Point of being wise

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What is the point of being wise?

One looks about the natural world and wonders at the wondrous things he or she sees. The streams flow into a basin, but the basin never fills and overflows. The wind blows with wicked violence, but in the proximity to the wind, one structure is destroyed, while another stands undamaged. How does the rock balance on such a small precipice? When typhoons (hurricanes) rampage over the water, does anything in the water suffer because of it?

You can set your mind to gain wisdom, but the wisdom gained, while it answers some questions, generates different questions that seem to have no answer. Solomon was a wise man; none wiser before him or since him (the Lord excepted). He looked out over the natural world and wondered aloud (and in print) the point of it all. What gain did he have in the wisdom the Lord gave him long ago (cf. 1 Kings 3)? When one looks at life “under the sun” – is there any point to this gain or that loss?

He set himself to understand the value of wisdom is not in what a person enjoys or avoids; neither is it found in what he builds. That which is built gives satisfaction, but the satisfaction that came from building deteriorates as the building deteriorates when it is left untended. The structures built are left for others that come after; will there exist the same motivation and respect with the original intentions? Who knows whether it will be cared for or left abandoned? Even if that which is built is perpetuated for generations, with the satisfaction once gained, is it now lost with time and maturity? With the satisfaction gone, what then?

The value of wisdom is when the mind is directed toward Him who is the Author of life, not toward things that break down. Wisdom brings a person to a point when he sees life is more than the material realm in which one lives; it is more than building things and enjoying the pleasures of life. If all one did is evaluate life from strictly an “under the sun” perspective, then life is pointless. On the other hand, with the mind’s eye, one sees more; life is seen as a gift from God.

History is past

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History is past and whatever I learn from it I learn about it in books. History is past and whatever some might think I should learn from it, I won’t. I won’t because the past mistakes are not necessarily those of the future; in fact, they are NOT those of the future. We are in better position to know what to do, how to do it, and why. Science is king. Liberalism and a progressive spirit mean one is not tied down to yesteryear.

Why is it that so many think blindly in this direction? It is because those of today (generally speaking) don’t see themselves as inferior intellectually to those of yesterday. In fact, they see themselves as superior and “We know better now!”

After WW-1 the League of Nations was set up (1920); it did not prevent WW-2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, The Gulf War (1 and 2) and many other tragic occurrences in the life of nations. They saw themselves as in better position to prevent the mistakes of the past. Yet, they prevented nothing, but have given rise to rogue nations, muscle to thuggish nations, and, it seems, to hamstring the host nation.

People seeking understanding will not attain that mutual understanding when the moral and/or political philosophy is radically different. Perhaps there is some assuaging, but it is a matter of time before the bandage deteriorates.

Solomon set his mind to understand why things happen on earth as they do (or did). He was a man in the best position of any man before or after him to do such a thing. In an exclusively naturalistic world, a world wherein God plays no factor – there is no point to existence that is greater than the individual. Once a person dies, the point of that person’s existence is gone! Life for that person was, ultimately, meaningless.

Solomon, however, was not so short-sighted, not so unwise. He knew, was convinced and had experience with the fact of God’s existence. To live life without God is to live a life of vanity.

God’s Protective Hedge

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Satan accused the Lord of putting a protective hedge around a man named Job. A protective hedge? Wouldn’t that be nice? It is easy to think that some might have a protective hedge about them; it appears they never fail or struggle with various issues in life. We even think to ourselves, occasionally, “I would like to have that ‘protective hedge’ so I would not have to look behind me to see all the debris of a wrecked life!”

What was this protective hedge?

The Lord said to man’s great adversary (Satan), “Have you considered my servant Job?” (Consider an imagined conversation below).

Satan: “Yes, I have considered him and have made many efforts to get to him, but You prevent me from getting to him because You protect him. I can’t penetrate Your protective wall.”

Lord: “Fine, for a little while I will let you afflict him, but I will only let you go so far.”

Satan: “Fine! I will take it. He should turn on you after my afflicting efforts.”

Satan goes after him with force, destroying all that he has in the way of possessions; he gets to the heart of that which is, generally, most precious to people, family. Satan fails, however, to get Job to turn against the Lord. Another effort is made by the great adversary, Satan fails in this effort also.

Job, by this time, has lost everything and is beaten down to a point of non-recognition. People look at him and turn away, interpreting his experiences as “God is against him; therefore, I don’t want any association, lest the Lord be against me also.”

As Satan tried to get Job to turn away from the Lord (but failed), he was successful in getting people to turn away from Job, making him the loneliest man among men in the midst of physical and emotional anguish.

What about this protective wall, what was (is) it? I have reflected on that many times. Does the Lord put a physical barrier around His saints? If so, why do so many of His saints seem to fail? What happened to their protective wall?

In my view, the New Testament gives an answer to the protective wall for those who belong to Him. Before that protective wall can be put in place, one must start with the proper response to the Lord. This starts with being a Christian (Acts 2:36-38; 16:31-33; Mark 16:15-16). At this point, the Lord’s protective barrier is in place; the protective wall is strengthened when one’s faith (trust, conviction and commitment) is tied directly to knowing the Lord’s way.

The words of God’s prophet, Hosea, rings loudly about now. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…” It was the Lord’s apostle who said we are to walk by faith and faith comes by hearing and obeying the will of God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:7; Rom. 10:17).

With these thoughts in place, hear what Peter wrote to Christians: Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness brotherly kindness; and in your brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins. Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble: (2 Peter 1:5-10, ASV).

There are a number of words to be underscored in the above biblical reference. This is to emphasize the point of knowledge in association with the Lord’s protective barrier for the Christian. There is a correlation that one shouldn’t miss. Paul wrote, that if God is for us, who can be against us (cf. Romans 8:31ff)? One might reply, “Many are against us!” Yes, that is true, just as Satan was against Job and Satan was against the Lord. It was Jesus who said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In the end, who won those contests?

If you know the value of a food supply for your body, you also know the value of the Lord’s word for you soul, your spiritual health. Heartache, discouragement and confusion come because one takes the Lord’s barrier and sets it to the side, exposing weakness and vulnerabilities. Do yourself a favor and allow the Lord to take control and given you a protective hedge.

What is Justice?

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Plato/Socrates asked: “What is justice?” For some, it appears to be an easy question to answer, but for others not so easy. Plato took the answers given him and dismantled the answers given in such a way that others wondered if they knew. In Acts 28, the question Plato/Socrates asked was not far removed from a primitive people living on the island of Malta.

Paul arrives on the island as the result of a shipwreck; by this time the people of Malta knew that many on board the ship the wrecked ship were prisoners (however many there might have been). As Paul was tending to a fire, a viper came and struck him in such a way the locals knew he was guilty of violence and concluded that “justice does not allow [him] to live” (28:4).

Justice is personified; it has a mind of its own, but how can a word that is a noun have a mind? The word conveys an idea, a concept that is greater than the individual. Justice is more than just an idea, it is a way of thinking and adjudication that is far greater than anything of man.

Justice resides with Him that is the Creator of man. Justice can only be understood in a limited way if it originates with man. With Him who is the creator of morality, the essence of perfection, justice is far more than what man can render in understanding.

With man, he renders a thoughtful guess, even perhaps by experience he is able to do this or that in a reasonable way. Still, on occasion, he gets it wrong. Not with God. Nothing He does is wrong, and for the arrogant person who thinks God is wrong, on what basis do they judge?

Impressions

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IT HAS BEEN SAID that children will imitate their parents in their vices, perhaps in their virtues, but seldom in their repentance. This is certainly the case (though not absolutely so) because we see it often. Parents turns away from the Lord, come to their senses, turn back to the Lord for salvation, but the children are not that much interested. The children, already following the poor pattern of the parents, refused to do so because they think of themselves as wiser and sure of themselves. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, we are told. Because of this, the challenge each of us face is to be sure that which the children (our own, others looking) is that which we desire to present. To not do so is to leave a bad impression, one that is stamped on the brain. RT

MASQUERADE

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Some years ago, the singer George Benson had a hit song called “This Masquerade” (1976). I always thought the song was okay, but never smitten by it. The other day I heard it again for the first time. “Are we really happy here with this lonely game we play?” These are the words that open the song. It’s about a love-relationship empty of substance, but can’t it apply in other areas of life also? Surely it can. There are many Christians around you with a masquerade, presenting themselves in one way, but hoping even their best friends don’t see them as they truly are. Does this apply to you? Do you talk about the neatness of your home only to let no one in lest they see a messy place? If this apply to you, even if only a little bit, then you’re no different than others, and you can certainly relate with those who struggle with the same. The position in life one hold matters not. The weight that is carried, however, matters a whole lot.

Here is what you should do: (1) Be there to share the burden. It won’t be long before they want to help you carry your own burden, even if they can’t share it by personal experience. In helping them to carry their burden, don’t be judgmental, but understanding. You surely don’t want them to be judgmental of you, but you would like them to be charitable! (2) Remind them the Lord carried our “dirty rags” burden, calling on each of us to change our minds (repent) about the way we lives our lives. With time, patience, and learning from the Lord life-changes are made.

The masquerade then becomes transparent. RT

EMBARRASSED?

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“Once Smith was asked if he was not embarrassed by speaking before judges and lawyers in Sparta, Tennessee. ‘Not in the least,’ said he, ‘for I have learned that judges and lawyers, so far as the Bible is concerned, are the most ignorant class of people in the world – except for Doctors of Divinity” (Dabney Phillips: “Raccoon” John Smith, RESTORATION: THEN and NOW, 9th annual East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions Lectureship, p. 139).

Wow! A person might think that was a harsh remark. Granted that it can be interpreted that way, I would say that it is not really. Many of our learned community members stand in judgment of the Lord and His word frequently. John Smith simply took note of those who did the same in his day and concluded they are just as uninformed as many in our day—feigning knowledge when they have little to none.

Is this how a preacher is to carry himself, speaking boldly and harshly?Consider what makes a Gospel Preacher: first, he must be a Christian man; second, he must be loyal to the Lord above all loyalties to people; third, he must be a man who desires to know the Lord’s will; fourth, he must know the Lord’s will well enough that he can teach it.

Some preachers, however, fail in one or more of the above. They are preachers, but not Gospel Preachers. They are recognized by many in the community as people of good standing, but the Lord does not recognize them. To be a preacher of the Gospel, one must count the cost, because it can be high. As I read what was said by “Raccoon” John Smith, I could not help but be reminded that not every preacher is motivated by the virtue of teaching the Lord’s way faithfully (cf. Gal. 4:16), that is, helping others learn His way, calling upon them to live holy lives.

Our society puts a great deal of emphasis upon formal education after the high school years – but for what spiritual purpose? Formal education is a good thing, but it’s not an end to itself. Broadly speaking, for some in our community, without a formal, post high school education, you are considered less informed than those who went to school and received that formal education.

Fortunately, the Lord does not look on these mundane matters in a similar way.

“Raccoon” John Smith was not a man who received a formal education after high school; in fact, during his day, “What was high school?” He was a self-taught man, a Baptist preacher who learned the Book of God; he took what he learned and taught others. He was devoted to the Lord, and when he could not harmonize his Baptist-Calvinistic learning with the Bible he made it clear to the congregation to whom he was speaking that he was in the dark and knew not how to lead them out of the darkness. This honesty served him well through the years.

So consumed was he with the Lord and His way, he took advantage of an opportunity to hear and learn from another preacher, one who was speaking some distance away. He made plans to go hear him, but after hearing him he expressed to one sitting by him that he was disappointed he only got thirty-minutes from the preacher in his preaching when he came such a long distance to hear him. His companion said, “Look at your watch. What you think to have been thirty-minutes was actually two hours and thirty minutes.”

John Smith devoured the Lord’s teaching when he heard another share it, and he devoured the Lord’s teaching when he read the Scriptures. Occasionally, it has been said, when he ate his meals, he would also memorize Scripture.

Learning from the Lord made all the difference in the world to John Smith. When he stood in the presence of great people of the community, those with formal education—he was not embarrassed or intimidated by their great learning because he had the greatest education any person could or can receive—he had the Lord’s learning. One’s formal education will be of great benefit in this life, but once life is over, without the Lord’s learning, that formal education goes to the grave with the deceased, and it certainly will be of no benefit then. On the other hand, the one who learns from the Lord not only benefits in this life, the Lord’s education graduates him and her to that Glorious Home of a “diploma” gained by the Lord’s grace and mercy.

I long for graduation, do you?

The UMC and Division

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The United Methodist Church (UMC) and the current issue of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) is causing major problems for the church.

The UMC is a man-made religious institution that had no authority to exist as a “church”. The word “church” in the New Testament (New Testament) is a word that pertains to those called out of the world into a holy relationship with the Father and His way of holiness. This is important to notice.

Holiness is not the way of man in society, but the way of the Lord in the society of man. When people confuse this, the way of man becomes the way of holiness. Consider the words of Jeremiah in the long ago, when he said: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Jehovah, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (17:9, 10, ASV).

If the heart of man, without the Lord, is corrupt, what makes us think man knows the way of holiness? Arrogance and a want-to-believe philosophy, for there is no other reason than these two. The Lord also said, via Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8, 9).

According to CNN (https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/03/us/united-methodist-church-split-proposal/index.html), the UMC is on the verge of a split over the issue of LGBT). According to one university professor, “‘A set of complex church issues were reduced to a showdown between the left and the right, “progressives” and “traditionalists,”’ he said in a statement. ‘Both factions love their take on the issues more than the continuance of the United Methodist Church. The bishops — unable to lead continuing discussion of our differences — have now decided that the best they can do is to oversee church disintegration’.”

In the CNN piece, I noticed not one reference to what the Scripture teaches, to what the Lord said on the topic. This is significant. Why so? Because, it matters not to them what the Lord said, but what the people want. To the Philippians, Paul wrote, “For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ” (2:21). Just one chapter over, he also wrote of those whose end “…is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (3:19, ESV).

Not long ago, a sister (Jo Kaye Miller) told me she had to counsel a preacher (Dick Miller) on his problem with the Lord. The preacher put “love they neighbor” above the “love the Lord” emphasizing one’s response to people more than one’s response to the Lord. This, it appears, is what the UMC is doing.

In the end, while here on earth, people have their ears tickled when they are made to feel worthy while engaging in behavior that will cost them their soul. The blind that lead the blind, where do you think that will lead them!

I Don’t Care

When I obeyed the Gospel of Christ in 1983 (New Mexico), I was on fire! Being on fire can be a good thing, or not. With me, it was a little bit of both. On fire for the Lord meant that I soaked up what I could learn, but on fire for the Lord, in my case, meant I turned over many fragile vases and was unable to glue them back together.

Since that time, it has been me desire, with all my manifold failings, to know the Lord and His way; more than just know it, also to teach it. I have been teaching in one capacity or another since 1989. I have learned much. I went from one extreme, but not quite to the other. I was once a radical in the movement associated with New Testament Christianity; I am no longer there. I never gave any consideration to going to the other extreme of being a radical on the left (no substance), but neither did I progress from radical conservative to anything remote considered liberal Christianity.

I have moderated, however. In New Testament studies, I am clearly a conservative and a very aggressive conservative. I strongly believe in my way of thinking (who of us don’t) and I seek to promote it when and where I can. In this approach, I do what I can to exhibit charity (Matt. 7:12).

Still, there are some in the radical right who look upon me as being associated with false teachers. I don’t care! There is not an ounce of truth in it – but I don’t care. I will stay with what the Lord expressly wrote, teach it, defend it and call upon others to walk along with me in it. If I am wrong, another will call me out and we can study together. If you are wrong, I will try to do the same.

It was Paul who wrote to the saints in Ephesus about speaking the truth in love. I hope that is what we all do.

The Number of the Beast

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The number of the beast (666) in Revelation 13 is directly associated with man, man being a servant of the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). This means, in religious terms, man-made religions and churches are directly associated with the mark of the beast because their origins are related to man’s wisdom. Whatever the specific application of 666 in the context of Revelation 13, the principle of man-made religions still applies (Prov. 14:12). There needs to be more respect for God and His Word / Authority than exhibited in the religious world and it people’s lives. RT