Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Beginning of Wisdom

There are dozens upon dozens of Bible passages that refer to something that has become increasingly foreign to our modern society, something called "the fear of the Lord," or "the fear of God."  Here is just a small sampling:

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. (Psalm 19:9) 
Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men! (Psalm 31:19) 
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. (Psalm 33:8) 
The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. (Psalm 34:7) 
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. (Psalm 34:9) 
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:11) 
As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:13) 
The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children. (Psalm 103:17)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom—so says the Bible in three different passages, and a fourth is like it: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  That says to me that before we can make any real, substantive advance toward the worthy goals of wisdom or knowledge, our starting block must be that exalted place called the fear of the Lord.  If we don't begin with the fear of God, our wisdom is doomed to be the wisdom of man, which is not the wisdom of God at all.  Romans 1 offers these words in reference to those who trusted in worldly wisdom: "… although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools … Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind."

If the fear of the Lord is truly the beginning of wisdom, then these people who sought after wisdom from a different starting point became not wise, but fools.  According to God's Word, it could have had no other result.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Vision of Faith

This week at the Bible study I have just started attending, the pastor brought up the famous verse Romans 8:28 ("And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose").  This has long been one of my favorite verses of scripture, and while many pages could be written about the Reformed perspective of the second half of that verse (more later, Lord willing), there is treasure to be wrung out of the simplest understanding of the first half as well.

The reason I am posting now is that there actually seemed to be some doubt among the participants about the credibility of the scripture on that point; that God wasn't necessarily able to work all things together for our good.  This frankly surprised me a bit, though perhaps it shouldn't have.  Maybe there are lots of folks out there that are unsteady regarding the sovereign power of our omnipotent God, the all-encompassing purposes of our loving heavenly Father.  If you count yourselves among the vaguely skeptical here, maybe this little illustration will be of some value to you.

All of us have had situations in our lives where we have suffered most severely.  You know the roster here: death of a loved one, divorce, disease, etc.  We thought about our affliction that no possible good could come from it.  But ten years past the suffering, we all have looked back from our advanced perspective and confessed that the situation actually did provide some benefit for us.  We say things like, "Now I see that God was in it all the time; I never would have learned a particular lesson were it not for that time of hardship; I grew to depend upon the Lord so much during that time of trial."  And you can be sure that if we in our limited perception can discern some good result from our suffering, then God is His perfect wisdom has done much more for us than that which we can see.  He has actually worked all things together for our good, though we perceive it only fractionally.

The vision of faith is this: We take that perfect hindsight--that God has worked through our suffering for our good--we take that understanding, turn it around 180 degrees, and apply it to the future.  We say, "God has not only worked all things together for our good in the past, but He will continue to do so in the future."  And we step boldly into the unknown, trusting in God's care.  This is an act of worship: trusting God to do what He has said He would do.  "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Kiss from Rachel

O Lord, satisfy me with Your goodness!
Turn my heart away from pursuing worthless things!

I love trinkets, I love doodads, I love gewgaws.
Wood, hay, and stubble?
I have an entire kingdom made of cardboard.

"When I became a man, I put away childish things."
—so spoke Saint Paul.  Was he younger then than I am now,
looking backward at the time when he became a man?
And here I sit, surrounded by—engulfed, overwhelmed by—
my childish things.
Old fool that I am!
Will the day ever come, the day when I will be a man?
Or am I fated to be forever ensnared
by the twisted bands of my iniquity?
Must it take some colossal effort of the will,
some titanic throwing off of the old man?
—something I don't have the energy to muster.
Or shall I sit here, feigning patience,
while the imps prick and poke me?

While I writhe and moan in the
uncomfortably plain view of all my sins,
still my heart finds its rest in these words:

"My grace is sufficient for thee."

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tap Shoes R Us

Thomas Fletcher was a man with an idea. Even more than that, he was a man with ambition: He wanted to be rich, and he wanted to be respected. Even more than that, he was a man who owned a pair of electric hedge clippers, which he had grudgingly lent to his no-account next-door neighbor, Bill Chatsworth. But I digress: Tom Fletcher had an idea, and he had ambition. What could possibly make him more money and gain him more renown than to become an internet millionaire? It seemed that everyone had heard of folks like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, men who had discerned a vacuum in the American marketplace and rushed to fill it. All Thomas Fletcher needed was to find a similar void in the market, and then be there with the answer. After pondering these things for several months, and having stayed up late one night watching "Singing in the Rain," he believed he had identified his opportunity. He would become the world's leading internet provider of tap shoes. Who didn't love tap dancing? And Fletcher's subsequent research convinced him that that segment of the marketplace was deliciously under-represented.

First he had to acquire some capital, something that turned out to be even easier than he had naively expected. For the famous venture capitalist Barton Sizemore had long practiced the strategy of occasionally investing in something that sounded so bizarre, so strange, so out-of-left-field that it just might work. And if it did work, the payoff would be colossal. So Sizemore agreed to loan Fletcher the tidy sum of one million dollars for a half-share in his profits, with the provision that if the business wasn't as lucrative as hoped, the million dollars would be repayable at the end of a year's time.

Thomas Fletcher was elated. "Tap Shoes R Us" was about to become a reality! First, using part of the money, he bought himself a new car; it wouldn't do for an internet mogul to be seen driving around in Fletcher's rusty old bucket of bolts. Secondly, he paid to have his house painted and a swimming pool installed in his back yard. Finally, the frugal entrepreneur invested the remainder of the loan into inventory, purchasing tap shoes of every size, style, and color. His garage was soon full to overflowing with box after box of shiny metal-tipped shoes.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Comeback Kid (Old Man Version)

Hey ... I think I'm going to try blogging again.  It's been several years, and I have retired on disability due to Parkinson's and Crohn's diseases.  But my mind is still active and God is still enthroned in glory.  Why not write?