What is This All For?

(Photo credit: here)

S (Scripture): Ecclesiastes  2:24 There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; 25 for apart from him[d] who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

O (Observation): In all of his wisdom, Solomon has tracked down the purpose and the results of all ventures: eating, drinking, toil, study, war, etc.  And what is his conclusion?  “Vanity!  All is vanity!”

Nothing will last forever, according to Solomon.   Not riches or fame or conquest or control.  Nothing.   So, in the meantime, what should one do?  Eat, drink, and be merry!

A (Application):  I try so hard not to feel like I have to convince everyone that my way is right…but some itch under my skin keeps me irritated.   I can disagree with someone in person, and not try to win that conversation…but for minutes, or sometimes for hours, I try to win the argument in my head, or figure out what I could have said differently or better.  

But to what end?   What difference would it make?   

I’m not advocating for giving up…just to shift the reason for keeping my wheels turning.  

Why not shift from “trying to win,” to trying to make more clear my reasons for believing what I believe.  In other words: my journey does not have to be for the vain purpose of “winning,” but simply for the enjoyment of the pursuit of truth and understanding of my faith.  

May we all pursue the work of the Spirit, which brings joy and hope.   May we avoid vain pursuits…or at least enjoy life as it comes.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, your wisdom is above all.  May we enjoy the pursuit of said wisdom.  Amen.  

Wisdom Leads to Life… Pleasure…not so much. 

Eat

S (Scripture): Proverbs 9:1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has carved out its seven pillars.
9:2 She has prepared her meat, she has mixed her wine;
she also has arranged her table.
9:3 She has sent out her female servants;
she calls out on the highest places of the city.
9:4 “Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,”
she says to those who lack understanding.
9:5 “Come, eat some of my food,
and drink some of the wine I have mixed.
9:6 Abandon your foolish ways so that you may live,
and proceed  in the way of understanding.”

O (Observation): Net.Bible.org commentary will suffice for an observation for this post today: 

Chapter 9 forms the conclusion of the lengthy introduction to the book [of Proverbs]. Both wisdom and folly will make their final appeals; and both appeal to the simpletons. Wisdom offers life with no mention of pleasure; folly offers pleasure with no mention of death.

A (Application):  I love that wisdom and folly are described as they are in the commentary above.

Wisdom offers Life, with no mention of Pleasure.

Folly offers Pleasure, with no mention of Death.

This reminds me of a saying:  Sin is Death masquerading as Life.

We want the pleasurable in this world…and wisdom brings this…but without appeal to our simple understandings.   A simple understanding towards Pleasure is like wanting to fill your belly with dessert, without thinking about the stomachache that will come with it later.   The appeal is to Pleasure, but you don’t think about the Death (putting on extra weight, uncomfortable digestion).

We are simple and we often seek that which will please us.  But we must also think of the death that comes.  Choosing to spend money can be a short-term pleasure, but what dies when you do that?  The college fund for the kids?  The retirement fund?  Giving to God?

Folly offers pleasure, with no mention of Death.   We get sucked in…

But Wisdom offers Life, even though Pleasure is not mentioned.   The meal is set for us.  The food has been prepared.  We simply need to come and eat the free meal offered to us.

Come.  Worship.  Confess.  Receive forgiveness.  Pray.  Sing.   Eat the Bread.   Drink the wine.  Leave with Blessing.  Repeat about once a week.   Typically on Sundays.

Come.   We offer what God has first offered us.  Life, with no mention of Pleasure.   But you will be satisfied.

P (Prayer):  Lord, guide us into all wisdom.   Amen.

The Only Response to God: “I repent!”

dust

S (Scripture): Job 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord: 2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted;…3b I have declared without understanding things too wonderful for me to know.

4 You said, ‘Pay attention, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.’

5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes!”

O (Observation):  Job has come to the conclusion of his trials before God.  He never blasphemed God, but he did assume wisdom beyond that of God.   Job thought he knew best, but God’s last couple of points about the weather and the Leviathan being beyond Job’s comprehension were enough to cause Job to come to one conclusion:  “I repent in dust and ashes!”

 

Job has sensed that he truly encountered God in this experience.  He’s heard about God…but he doesn’t think he’s ever heard from God directly.  Now he has.  He has now “seen” God (that is, he has “encountered” God).

A (Application):   Job’s response is the only possible response when in an encounter with God.   Nothing we say or do can ever please God in and of itself.  All that we do is tainted with a bit of sin.   But we act boldly, anyway, trusting that our Lord will guide all things together for those who trust in the Lord.

We can be as righteous as Job, but that still doesn’t make us worthy of God’s love.  Instead, God’s very nature is mercy and love.  And so, we come, humbly, into our encounters with God, trusting that God will pick us up from dust and ashes in which we repent, in order to wash us clean, fill us with the Spirit, and send us out to make disciples.

…but it all starts with the only response possible:  “I repent in dust and ashes…”

P (Prayer):  Lord, give us repentant hearts…and pick us up from the dust and ashes.  Amen.

How Can I Help?  


S (Scripture): Job 39

19 “Do you give the horse its might?
Do you clothe its neck with mane?
20 Do you make it leap like the locust?
Its majestic snorting is terrible.
21 It paws[d] violently, exults mightily;
it goes out to meet the weapons.
22 It laughs at fear, and is not dismayed;
it does not turn back from the sword.
23 Upon it rattle the quiver,
the flashing spear, and the javelin.
24 With fierceness and rage it swallows the ground;
it cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
25 When the trumpet sounds, it says ‘Aha!’
From a distance it smells the battle,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

O (Observation):  The Lord is finally giving voice to this situation of Job’s. The Lord starts in chapter 38 and continues through this chapter, chapter 39.  The Lord is asking Job if he knows how all of creation began, and how creation goes on the way it does. His questions are in a cynical tone, knowing that Job cannot answer the questions that the Lord is asking.

The image of the horse going into battle is quite a vivid image.   But Job cannot possibly know where the horse gets its might or mane, or how it can laugh at fear.  Job does not know how anything in nature works, nor does anyone, except the Lord.  

And so, the Lord calls on Job to show reverence to the Lord, for Job’s supposed wisdom is nothing compared to the Lord.   

A (Application):  Science has allowed us to sort of reverse engineer most of creation.  We can see how two things came together to make a new thing, but we cannot re-create it.  We can look back and pick things apart, but we lack The Lord’s wisdom to predict the future.  

Even in science, mystery remains.  

In faith, we have doctrines and theologies, but none completely captures who God is.   Our wisdom only extends so far with the written or spoke Word.   

So, why is it that we think we are wise enough to understand why bad things happen?    Things like breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, and type 1 diabetes, to name a few.   No one deserves these things.   They just receive them.    

God doesn’t wish for us to suffer, nor are we meant to control creation.  Yet we can be present for one another without accusing each other of being all righteous or all sinful.   We can be present with one another in the midst of responses to natural disasters.  

We can see life as that which brings ups and downs beyond our wisdom.    We can be present.   Without words.  Without motives, other than simply to be with someone in their time of need.  

Stand with.  Sit with.  Listen to.  These are our responses to folks in need.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, show us signs of your love in the midst of that which baffles us.  Amen.  

Good Soil…Where Can We Find It?


S (Scripture): Luke 8:4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from one town after another, he spoke to them in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled on, and the wild birds devoured it. 6 Other seed fell on rock, and when it came up, it withered because it had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up with it and choked it. 8 But other seed fell on good soil and grew, and it produced a hundred times as much grain.” As he said this, he called out, “The one who has ears to hear had better listen!”

11 “Now the parable means this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in a time of testing fall away. 14 As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance.”

O (Observation): Jesus gives the gift and privilege of explaining a parable to the disciples.  Jesus doesn’t do this often, so this is a special treat.  And of course, Jesus uses an image of seeds and earth and fruit, something with which the people of the time could relate.  

A (Application):  And yet…even as Jesus explains this one, questions still linger for me. 

My first instinct is to put myself with the seeds being dropped in good soil and bearing fruit.   However…I also have times and seasons in which I’m choked by thorns…or when my roots are not deep enough. 

So, while this one is explained, I still need help.  

Perhaps, we are to see ourselves as all of these seeds.   Maybe we all have times when our roots don’t set, when we are choked by thorns, when we actually do bear fruit.  We get too busy, too distracted, to selfish.  But then, by God’s grace, we also find ourselves in good soil, bearing fruit a hundred-fold.  

Where do you relate to this parable today?

P (Prayer):  Lord, may I be found in good soil, clinging to your Truth.  And my our nation be found  to be good soil, from which springs forth people willing to bring peace through love, not force.  

Please be with all victims (especially with the families and friends of the victims of the police shootings in Baton Rougue and St. Anthony, MN, and the family and friends of the police officers shot in Dallas).  May you bring forth, in this nation, wisdom and solidarity amongst our peoples.  

Amen.  

Wisdom Through Humility 

  

S (Scripture): Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.

O (Observation):  Becoming wise is a great temptation for Eve (and Adam).   Unfortunately, their motives cause them to take a wrong action.  Their desire to become wise causes them to want to be like God. 

Here is some wisdom from the net.bible.org commentary on Gen 3:6: 

The quest for wisdom can follow the wrong course, as indeed it does here. No one can become like God by disobeying God. It is that simple. The Book of Proverbs stresses that obtaining wisdom begins with the fear of God that is evidenced through obedience to his word. Here, in seeking wisdom, Eve disobeys God and ends up afraid of God.

A (Application):  I’ve noticed a change in my approach to discipleship over these last two years.  I’ve sought wisdom from God in ways that seemed unreachable before.  I was seeking to accomplish things that would make me look wise or seem wise.  

Instead, I do more in terms of seeking wisdom through fearing the Lord (in a healthy sense of fear and awe).    God is other, yet knowable.   God is wise, and I am but a humble servant.  

Seeking wisdom through humility…that’s my goal.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, bring me wisdom through acknowledging my place in the world as your humble servant.  Amen. 

To Boldly Go…

  S (Scripture):Proverbs 16:2 All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the Lord evaluates the motives.

O (Observation): The author was wise enough to know that flying solo is not the be-all end-all answer for decision-making. Every decision we make is looked upon by the Lord, so that the Lord figures out our true motives.  No decision goes unnoticed by the Lord. 

A (Application):   As a disciple who makes disciples, I try to engage in group discernment as much as possible.   My own opinion on a matter may seem right and perfect, but I gain much better perspective when friends and mentors help me along the way. I am reminded that my way of seeing things is not the only way.  

Plus, I may be deceiving those around me, sinfully, masking my motives for my decisions.   Not only do I deceive others, but I can often deceive myself.  

I am reminded of 1 John 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (ESV).  Those of you who are Lutheran may remember these words from the Confession & Forgiveness in the Lutheran Book of Worship.  

So, since we deceive ourselves, what should we do?  Three things…

  1. Move forward with a strong will, but also with humility. 
  2. When you decide, move forward!  Sin boldly, but believe more boldly still in the grace of our God.
  3. Discern in a trusted group of disciples. 

When I discern with a group, I ask these two questions:

  1. What is God saying to me? and,
  2. What am I going to do about it?

In the end, we pray for clarity from The Lord.  And the hard part is that we may never know, this side of the Kingdom, if we made the right decision.   So…just go for it!

What decisions do you have coming up?   Who have you chatted erg regarding these decisions?  Have you sought counsel from the Lord? From fellow friends or disciples?

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to make bold moves in this world, leaning on you for justice and righteousness in our decision-making processes.  Amen.