Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Week #26 1 Cor. 3:18-19a "A Fool for God"

"Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. For this wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight."

I spend a fair amount of time with people who consider themselves educated, intellectual and open-minded. As a whole, these are good traits to possess.

I am all for education. I am also highly in favor of developing the intellect and of being willing to hear other perspectives and ideas. I also try to see a bit more of the "big picture" that makes up God's universe. It helps me to get over myself, see past my own troubles and circumstances and look at life from a more eternal perspective.

After all, life doesn't end with our death, God created a universe that is vast and infinite, and the course of human history is not dependent on mankind getting its act together and saving itself.

So...considering the big picture perspective that the Bible teaches us, why is Christianity still called "foolishness" by the world?

Well, for one thing, we Christians have been accused of being closed-minded. Non-believers sneer at our faith because we claim to testify of the truth. We are told we are intolerant of other belief systems because we can't agree with philosophies and religions that don't acknowledge God and His Son Jesus.

We are also told that we are crazy because we hope in the Second Coming of Christ, the Rapture (which has gotten a bad rap lately, thanks to a misguided "prophet" named Harold Camping) and eternal life with the LORD in heaven.

In other words, we Christians are fools. Closed-minded fools.

But look at what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3. We Christians ARE "fools," and we should seek to be foolish. But look, too, at how foolishness is defined in these verses. "Wisdom" is associated with deception, the standards of the age, and the world. "Foolishness" is associated with God's sight.

So, what does the world tell us is "wise"? There are a lot of things, too numerous to list. But I will list one thing our world (here in the USA, at least) values: open-mindedness. Open-mindedness that claims that all systems of thought and religion are valid and true. Open-mindedness that says to preach the Bible as if it were God's truth shows intolerance, ignorance and stupidity.

At what does God say is "foolish"? The "wisdom" of this world.

I prefer not to call myself open-minded. I prefer the term big picture-thinker. My God is bigger than any philosophy or world view can contain. His universe and knowledge is infinite. His love for us is beyond imaginable. His peace passes all understanding.

I also know these things to be true, because I know God, and He is truth. If that makes me closed-minded and a fool, then praise God! I am a fool for God.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Week #25 1 John 4:13 "Not Merely an Emotion"

"We know that we live in Him and He is us, because He has given us of His Spirit."

If you're anything like me, you have found that there is a lot of confusion and disagreement surrounding the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is, for many of us, the most mysterious and hard to understand person in the Trinity.

But, the Spirit is worth trying to understand. After all, I find that the quality of my relationship with God, how I process what is happening in my life and in the world, and even my preferred style of worship on Sunday morning is affected by my beliefs about the Holy Spirit.

In fact, if it weren't for the Holy Spirit, I may never have experienced healing from my depression. (Although my depression still pops up once in a while.) I probably wouldn't still be a Christian...I would have gotten too discouraged and given that up a long time ago. And I definitely couldn't have made some of the difficult decisions in life that I have without His guidance and assurance.

So, who is this Spirit anyway, and why do I give Him so much credit? I am no expert, but here are some of the most valuable things I have learned.

First, the Holy Spirit is not an emotion. The Holy Spirit is not the same thing as "school spirit" during a college football game or a wave of emotion that we get caught up in during a moving and inspirational moment. Yes, there are times that the Spirit speaks to our feelings and uses them to guide us, but He is not primarily a feeling.

Second, the Holy Spirit is a person. No, that doesn't mean that He is a human being. It means that He has qualities that the Bible defines in personal terms. He teaches, comforts, guides and speaks. He has emotions and intellect. He is united with God and Jesus, but is also individually His own person.

Thirdly, I have learned that the Spirit speaks to and guides us even today. The New Testament is filled with stories of early believers being guided and enlightened by the Spirit. That still happens today, to all of us "regular" Christians as well. I know from experience that it does.

And fourthly, I know that the Holy Spirit dwells in me and is my constant companion. He gives me the words to say during those times I must speak God's thoughts to others. He assures me that I am loved when the people in my life snub me or ignore me. He reminds me of just the right Bible verse to help me through a tough situation.

No, a mere emotion or group wave of consciousness could ever do that. Only a personal, divine companion can accomplish that.

So, as 1 John tells us, we know that we belong to God because God gave us His Spirit. I know my faith in God is not just an intellectual assent to His existence. It is not just a theoretical understanding of His principles and values. My faith is a real relationship that transforms my life from aloneness to united-ness (is that even a word?).

You get what I mean.

Thanks to the indwelling companionship and mentorship of the Holy Spirit, I am never alone. And neither are you.

Thank you, God.