Thursday, April 15, 2010

Foundations of Wisdom

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We are all familiar with the first verse of the Bible which states "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Over a six day span of time, God spoke light into existence followed by sky, land, vegetation, seasons, creatures both in water and on land and then we know he created us, man. Where did the intangible concept of wisdom come from? Do you think it was created on the first day with light? What about with the creatures of the sea? I was reading in Proverbs this morning and discovered that it's foundations of wisdom were before God spoke light into existence!

"22(AH) "The LORD(AI) possessed[b] me at the beginning of his work,[c]
the first of his acts(AJ) of old.
23Ages ago I was(AK) set up,
at the first,(AL) before the beginning of the earth.
24When there were no(AM) depths I was(AN) brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25Before the mountains(AO) had been shaped,
(AP) before the hills, I was brought forth,
26before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
27When he(AQ) established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew(AR) a circle on the face of the deep,
28when he(AS) made firm the skies above,
when he established[d] the fountains of the deep,
29when he(AT) assigned to the sea its(AU) limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out(AV) the foundations of the earth,
30then(AW) I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his[e](AX) delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31(AY) rejoicing in his(AZ) inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man."


I love how the author of this passage personifies wisdom in verse 30 saying " I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man." This passage emphasizes the importance and significance of wisdom does it not? Wisdom is an attribute that God delighted in before man was in even in existence to delight in! The passage goes on to describe what we are to do with wisdom:

"32"And now,(BA) O sons, listen to me:
(BB) blessed are those who keep my ways.
33(BC) Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
34(BD) Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
35For(BE) whoever finds me(BF) finds life
and(BG) obtains favor from the LORD,
36but he who fails to find me(BH) injures himself;
all who(BI) hate me(BJ) love death."


"For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD..." Whoever finds wisdom finds life and favor from the Lord. That's huge! Chapter 9 goes on to describe the way of wisdom and contrasts wisdom with simplicity. Interesting. The way of the world screams simplicity in everything: delight yourself in simple ways. Simple in this context is implied foolishness, the act of believing in everything and acting in folly (Proverbs 8:5;14:15,18). These cross reference verses contrast simple with the word prudent. This word is used frequently throughout all of Proverbs--it is tied with knowledge and disciplined in many of the verses. So how does one even become wise or prudent? If it gives life and if it was so significant that it existed before the world's foundations---how does one obtain it? Read on in chapter 9 and discover the catalyst for wisdom:

" 7Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
8(R) Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
(S) reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
9Give instruction[b] to a wise man, and he will be(T) still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will(U) increase in learning.
10(V) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and(W) the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
11For by me(X) your days will be multiplied,
and years will be added to your life.
12(Y) If you are wise, you are wise for yourself;
if you scoff, you alone will bear it."


The "fear of the LORD" is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the LORD doesn't mean that you're literally scared of Him--it means that you recognize your place: under his authority. Other Proverbs regarding the fear of the Lord state that "The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor." (15:33). Job 28:28 states that fear of the Lord and wisdom are the same thing and "to turn away from evil is understanding." So not only to recognize his authority in humility but to turn from evil are intertwined in wisdom. Seek the Lord for wisdom and prudence: make wisdom your companion like it was God's before the foundations of the world!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Speaking the Sword

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This past week at Oasis, Jared spoke on the passage in Ephesians entitled “The Whole Armor of God” in chapter six. I love this imagery that Paul is using to encourage the Church of Ephesus. Throughout the course of this book, Paul writes a series of letters challenging the people in their faiths and interactions with one another. Then, almost like the final clincher that a football coach may throw in to really get the boys rallied, he presents this imagery of battle gear. This is what it says:

“The Whole Armor of God
10Finally,(M) be strong in the Lord and in(N) the strength of his might. 11(O) Put on(P) the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against(Q) the schemes of the devil. 12For(R) we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against(S) the rulers, against the authorities, against(T) the cosmic powers over(U) this present darkness, against(V) the spiritual forces of evil(W) in the heavenly places. 13Therefore(X) take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in(Y) the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (ESV

In order to fight in a battle, you have to know your enemy correct? In these first few verses Paul describes that our enemy is “not flesh and blood but rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness and the spiritual forces of evil.” Wow. I don’t think you could take any form of self-defense, karate, or num chuck classes to knock out “cosmic powers” do you? No, the passages precedes into the description of what we are to put on: the armor of God.

14Stand therefore,(Z) having fastened on the belt of truth, and(AA) having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and,(AB) as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up(AC) the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all(AD) the flaming darts of(AE) the evil one; 17and take(AF) the helmet of salvation, and(AG) the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying(AH) at all times(AI) in the Spirit,(AJ) with all prayer and supplication. To that end(AK) keep alert with all perseverance, making(AL) supplication for all the saints, 19and(AM) also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth(AN) boldly to proclaim(AO) the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I(AP) am an ambassador(AQ) in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.


Ok. I don’t know about you, but this armor of God is pretty intense is it not? A belt of truth followed by a breastplate of righteousness? Because I’m a runner I like this next part, I would think that Paul is saying, “Make sure you have your spikes on” so you’re ready to share the gospel of peace. A shield that reflects …flaming darts? A helmet of salvation? A sword of the spirit which is technically God’s Word with never-ending prayer and supplication.

Whew. You know what really got me jazzed in this passage of scripture? The sword. (Maybe it’s because I took that Meat Science class my freshman year at SDSU and we got to work with knives :) The reason why I love the sword is because this analogy is used throughout all scripture and the other passages bring it to an even higher element of meaning particularly in Revelation 19:15

15(A) From his mouth comes a sharp sword(B) with which to strike down the nations, and(C) he will rule them with a rod of iron.(D) He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (ESV

A guy has a sword coming out of his mouth---how cotton-pickin’ cool is that?! This is not just any normal guy, this is indeed our “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” This passage is the ultimate introduction for a warrior; forget the Bulls arena music, when Christ returns on His white horse with flames in his eyes, a crown on his head, a robe dipped in blood and a sword jetting from his mouth, it will be the most majestic sight one will ever witness. Oh, don’t forget the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” tattooed on his thigh—wow. Ok, so the sword. I want you to understand the significance of the sword. Obviously it’s a symbol of a fight, a battle and war. It’s sharp. In fact another passage tells us just how sharp this sword is:

12For(A) the word of God is living and(B) active,(C) sharper than any(D) two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and(E) discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (ESV

This is not your typical Medieval sword that let’s say Robinhood would use. This sword cuts deeper than flesh and blood. This sword reaches deep inside of your in most being and pierces into your thoughts and intentions of the heart: it’s that sharp. You may not realize it but you hold a deadly weapon in your hand when you hold the Word of God. Just like we discussed earlier, a weapon needs to match your enemy and there is not other weapon that is going to stop Satan except the Word of God. Notice the correlation between this verse and John 1:1 which states

“14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[d] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

See how our analogy continues to grow and permeate throughout all of scripture? This is important. The Word became flesh. Christ is the Word made into flesh. This means that the Word is not just a book that we open on Sundays; it’s not just a nice bedtime story book for your kids; it’s not just a rule book for how to live your life---it’s real and a live. The power of God’s Word is like none other. You have to realize that the power that comes from the Word is the same power that spoke light into exsistence, like in Genesis; the power of the Word is the same power that spoke to Moses in the burning bush, like in Exodus. The power of the Word is the same power that spoke through all the prophets of the Old Testament in which, I remind you, all were fulfilled (except for the return of Christ). The power of the Word is the same power that spoke through Jesus in his earthly ministry. The power of the Word is the same power that spoke and Lazarus was raised from the dead. The power of the Word is the same power that spoke the words “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” and “it is finished!” The power of the Word is the same power that spoke and Christ was raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God.

Now do you know why I get jazzed about what was talked about Oasis? Do you realize that God has made a power available to us like no other power here on earth? Do you realize that we have been equipped with the same weapon as our Lord Jesus Christ (well, technically, He is his own weapon—wrap your mind around that!). When He returns, He won’t even have to lift a finger—but merely speak and justice will be brought to Satan and his army? My challenge to you this week, is to take up that Sword, take up the Word of God and write what it says on your heart. It is promised to you by God that whatever trial, whatever discouraging event, whatever pain or suffering you encounter in this life, that His Word is with you. You won’t be able to defeat Satan with church. You won’t be able to defeat Satan with giving clothes to the poor and money to the needy. You won’t be able to defeat Satan by saying that your parents were good people and that you believed in God. The ONLY way to obtain this sword is through the acceptance of Jesus Christ into your life and making him Lord and Savior of your life.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Goodness Made in Flesh

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If there was ever a theme for "Good Friday" I think it would be this video with Divine Romance by Phil Wickham--check it out:

While I was on my mission's trip to New York City, I had a conversation with a gentleman who was Muslim on the differences between Christianity and the Muslim faith. I recall one comment he made that really ties in with the question: "Why 'good' Friday?" He said " Why is it that you Christians choose to have a cross as your religious symbol? It makes no sense! If you love someone so much, why would you show honor to something that actually was a part of your loved one's death?" I feel as if God just breathed this answer into me in that moment, " Well, if you notice---the cross no longer has Christ on it, does it? It's a symbol of both the sin that was conquered and the resurrection that took place three days later." It does seem rather odd that we have a cross for a symbol of our faith in Christ Jesus and that we have a day set aside on our calenders in which we remember his death. If Christ rose a few days later, why emphasize his death? Why not have a stone necklace instead of a cross for our symbol to represent the stone being rolled away?

It hit me today while I was doing my quiet time and just praying for God to reveal something unique and special to me about this day that we can call this day " good " because we have a Good God. Lately, I have been overwhelmed with scripture describing the attributes of God including his goodness, faithfulness and his steadfast love. Goodness is an attribute of God that is permeated throughout all of scripture:

Exodus 33:19
And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Psalm 31:19
Oh, how abundant is your goodness,which you have stored up for those who fear youand worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!

Psalm 65:4
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,to dwell in your courts!We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,the holiness of your temple!

Psalm 68:9-10
Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
you restored your inheritance as it languished;
10your flock found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

Isaiah 63:7
(The LORD’s Mercy Remembered) I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD,the praises of the LORD,according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israelthat he has granted them according to his compassion,according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

And these are just a few of the verses that have the word "goodness" in them; not including the goodness God has lavished upon those he loves both within the Bible and His current body of believers. Not only is goodness included in the list of God's attributes, but this quality of God was personified in his son, Jesus Christ--check out this verse in Titus 3

"3For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

AH! You cannot tell me that this verse does not create so much sorrow and joy within your heart all at once when you read it. His goodness appeared, the word goodness was actually made into a human image that walked upon this earth only to be poured out on who....US! What does it say in verse 5? It says "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his....mercy". Mercy is not getting something we deserve--mercy is being justified so that we might become the heirs of an eternal life. Now that is why we can call this day 'good.'