Bread – Wisdom

May 31, 2010


Readings for Monday, May 31 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Eccles. 2:1-15; Gal. 1:1-17; Matt. 13:44-52
    Psalms 41, 44, 52
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There is an old joke which goes something like this – "How do you avoid making mistakes?  Experience.  How do you get experience?  Making mistakes."

In a very few words, this describes man’s normal way of obtaining wisdom.  We "learn from experience."  We are told not to touch a hot stove.  We touch it anyway.  We get burned.  We don’t touch it again.  Voila! – wisdom.

In our reading today from Solomon’s message to us in Ecclesiastes, we have an oddity.  First, Solomon gives us a laundry list of the worldly mistakes he has made:

    1.    He tests himself with pleasure (Eccles. 2:1)
    2.    He drinks wine (Eccles. 2:3)
    3.    He embraces folly (Eccles. 2:3)
    4.    He worked a lot, building monuments to himself (Eccles. 2:4)
    5.    He worked a lot in his community, building public works (Eccles. 2:5-6)
    6.    He acquired great wealth (workers, houses, gold and silver) (Eccles. 2:7-8)
    7.    He engaged in a lot of sex (Eccles. 2:8)

Which of these hot stoves have we touched on our way to obtain worldly wisdom?

However, Solomon goes on to say that, while he did these things, his mind was still guided by wisdom, wisdom stayed with him.  (Eccles. 2:3, 9).  Although the Hebrew word used is the wisdom which comes from God (all true wisdom comes from God; Prov. 2:6), nonetheless Solomon’s mistake-making suggests that he is not using the wisdom from God, but a man-originated wisdom, grounded in "real life" experience.

Solomon realizes that his wisdom, the wisdom of man, is no different than the folly of man – both lead to death.  "Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly…The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both…Like the fool, the wise man too must die!" (Eccles. 2:12-16).

The folly of man is the wisdom of man, and whether one proceeds from folly to death or man’s wisdom to death, the net result is the same.

So why then use the word for wisdom which describes the true knowledge, the true understanding which comes from God?

Because without realizing it, in his description of his life and his description of his death, Solomon sees with the wisdom of God.  He understands that "This [man’s wisdom, man’s folly] too is meaningless."  (Eccles. 2:15)

What man has to offer is nothing – what God has to offer is everything.  What man has to say is of little value – what God has to say is truth.  What man builds will disappear – God’s Word stands forever.

Perhaps today you sense that your wisdom and your folly are meaningless.  Man would say that, if you think your life is meaningless, you must lack self-esteem or be depressed.  I suggest something different.  I suggest that, if you think what you are doing is meaningless, you are experiencing what Solomon experienced – a breakthrough of God’s wisdom in your life, drawing you to Him, drawing you to the truth, drawing you into eternal life.

And if you are sensing God’s draw in your life, if you are asking the hard question using man’s wisdom and find the answers insufficient, then come to God.  Meet Jesus Christ.  And fill your mind with His wisdom and His truth.

And in the power of the Holy Spirit, you will clearly see with Godly wisdom that you and your life are not meaningless, but precious; so precious indeed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave His life for you that you may have life, now and forever.

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Readings for Friday, May 28 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Prov. 23:19-24:2; 1 Tim. 5:17-25; Matt. 13:31-35
    Psalms 31, 35
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Many of us are from small beginnings.  Perhaps we grew up in poverty, where the idea of a car or three meals a day was a doubtful proposition.  Perhaps we were born handicapped in some physical manner.  Perhaps we were born into difficult situations caused by criminal activity, alcohol, drugs, or other addictions.  Sometimes we are born into circumstances where we have no access to a way out – no access to education, no access to good role models, perhaps even no access to newspapers.  Perhaps we start off with small beginnings because our hearts are hardened early in life, our thoughts become stagnated, our hopes dim, In any event, all of us start off at conception as something almost microscopic, so in a very real sense we all start with small beginnings.

The kingdom of God came into the world – started – as a small beginning as well.  In our reading in Matthew today, Jesus says "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…Although it is the smallest of seeds…" Matt. 13:31-32.  It started small, in the womb of Mary, as small as we start.  And it has grown into a mighty tree, having many branches and abundantly supporting many "birds of the air."  Matt. 33:32.

The kingdom of heaven grew from the smallest beginning to full blossom through the obedience of Jesus to His Father to the cross.  We can grow as well, following the same path.  We can grow from smallness to greatness, able to support many "birds" in our "branches," by following in the same path as Jesus, with one major difference.  Jesus was obedient to the Father unto death because our sin, the sin of the world, had to be dealt with before a holy God.  Jesus was obedient to death; all we have to do is be obedient to Jesus unto life – why, because He died for us so that we might have life and have it abundantly (sounds like a lot of birds in the tree, doesn’t it?).

Have you begun with small beginnings?  Do you feel small and tiny today?  Embrace Jesus Christ, embrace the Kingdom of God.  Believe in Him.  And the mustard seed of faith planted in your life will, and you will along with it, end up large, growing into abundance and glory.

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Readings for Wednesday, May 26 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Prov. 17:1-20; 1 Tim. 3:1-16; Matt. 12:43-50
    Psalms 38, 119:25-48
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Some of us, and perhaps many of us, are in the job market, looking to be employed.  While we do this, we carry our resumes, our written summary of our qualifications.  These generally include our education, our job history, and some description of our skill set.  Perhaps our resume will contain a "vision" or "objectives" section.  What do all these point to — our skill set and our personality.  These are the qualifications the world looks for.  The world asks two major questions when it looks at qualifications, "can you do it" and "are you pleasant enough to eat lunch with?"  Our surface demeanor and what we can do and have done – qualifications for a job.

As usual, God’s way is different.  The world’s definition of qualifications is not God’s definition of qualifications.  While man looks at things like hard work, ability, training, and a good personality, God looks at things like integrity and character.

In 1 Timothy 3:1-12, Paul sets forth the qualifications for leadership in the church.  With the small exception of "able to teach" (implying an ability), every one of these qualifications pertains to character and integrity (who we are, not what we do) — "…[1] must be above reproach,  [2] must be the husband of but one wife, [3] temperate, [4] self-controlled, [5] respectable, [6] hospitable, [7] not given to drunkenness, [8] not violent but gentle, [9] not quarrelsome, [10] not a lover of money … [11] men worthy of respect, [12] sincere, [13] not indulging in much wine, and [14] not pursuing dishonest gain." 1 Tim. 3:2-3, 8 (numbers have been added for effect).

Some might object and say the Paul is speaking about qualifications for church leadership positions, not leadership positions in business and government, not jobs in the normal, in the "real" world.  To this I would ask the question — if you are an employer, would you rather hire someone with character and integrity who did not presently have the ability for the job or would you rather have a person with great ability for the job but no or little character or integrity?  As a worker, would you rather work with someone you can trust but who may not be able to do the job very well or would you rather work with someone who is excellent at their job but has little integrity and would steal from you any opportunity they got?

The world emphasizes ability and the church emphasizes character and integrity born of gratitude to God for being given new clothes and new life by the death of Jesus Christ.

And isn’t this dispute over qualifications a mere reflection of the cosmic dispute? — Man says I can because am I good; God says you can’t because you are not without My help.

When asked for your qualifications, which ones to you emphasize?  What qualifications are you looking for in others?  Man’s or God’s?

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Bread – Worship

May 24, 2010


Readings for Monday, May 24 as
designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
Prov. 10:1-12; 1 Tim. 1:1-17; Matt. 12:22-32; Psalms 9, 15, 25
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At the end of our reading today in 1 Timothy, Paul in one sentence summarizes our heartfelt worship of our Lord — "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen." 1 Tim. 1:17

This sentence follows Paul’s instructions to Timothy to stand and to root out false doctrine, to promote love and reconciliation, and to remember the purpose and use of the law.  Paul then proceeds to recount to Timothy Paul’s own conversion and to state Jesus’ purpose – "to come into the world to save sinners."  Just before this outburst of worship, Paul then realizes that Jesus came into the world to save him, the "worse of sinners."  Because he has been saved and set free by Jesus, Paul’s reaction out of gratitude and deep understanding of the miracle of true life granted to him by God is to say, "Now …."

Today, while we go about our Timothy-duties of proclaiming the gospel, defending true doctrine, demonstrating love, and correcting and disciplining where necessary, let us not forget to also recall the miracle of our new life in Jesus Christ, the gift of His death for our sake, and our rescue from death.  And when we recall what God has done in our lives, let us not forget to end the memory with an outpouring of worship – "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever."

Amen.

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