. But the Bible being sexy? C’mon. Let alone there being sex in the Bible…but there is. Lots of it bad sex really. When I say bad sex I mean bad sex and rape. To be honest, King David rapes Bathsheba. And then his own son, Absalom, rapes his step sister. In the book of Genesis, Judah sleeps with his dead brother’s widow who is dressed as a prostitute to trick him into sleeping with him.

Yeah. Messed up.

But as you read through the Bible you begin to see something different about relationships and sex in the Bible. There’s something good about it. Something down right sexy about it.

In Genesis 2, God creates Adam and declares that it isn’t good for him to be alone. God had made everything good, and humanity very good. But yet God declares that it isn’t good for Adam to be alone. So he creates Eve.

Adam says this about Eve:

This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man.” Genesis 2:23

Now, to get all word nerdy on ya here, let me get down and dirty here with language. In the Hebrew, the word for man is ‘esh (pronounced ‘eesh) and the word for woman is ‘esha (pronounced ‘eesh-aw). There’s an old rabbinic saying that when you take man and woman apart, you have ‘ish (pronounced ‘ihsh) which means fire. The funny thing in Hebrew is that ‘esh and ‘ish are spelled with the same letters just different vowels. The rabbinic saying is that when man and woman aren’t fully together, they burn.

And so, God declares man and woman together. And after the fall, sex is still supposed to be good. In fact, in Genesis 4:1 Adam makes love to Eve (seriously, it says that).

But the sexiness of the Bible appears in the oft skipped and misinterpreted book Song of Songs.

In short, Song of Songs is a love poem. It’s an epic poem about two lovers who are encouraged to love one another by their friends. It is a poem about two loves who so desperately want to be together that they seek each other out in the city late at night. It’s filled with sexual imagery (pomegranates and flowers are used here). They describe the beauty they see in one another. They describe their sexual desire for one another as much as they describe their intimacy with one another that goes beyond sex.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies.” Song of Songs 6:3

There is a deep connection between the lovers. The man is a shepherd. Simple. Hard working. Yet deeply loved by his love. She is seen as the best of the daughters of Jerusalem. She is willing to be beaten in the city streets at night in her desire to seek out her love. She also is experienced in love. That is, she has wisdom to impart to others who seek love.

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” Song of Songs 8:4

Love is more than just a feeling. It is deeper. It goes fuller. It is intimate and it is deep as any country well.

Now, one thing Song of Songs isn’t. It isn’t a description of God’s love for us or Jesus’ love for the church. That just makes it creepy and weird. It isn’t allegory. It is poetry. It is about a strong deep love we are to have with our partners in a covenantal relationship called marriage.

Years ago I knew a married couple who were in their 90’s. They had been married for 70 years. They were close. They were intimate. I doubt there was sex involved at that age. But more importantly, their love for one another ran deep. It ran so deep that when the husband died, part of the wife’s heart died that day as well. The intimacy that we are to have is to be greater than any sexual love has to offer. It is to be greater, deeper, fuller.

Now, the title of this post is a bit sensational and probably hasn’t delivered. But there is a sexiness in the Bible. Yes, Jesus speaks about marriage. Paul speaks about marriage and what sex is. But Song of Songs describes a deep love that is both sexy and goes beyond that even. In the love that we are allowed to have for our partners, we can have something so intimate that it goes beyond just words, it’s living poetry.

 

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Father Wound

It’s something we all have. It’s something that all men have for sure. Even women have this too. It is the father wound. It is the first wound we receive. It’s not always intentional, but it’s there. And it runs deep. So deep that we attempt to heal it ourselves. The Father Wound is an emotional wound wound given to us by our fathers. As a child, we are wounded by our father, it hurts. And for men, it hurts greatly. So greatly that it is never fully healed. Even when the emotional scabs are there, we pick at them like a child does to a skinned knee, feeling the pain once again, peeling at it, poking at it, still allowing the wound to hurt and not heal.

Robert Bly speaks of this wound in Iron John. It is a wound given by a distant father, a hurting father, a father with a wound himself from years gone by. For Bly it is a wound that happens because the father has locked up the wild man. The wild man, for Bly, is that quintessential aspect of masculinity that is inside all men. And when we are wounded, that wild man is kept locked up. Only when, and only, when we leave our mothers and fathers behind, do we truly allow the wild man to exist. This wild man becomes the mentor for all men, teaching them how to be a true man in the world.

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, looks at it a bit differently in his book From Wild Man to Wise Man. The Father Wound is given by fathers not intentionally but unintentionally. It is a word here, an absence there, something that makes the father distant from the son. And the Father Wound become something that needs to be healed, needs to be filled. And it is filled not by the father who originally wounded the son but by others. Sometimes by other men who are friends and are wounded themselves. Hopefully, it can be filled by a mentor who was once wounded as well but went through the healing process. Then, and only then, can the wound begin to heal. It will never heal but it will be filled.

Then there’s John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Here he speaks of the wound as well. But the wound is there to be healed by God Himself. For Eldredge only God can heal this wound and fill it and make us complete as men. All men are wounded, he says, and in that wound we act out, we don’t act like men ought. And the way men ought are to be men of God who live out their wildness as they were originally made to as image bearers of God.

All three of these books have something in common: They agree that there is a great wound in men that needs to be filled. In my generation, there is a great wound in men. Our fathers chased after dreams and sometimes left us behind. Usually left us behind. Our fathers went out into the world to make money. Some went out into the world and never came back, leaving a huge wound. Families were hurt. Families were broken. Men grew up as child-men, never fully achieving manhood but never fully leaving boyhood either.

In this woundedness, there is a desire to please men of our father’s age. There is a desire to make them be proud of us. We desire that gold star. We desire that “at-a-boy” look when we do well. And when we don’t get it, we push even harder, we strive even harder, we become even more wounded by our attempts to please our fathers or father figures. And it hurts us even more. The hurt becomes so bad that we bury it. We push it down. And we try to find solace in other things.

To not acknowledge the wound is to not acknowledge the pain. The pain inflicted by our fathers. But more than that, we also need to acknowledge the wounds we are giving our children today. I have wounded my son. I know I have. Even though I strive not to be an absent father, even thought I strive to be a loving father, even thought I strive to be an emotionally healthy, spiritually healthy father, I know I’ve still wounded my son. The wound unintentionally goes from one generation to the next.

Eldredge is right, you know. The wound can only be healed and filled by God through Jesus. Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted. And as men, we are broken. We are broken hearted and need that binding of our hearts, we need that binding of our wounds.

Come all you are tired and weary, come all who are wounded and in pain. Come those who have the Father Wound and be healed and filled by the love of God the Father through the Son Jesus Christ. It takes time, but it will give you healing and rest.

 

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The Art of Seeking Wisdom

owl-and-forest-3

Artwork by Josh Benton

What exactly is wisdom? I once heard that wisdom is age plus experience. That sounds good but then I look back and I’ve known some pretty wise young people and some pretty dense foolish 80 year-olds. So, that doesn’t always hold water. I’ve also heard that wisdom is the act of making the right choices. The right choices can only be made from learning from making the wrong choices. That makes more sense. Of course that goes back to age plus experience in some ways. But wisdom, I think, might be a bit more than that. Wisdom must be sought as much as it is given.

What exactly is wisdom then? There’s wisdom and then there’s Biblical wisdom. These are a bit different I think. Wisdom is the usual age plus experience making the wrong and right choices. Biblical wisdom is beginning with the fear of God. Fear being not a scared of God but in deep awe and respect of God.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

Wisdom comes not just from experience (don’t get me wrong, experience is important) but it comes straight from God himself.

For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

James says it well:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives it generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

And that begins what I like to call the art of seeking wisdom. Seeking wisdom begins by asking for it from God. It begins with a deep respect and awe of God who speaks forth wisdom. In fact, wisdom was present when God made the heavens and the earth:

By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place” Proverbs 3:19

Wisdom is part of creation. Human beings were made to have this wisdom. At the same time, we need to seek out true biblical wisdom, the wisdom of God. And this can be hard and easy all at the same time.

It begins by asking. Simple enough. Ask for wisdom. In 2 Chronicles (a book of the Bible hardly anyone ever reads like Leviticus) God offers King Solomon anything he desires. Solomon asks for wisdom instead of riches or power. God grants Solomon great wisdom. Now here’s the kicker. Solomon used his wisdom for good and for God. For a while. And then it all went down hill because he didn’t continue to seek out wisdom from God. He sat on his laurels with the wisdom he had and didn’t continue to seek it. And in the end, he became a jerk who had a majority of the kingdom torn away from his son after Solomon died. Not cool.

That’s the part about seeking wisdom. You have to constantly seek it. You have to constantly look towards God for it. That is part of the art of seeking wisdom. Wisdom never ends. It is always continuing. There is always something more to learn. There is always growth needed. And someone who is seeking wisdom understands this. And so they continue to seek God, asking Him for His wisdom.

In seeking wisdom, we need to seek God first. We can seek God through Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. It is through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit that wisdom and knowledge can come to us. And when God gives it, He gives it abundantly but we have to truly seek it with all our heart.

James says something interesting in 1:6-8 right after writing about seeking wisdom:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1:6-8

Dude.

So when you seek wisdom, truly seek it from God. Don’t allow yourself to chase after other things and be tossed in the waves of doubt. Don’t be double-minded but single-mindedly laser focused on seeking wisdom from God. And when we do, He will give it to you. But seek it. Constantly seek it from God through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Where are you seeking wisdom right now? How can you seek it from God at this moment?

 

 

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Star Gazing

jupiter star pic

screen shot by Josh Benton

Last night Jupiter was said to be so close and so bright you could see it’s major moons through binoculars. Around sunset, I took my kids to the the middle school near by and went out into their opened field. We laid (lay, lied?) down in the grass and looked up into the night sky. As the sun slowly set, we started to see the stars become brighter and brighter in the night sky. Out in the distance, towards the east, we saw the bright red dot in the sky that was Jupiter. We stood up, took out our binoculars and all we saw was a blurry blob. Luckily I have an app on my phone that lets us view the night sky with all the constellations and planets and stars named. So I took a screen shot.

After seeing Jupiter, we laid (lay?) once more on the cool grass and looked up once again at the night sky. My daughter pointed out the Big Dipper, my son used the app on my phone to find the Pegasus. As we gazed at the stars becoming brighter and brighter in the night sky, my son said gently “This is amazing.” My response was simple: “Isn’t it great how God made all this.” My daughter wanted to know how many stars were out there. “Billions” I told her. Her mind was blown.

As I gazed at the stars, my mind went to Psalm 8 (hey, this is Spiritual Musclehead and I am a pastor, so my mind does go that way sometimes).

LORD, our LORD, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.” Psalm 8:1

I was amazed at the wonderness that was above me. I thought more about Psalm 8.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:3-5

In this world that we live in, with the billions and billions and billions of stars in the sky, in the universe, we are but specks, we are puny, we are small, yet God has crowned us with glory and honor and made us a little lower than the angels.

David asks these questions thousands of years ago. And we ask them today as well. Who are we in comparison to the world around us? Who are we in the eyes of God Himself who created all of this? We are made just a little lower than the angels themselves yet the angels aren’t crowned with glory and honor.

We are.

There’s something awe inspiring when you look up into the night sky and see something bigger than yourself. There’s something even more awes inspiring to look up and know that He who made all of this is the one who sits on the throne of the universe and calls you by name. His Holy Spirit fills those who call on the name of Jesus, and calls us by name. He who set the moon and stars in the night sky calls us by name.

We didn’t get to see the moons of Jupiter. We hardly saw Jupiter at all. Yet we saw the grand creation that was laid bare before us. The  lights around us burned bright so that we couldn’t see as many stars as we wanted to. But we knew they were there. The night sky was still filled with the stars that reminded us that were were fearfully and wonderfully made by the same one who placed these stars in the heavens.

Keep star gazing and look to what God has made. For He made you even greater than the stars in the night sky.

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