Friday, December 14, 2007

Name your pillars

Proverbs 9:1
Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.

First perusal of this verse suggests a metaphor, an abstraction at best, but I believe this to be something entirely different. Wisdom, in the world, is an abstract, poorly defined and rarely found. Likewise, if wisdom is an abstraction, what but a house of air and a pillar of hope can an abstraction hew?

Instead, let us consider the possibility that wisdom is not mere abstraction, but has feet! Let us consider that wisdom is something that is present - which it may not be measured by the means of man, but still has a firm presence in reality, and has distinct aspects that it can and does touch us.

One of the most powerful approaches to understanding something in scripture is to identify where it is first mentioned. Doing so often sheds light on something that, at first, appears only abstract.

Let us initially turn our eyes to wisdom.

The first mention of wisdom, in scripture, appears in Exodus 36:1 - and provides clear indication that wisdom comes from the LORD. In Proverbs 5:1 we find that we can choose to respond to wisdom. Thus, wisdom is a gift from God, but is not autonomously heeded - we must CHOOSE to attend to it. Indeed in Proverbs 8:1 it is revealed that wisdom itself is requesting our attention. Thus wisdom is a gift from God, desires to draw our attention, but the following of which is optional.

Then the question might be: what use is wisdom? Or, rather, what does the heeding of wisdom offer? According to Ecclesiastes 8:1, it makes man's face to shine and gives the man boldness. Likewise Proverbs 14:1 indicates that a woman with wisdom builds a house. Thus heeding wisdom gives boldness, confidence, and security of a sort. So scripture has revealed where wisdom comes from and that it has practical results.

Thus, the next question is - what are the seven pillars mentioned in the original verse?

Sevens, in various forms, show up nearly 600 times. As pillars are items, we will shy away from units of time as well as groups of people. Likewise, wisdom is given of God, so we will also shy away from groups of sevens that are crafted by man. Thus, for the first grouping of seven we look to the seven fruits of the spirit, clearly revealed in Galatians 5:22.

Do you recognize and observe these as part of your walk with Christ Jesus?

I challenge you this day to
... identify what pillars wisdom has built in you.
... identify what pillars wisdom has not finished building in you.
... identify what pillars wisdom intends to build in those around you, through your witness of the LORD.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is your sacrifice accepted?

There are a number of feel-good faiths. These faiths are based on ways of presenting spiritual truths or interpreting scripture that make you feel something - sometimes they focus on making you feel more righteous, sometimes more justified, sometimes more accepted, or occasionally more purposeful.

If you, as a believer, associate being a believer with feeling a certain way, if your walk with Christ Jesus is based upon a feeling, there will be a point where God will challenge you to act in accordance with His will that will not align with your heart. And you will be faced with a choice.

In the same way, various faiths expect sacrifices of specific kinds. Some are sacrifices of time, some are sacrifices of money, some are sacrifices of service, and there are others. You might be witnessing regularly for its own sake, getting the word out about your church or sharing what you believe with every person you run across. You might give, as your tithe, 25% of your income to your church, fellowship, or organization. You might spend three hours a day making meals for the homeless solely out of a need to make a difference.

There are many kinds of sacrifice - although a number of them might appear good, right, and appropriate, not all of them are accepted by Christ Jesus.

Is the sacrifice you are offering to Him in accordance with what He has asked you to offer?

I challenge you this day to pray.

Pray to the Christ

... that His will for your sacrifices be revealed to you.

... that His definition for your living sacrifice be accepted (and if not, why)

... that His plan for you for this moment be quickened to you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is it possible that planning for spiritual Black Swans can bring us closer to God?

A Black Swan is an intense, unforeseeable and unpredictable event that redefines a person's paradigm. The name comes from the discovery of a black swan in Australia - prior to that point, all swans were assumed to be white simply because all the swans anyone had seen were white. And, once a black swan is discovered, the gross majority of us will attempt to explain or justify the blacks swan by including it in the definition of "normal".

Black Swans happen at whatever interval black swans occur, and there is no true causality that can explain their instantiation - thus, including them in the bell curve doesn't improve the accuracy of the bell curve, nor does it help in predicting the next black swan.

However, planning for spiritual black swans, being open to their observation, not assuming they won't happen, and not alluding falsely to earnestly perceived phenomenon would do two things: it would make you more open to God speaking to you (because you would not have a preconceived notion of the manner in which He would be speaking) AND you would have an enhanced capacity for recognizing and truly seeing miracles.

One wonders how often we classify miracles as something other than miracles - and how, by doing so, we are separated from God.

My challenge to you is this: pray to Jesus that your blinders would be weakened, at least for the day - which you would be privy to all the miracles He has for you this day. And claim them as intentional experiences, to be savored, considered, and appreciated.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is (any/all) knowledge a good thing?

From Adam's election to join Eve in a mid-morning snack to the new movie out in theatres entitled "The Golden Compass", the idea that knowledge is or is not a good thing has been tossed about, considered, with the result that it seems to be one of those questions that never gets addressed any more - as if the answer were so obvious that it needed no further consideration.

I challenge you, reader, to answer the question for yourself.

Can it even be generally, directly addressed? Is it early knowledge "of good and evil" that we should warn against or all early knowledge? Is it true that all information should be available to anyone? Is there a point of ethical concern or edification that all points of knowledge each have a threshold?

Or is the opposite something you hold true - that each genre of knowledge can be specifically addressed? That the earlier you know something, the better you can address whether the knowing of that thing is right for you? That the knowing of something itself, separate from acting or doing, should have no ethical consideration?

So what say you?

I challenge you reader, in particular, to consider:
... whether knowing something for its own sake is truly a goal worth achieving
... whether you would be comfortable with your own children learning anything with that same intellectual candor

Monday, December 10, 2007

How seriously do you seek and claim hope?

Acts 26:6
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers.

We will be judged for the hope we have in God's promises to our ancestors. In particular, the scripture likely hearkens to Abraham and the set of promises made to the Israelites - but if you are a believer and follower and acknowledger of Christ Jesus, this also includes you; you are an adopted son, accepted and grafted into the clan, not on your the basis of your own gifts, but due to your election to acknowledge that Jesus died for your sins, and that only through His love and sacrifice are you worthy of heaven.

Now consider what this verse says - it does not focus on what you did, it does not focus on the tasks you accomplished, nor does it even care what nationality, what denomination you hold, or for whom you pray.

It asks a very simple question, one that I believe God asks each of us:
"How seriously do you take my promises? Serious enough that being filled with the very hope of the promise is enough to claim faith to act as if the promise were already fulfilled, or actively being fulfilled?"

This is a powerful question, and strikes deeply, especially in our culture of fast and impersonally personalized gratification, where we're trained to use micro-waves to heat our food and are still impatient that it takes 30 seconds.

How often do you thank your creator for the things you don't recognize?
How often do you actively and consciously act on the hope of His promises?

I challenge you, dear reader, to spend half an hour today, in a quite space, to talk with Jesus about this.
... if you do not know of promises He has intended for you, ask Him for them
... if you do know of those promises, pray for long-suffering and discernment for wisdom

All in all, seek to reclaim today for His glory and allow the hope of His promise to guide your steps!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

God is knocking on your door, will you answer?

Scripture is filled with suggestions, hints, and expectations that God has for us - He knows that we falter, He knows that we need Him, and He knows that the only way we even know we need Him is that He reveals it to us. A very closed loop.

The problem is that sin, in all its forms, causes us to believe we don't need Him. Ultimately that is what every aspect of sin does.

Have the sin of lust? You feel you need sex more than you need Jesus.

Have the sin of gluttony? You feel you need that (taco/burger/milkshake/quesadilla/whatever) more than Jesus.

Have the sin of wrath? You feel you need to be angry or need vengeance more than Jesus.

The List goes on ... and is quite long, though personalized for each of us.

The question isn't whether we need Jesus.

Likewise, the question isn't whether or not God wants to help us - scripture tells us that God's nature does not change, and Christ Jesus knows the thoughts He thinks of us (and that they are for good and not for evil), that He thinks of us as His children. Think of him as an amazing father who wants only our best - to such a degree that he's CONSTANTLY knocking on our door, asking if He might come in.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Will you lay down your sword?

Numbers 17:6

And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. (KJV)

Moses, in the wilderness, was speaking the Word of God over and over, and in the middle of the book of Numbers, Moses asks the prices of each tribe to each give him a rod (staff). This is a time before mass commercialization, before mass production, so each of these staves was hand-carved. It probably had symbols that we wouldn't recognize today, were likely of specific heft, and they all were likely specific to the individual who used them. Likewise, they likely each had a family crest of some sort.

It would have been a big deal to hand over the family staff - there were probably rituals that rose around the staves. Maybe they were only used in certain functions. Maybe they were under lock and key, or perhaps a minor hazing would result if one family's youth "borrowed" a family staff. Or maybe they were sacred objects, dedicated to that family's spiritual walk, with each staff being a kind of spiritual anchor for that family, an abstract representation of what that family was proud of, stood for, or most identified with.

In addition to being a kind of family crest, staves are weapons. And unlike most other weapons, they are every-day sorts of things - it is rare, while walking through the wilderness, that a staff would not be useful. Possibly it was used as a hangar, frame for carrying luggage, or other things, but staves are also useful in protecting the family, as well as general offense.

Another aspect to staves is they tend to be quite tall. The use, for a family travelling in a pack through the wilderness, would have been to provide a kind of guidon - a symbolic flag for the family to follow.

So we have an object that was both spiritual and physical protection and guidance of each tribe.

Thus, for Moses to ask for each family's staff, the setting must have been quite an amazing thing.

Do you have a staff of your own?

Do you have some object you hold dear, that you associate personal comfort, hope, guidance, satisfaction, or general well-being with?

Will you offer it to God?

Will you voluntarily hold it up and allow God to guide your hands and heart in the use of it?

I challenge you to draw near to Christ Jesus and ask Him to reveal what you might hold as your family's guidon.

And then I challenge you to offer it to Jesus, to do with as He will.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Are you unclean?

Leviticus 15:18
The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.

This is a literal, potent example from scripture - if a man and a woman are lying together with the seed of copulation, they are unclean until the even. It doesn't say that they're unclean unless go scrub with Lava soap, or they'll be unclean unless they repent - it says they will be unclean until the even. Some things remain unclean until an appointed time, independent of what one does.

This speaks to the heart of the modern culture, because it suggests a basic question -
What does it mean to be unclean?

Modern mankind does not answer this question. In fact, if it IS answered, it is answered first by redefining the question. You will often get a revision "Do you mean dirty?" ... "Do you mean immoral?" ... "Do you mean illegal?" Answering these questions or defining uncleanness on the spot (without preparation) will often detract from the import of the question. And this redefinition of a base word necessarily draws one away from the root question, namely: "By what standard is someone or something unclean?"

Scripture offers answers for this - it would be wise to do a word study on uncleanness.

Note simply: only God can give you a consistent and objective answer to this question.

I now challenge you, reader, to address these questions yourself:

1. What does the word unclean mean?
2. By what standard is something or someone unclean?
3. How does someone or some thing become unclean?
4. How does someone or some thing become clean (after having been unclean)?

1. What is one thing you do, think, say, or have that is unclean?
2. Have you considered how your life would differ if that thing were clean?
3. Did you know that Christ Jesus has an answer for that thing?
3. Will you now consider offering that thing to Christ Jesus, thus intentionally drawing closer to Him?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The wings touched

Kings 16:27
And he set the cherubims within the inner house: and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubims, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house.

In a family, the husband/father's walk dictates the spiritual umbrella of that family; it is part of that individual's sacred duty to ensure their family has as much and as specific a protection as is appropriate. The choice of metaphor of umbrella is specific and appropriate - considering the world as being perpetually rained upon by spiritual attack, the particular density, character, and volume of the umbrella a husband/father brings to a family indicates how well protected, guided, and loved is that family.

Scripture offers a specific example of the same kind of umbrella - found in the temple designed by God. There are a number of particular details outlined in scripture ... and unless you have ever seen the temple in real life, or attempted to draft your own rendition (whether in clay, on paper, or any other medium) you will not truly have an understanding of the care that God put into His temple. I would like to draw your attention to a single facet of this temple - the wings of the cherubim*. The wings of the cherubim were specific in that they touched the walls and they touched one another. No overlap, no insufficiency ... they touched.

I think this is a great example of the kind of spiritual protection that men are to seek for their own families - too often we over-pray, attempting to over compensate for what we think matters, or we under compensate, thinking that we'll "get to it". This is of greatest concern when a man discerns in his own understanding for what to pray. It is quite easy to stick to the immediately perceptible - the car needs work, the rent is due, the kids need healing, and the like - all of these are important.

Do not miss the message here: Pray before it happens. Send your family out covered.

To do that you need up-to-the-minute information from God about what to pray.

So today's challenge is specific, every timely, and of the utmost importance:

If you are a husband, father, uncle, or brother, or person in some authority:

Pray that God will reveal exactly what you are to pray for, in what proportion, and concerning whom.

Pray that you will stand, hands open, praying at the frequency, valence, and in the manner necessary to hearken to Jesus.

If you are a wife, mother, aunt, sister, or person under some authority:

Pray that Jesus will provide the wisdom, words of knowledge, and guidance to that person who is in authority over you.

Pray that that person who is in authority will understand what to pray, how to pray, when to pray, and in what manner to pray.

Above all, hold fast to your relationship to Christ Jesus.

[* - cherub is singular, cherubim is plural, cherubims is wrong]