Monday, August 31, 2009

Pursuing Wisdom: Sine Qua Non

When I was in college, I had an old professor who loved to impress his students with his mastery of the Latin language. He was from the old school. Picture the schoolmaster, pulling off his wool newsboy cap to reveal disheveled gray hair. He takes off his tweed coat, unpacks his beaten-up leather satchel of books, and hands out his syllabus. On the syllabus is a list of terms that you’ve never heard before. “These are your sine qua non terms,” he says. “That’s Latin for without which not. In other words, these are the terms you need to know, without which you will not pass this class.”

Last week we talked about pursuing wisdom. There are several prerequisites, several sine qua non conditions we must meet, without which we will not acquire the wisdom we want in our lives. In 1 Kings 3:3, we saw that Solomon had already met two: He demonstrated his love for God, and walked according to the instructions given him by his fathers. This week, we’ll look at the other two prerequisites that Solomon and we must meet, before God blesses us with wisdom.

The latter part of verse 3 says that Solomon “offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.” Solomon was a king, and as such could have held himself above worshipping with the common people. The high places were where the common people went to seek God. Solomon could have had a chapel built in his own palace, yet he remembered that in God’s eyes, he was the same as all the people. Out of humility, he deigned to worship with the commoners. Along with love for God and respect for tradition, humility is one of those sine qua non qualities, if you’re seeking wisdom in your own life.

In verse 6, Solomon tells God, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.” Solomon recognizes that God is the source of all things. He could have said, “Look how great my father was, that he achieved this great position for himself and for me.” Instead, he recognizes sees that “every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17).” Wisdom can only come when we realize that God is the wondrous source of all things.

My professor said that our sine qua non terms were ones without which we would not pass his class. Love of God, respect for tradition, humility, and the recognition of God as the source—these are the sine qua non conditions for seekers of wisdom. When God saw these qualities in Solomon’s heart, He was glad to write the king a blank check. Do we want God’s wisdom in our lives? We would do well to seek these things.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lord Provides!

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

God provides! We've seen it time and time again. Today, I saw God's provision in a pretty cool way.

Our church is in the middle of a building campaign. We're building a new Sunday school wing, that will connect our current sanctuary building with our current fellowship hall. God's people have been very generous in their giving, and we are actually ahead of our projected giving!

We've seen how when we give, God returns the favor.

A local office has donated an entire tractor trailer load (stacked to the ceiling) of gently-used office furniture, ready to outfit our new building, which we haven't even broken ground on yet. Another local business provided the tractor trailer and driver to haul it, and is allowing the church to store the furniture in the trailer--for free--for a year, or as long as it takes to get the building finished. Praise God for His provision!

The only thing church members needed to do was help move the furniture. We announced the move last Sunday, sent out phone tree messages and emails, and had a dozen or so willing helpers show up at the office tonight. It only took us a little over three hours to get the truck loaded and away.

Most of the furniture can be used in the church offices and Sunday school rooms, while some will probably make its way into a church yard sale, and go into into the building fund.

So thank you, American General Finance, for the furniture!

Thank you, Tapscott Bros. Logging Company, for the tractor trailer!

Thank you, tireless volunteers!

And most of all, thank you, Jesus, for the way You provide!
(BTW: The red and green lettering is because our church treasurer said it feels like Christmas!)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pursuing Wisdom: Wisdom-Givers

All of us have wisdom-givers in our lives, people who share God’s truth with us. One of these in my life was Granddaddy Lemon. I recall how he guided me during those times when I was listening, and how he scolded me during those times when I wasn’t. He never let a scolding go by without letting me know that he loved me. Sometimes I thought that Granddad didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. But he always knew far better than I did. He taught me how to think problems through. He taught me how to rely on the gifts God gave me. Granddad loved me so much—and then he was gone.

What do we do when our wisdom-givers leave us? How do we cope with life, when they’re gone? Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about wisdom. What is this “wisdom” that they impart, anyway? How do we find it on our own? The story of Solomon gives us some clues, as he pursued wisdom after his father’s death

The American psychologist Abraham Maslow offers the following characteristics of wisdom:

• Seeing things clearly
• Acting prudently
• Acting holistically
• Understanding human condition
• Knowing when to act and when not to act
• Having peace of mind & compassion
• Possessing the ability to anticipate & avoid problems

If we want to possess these characteristics, what prerequisites must we first meet? What are there conditions we must fulfill within ourselves, before we are ready for the wisdom that God wants to give us? 1 Kings 3:3 says, “Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.”

First, Solomon demonstrated his love for the Lord. Rather than simply saying that he loved God, he showed it. He displayed his love for God in the way he lived, and by the extravagant offerings he gave to God. If you want wisdom more than anything else, you must first seek God more than anything else.

Then, he walked according to the instructions of his father. Later, in Proverbs 13, he would write, “A wise child heeds a parent's instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.” He did not neglect the example and advice given him by his father, who said, “Be strong, act like a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go (1 Kings 2:2-3).” Nobody can possibly gain wisdom If they reject sound teaching. If you want understanding in your life, start with those insights passed down to you from your parents. It’s likely they won’t let you down.

Next week, we will look at two more requirements for the person who would seek wisdom in his or her life. I hope you will join me for the adventure in God’s wisdom.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cap'n Jack Sparrow's Moral Compass

Warning: This post may spoil the movies for those who haven't seen them yet! Turn back now while ye still can!

Disney's Pirates of the Carribean was a great piece of entertainment! It taught that pirates, cutthroats, and rapscallions are good, while law and order are bad. With it's extremely high body count for a movie that was marketed towards children, why wouldn't you take your kids to see it???

Actually, I enjoyed the movies (for the most part). But I never thought I'd find spiritual truth embedded in them.

Until today.

If you saw the movies, you know that Cap'n Jack Sparrow had a remarkable compass. On the surface, it looked like it was broken. Jack's compass wouldn't point north. The needle moved all over the place. Later, we learn that Jack's compass isn't broken. It's not supposed to point north. It points to whatever you want the most. Jacks' magical compass leads our antiheroes on many great adventures, full of danger and treasure and adventure.

Today it occurred to me...

Our culture has a compass just like Jack's.

Our society's moral compass no longer points north. It truly is broken. No matter what they tell you, a compass that doesn't point north is a broken compass. In the movies, they didn't call it "Jack's treasure-finder." They called it a compass. Compasses point north. That's what they do. Unless they're broken. Jack's compass was broken, because it wouldn't point to true north. It pointed to whatever he wanted the most.

Today, our moral compasses have lost True North. They have lost the sense that north, south, east, and west are real and actual things. Moral relativism has said, "True North doesn't matter. Whatever you want most at any given time--that's what matters."

Following a broken moral compass, that says that whatever you want most is the direction you should follow, will get you lost every time. Unless you know where True North is, you'll find yourself lost. Jesus said, "I am the way." Unless you follow the way, you'll find yourself lost.

Disney would have us believe that getting lost is fun. You have more adventures when you're off the beaten path. You might find treasure. You might win the fair maiden. Even if you get eaten by the kraken and find yourself in the bottom of Davy Jones' Locker, there's a way out of that, too. See, our culture teaches that if we follow our own broken moral compasses, seeking out what we want more than anything else rather than relying on True North, we can escape whatever consequences that may come from our scalliwag ways.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"
But Hollywood says we should follow our hearts. Follow your own broken compass, wherever it leads. Cap'n Jacks says, "The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do."
Oh really? How's your compass, lately? In which direction have you decided to set your sails?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Warning from the Secret Mystical Blogger Code

Ok--now, before any of you thinks, "He can't be serious--he's got to be saying this tongue-in-cheek" let me tell you that I've seen other secret mystical codes in other places--and this is the most convincing one that I've ever seen! This is a warning from the secret mystical blogger code--one not to be taken lightly.

It hit me when I looked at the Feedjit gadget on the right side of my blog page. This Feedjit thingy records your hits, whenever somebody visits my blog. It doesn't say WHO you are (thus my last post), only where you came from.

When I checked out my Feedjit today, the place names swirled around my head, creating a kaleidoscope of letters, numbers, and secret ancient meanings. When the meaning came to me, it had me shaking in my shoes, so I had to share it with you.

First, let me point out that my visitors came from 21 American cities, and 8 international cities. They are as follows:

American Cities:

  • Charlottesville, Virginia

  • Milton, Florida

  • Miamisburg, Ohio

  • Fontana, California

  • Richmond, Virginia

  • Toms River, New Jersey

  • Palmyra, Virginia

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Tempe, Arizona

  • Rancho Cucamonga, California

  • Reading, Pennsylvania

  • Austin, Texas

  • Alhambra, California

  • Sharpsburg, Georgia

  • Hollywood, Florida

  • Chattanooga, Tennessee

  • Los Angeles, California

  • Chesapeake, Virginia

  • Dallas, Texas

  • Seattle, Washington

  • Glendale, California

International Cities:

  • Tehran, Iran

  • Hong Kong, China

  • Odessa, Ukraine

  • Jakarta, Indonesia

  • London, England

  • Lausanne, Switzerland

  • Pahuatlan, Mexico

  • Dumbarton, England

OK--Now you've got to follow me on this one. You can't possibly put the two numbers 21 and 8 together and get the date 21/8, because we don't have 21 months in a year. So you've got to put it together as 8/21, which is coming soon, right? You'd think so, wouldn't you. But what year?

What you've got to do next is realize list out the first letters of each city, like this:


See how that works? Isn't it obvious by this point?

OK-so maybe you don't see it yet. Let me explain. You have to decipher the Roman numerals that are embedded in this coded message. Which are the Roman numerals?

American Cities: CMM------------CL-CD-- ; International Cities: ----LL-D

If you add these up, it equals 600 for the international cities and 2,850 for the American cities. Now, that doesn't make any sense at all, until you subtract the international cities from the American cities (because we all know America is the greatest) and get 2250, which is pretty close, but far enough away that it's safe to make a prediction of the future.

So, the secret mystical blogger code is saying that on August 21, 2250, some great and momentous event is going to take place. What could this be? How can we determine it from the hometowns of the visitors on my blog?

Ancient Greek, of course!

All I had to do was take a look at the Greek alphabet, and pull out the letters that have Greek equivalents, while discarding all the letters that don't have exact Greek replicas (capital Greek letters, only, of course, because prophesies are important things, and would never employ uncial letters).


Much easier to deal with, don't you think? Isn't the meaning becoming obvious? Of course, it's an anagram!

The secret encoded message spells doom and gloom for a major city in the United States. Due to unsteady pH balances in the earth's crust, a volcano will erupt. How do I know this? Because the anagram says:

PH HOT MT TAMPA Or, in English, pH - Hot Mountain Tampa!

Still, another way of reading the anagram realizes that, since they come side by side in the English language, M cancels out P, and vice versa. Since we have 2 M's, they cancel out 2 P's, and vice versa. In that case, we drop MM PP, and we are left with:



Monday, August 10, 2009

Lessons from a Parking Garage

You can tell a lot about a person from the way they act in a parking garage. There’s something about the parking garage experience that either brings out the best or the worst in people.

Most people are in a hurry in a parking garage. Many times, I have watched as hurried people fly through a parking garage, not only endangering themselves, but others. Then they miss spaces that are hidden behind large vehicles, because they’re driving too fast to notice them. Similarly, we tend to move too quickly through life. That’s a dangerous thing to do! We might not see obstacles in our way, and risk collision with other precious souls. We also miss hidden opportunities if we go too fast, wasting time by our own hurry. Proverbs 14:29 says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” This applies in parking garages, and everywhere in life.

People can be terribly rude in a parking garage. A “me-first” attitude can cause people to steal spaces that other drivers have already claimed with their turn signals. It can make them stop and wait for someone who’s slowly walking to their car, just so they can get that person’s spot. Never mind that the driver has a long line behind him and could probably get another spot quicker by just moving on and finding a spot further up the ramp. He has to hold up the entire line, because he thinks he’s more important than everybody else. This kind of person would do well to remember Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

People are often fearful in a parking garage. They’re afraid of getting hit by those drivers who go too fast. They’re afraid of those rude people who might slow down and follow them to their cars, just to take their parking spot—and who knows what else. They’re afraid they might forget where they parked. Have you ever noticed how many scary scenes in movies are filmed in parking garages? They make us nervous. We’re out of our element, surrounded by strangers, often in the shadows where anybody could be hiding. But rather than walking confidently with keys in hand, I have observed many in parking garages who travel with the frightened bearing of a victim. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” Instead of fear, we need to walk in faith.

Yes, you can tell a lot about a person from the way they act in a parking garage. What do parking garages say about you? I pray we will all learn to be a little kinder, not only in garages, but in life. Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us that , “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Let’s learn to both drive and walk in the Spirit, so that when people see us, they might see followers of God.