Almond Joy

9D494A70-DAF4-4DAC-B0AE-5395FD5D2AAB.pngI have a routine and it really goes in month long cycles.

September is Football and Franks.  I love to tailgate and grill.  I also love brats and hotdogs.  So I are mostly hot dogs and brats throughout the month.

November is turkey/poultry and Thanksgiving.  I will alter my crock pot taco soup recipe by substituting shredded chicken for beef, load up on the tobasco, Fritos, and shredded cheddar cheese and eat a crock pot full every week.

December is all about the three C’s: Christmas, cinnamon rolls, and chilie.  Chilie is served seven nights a week, cleaning out the crock pot only to repeat the process.  Fun fact: apparently this is a Kansas thing because if you mention it anywhere else people look at you like you are crazy.

But that leaves out October.  Taco Soup (with beef) will get me through the month, but it really is all about candy.  Walmart keeps dentists employed in November.  I  saw a sign the other day where a store is offering to buy back Halloween Candy to keep kids healthy.  Meanwhile, I spoke with a Dad who refused to buy candy this years so he is taking his kids Trick-or-Treating an hour early so they can circle back by their house to refill their own candy bowl.  That is #NextLevelParenting.

I have recently been studying the life of Jesus.  I have also been trying to organize some thoughts on leadership and methodology.  Here I bring the two together.  One of my favorite get-to-know-you/team building games is what I call “synthesis”.  Each group gets one note card.  They have to write down 5 topics or thoughts on the left hand side.  Then the team trades with another team.  The new team has one minute to write down a word that corresponds with the first teams thoughts.  The catch is that there is a theme.  It might have to be an animal, or a celebrity, or a song, or anything else.  They have one minute.  Then each group has to explain to the whole group why they chose that thing to describe the first teams topic.

Since October really is all about the candy, how would Jesus ministry be communicated through candy bars?

One of the first things that draws me to Jesus ministry is how contagious it was.  People were drawn to him.  They brought the sick, they brought friends, they traveled miles, and they fought through crowds.  They climbed trees, dug through roofs, watched from gates, crawled between legs, and snuck into dinners, just to be near him.  But what drw them?  Certainly it was his ability, some of it was probably his teaching, but I want to focus on something that not many other’s have touched: his Joy!  Mostly because I struggle with it.

Joy is really a Paul word.  First, I want to introduce you to three greek words.  This will be painless.

  • Chara is the greek word for “joy”
  • Charidzomai is the greek word for “forgiveness”
  • Charis is the greek word for “grace”

Notice that all three of theses words have the same root.  From that the connection is easily made.  When we understand that we are forgiven and have been shown grace, the only appropriate response is joy.  Paul was joyful because he understood the great lengths to which he was shown grace and the the great depths that he had been forgiven.  The reason I say this is a Paul word is quite simple.  Half the uses of these words in Scripture come from Paul’s pen.  He loved to talk about “joy” and “grace” and “forgiveness”.

Fir James and Peter, the source of joy is found elsewhere.  James begins his book like this:

”Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1.2)

James knew that the growth received through the testing of faith would bring about joy. Peter echos this sentiment in his letter:

“These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1.7-9)

Peter and James found their source of joy in the trials they suffered.  These two knew about suffering.  Both would die a martyrs death.  Both would face beatings and persecutions.  Both would counsel people through the same things.  They knew that if you wanted the prize you were going to bear the scars.  This was joy.  Dostoyevsky once said: “One thing I fear is not to be worthy of my sufferings.”  Their joy came in the suffering in the same manner as Jesus.

But what about Jesus?  He didn’t need the grace that Paul was given and his sufferings were unlike any other.  It was his pattern that the other’s followed.  So where was Jesus’ joy found?  The Gospels don’t reveal it.  None of the epistles of Paul reveal it.  The only verse that touches upon it is found in Hebrews 12:2, in context it reads:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12.1-3)

The author of Hebrews encourages the Church to continue its run, not only because of those that have gone on before us and are cheering us on, but because that’s what Jesus did.  Still the question remains, what gave Jesus his joy?  Verse 2 tells us it was his death, resurrection, and ascension.  The process is called redemption.  Paul was joyful for the grace showed him, James for the sharing of suffering patterned for him, but Jesus was brought joy in the redemption he brought others.  Despite the coconut!

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Wisdom (part 3)

BC9EC7E8-6795-4279-AEE5-906714064F4C.jpegA man spent years working in a factory as a mechanic. He was the best in the organization to ever turn a wrench.  When he retired, they had a tough time replacing his years of experience.  They found guys todo the job and managed to get by.  One day, they came across a problem that they thought was unsolvable.  They had to call up their retired mechanic for knowledge.  After looking over the machine, he marked an “x” with chalk on the part needing repair.

The next day the machine was fixed and they received a bill from the old man.  It was a $5,000 bill for 1 minute of work.  The factory refused to pay until it was itemized.  The next day they received an itemized bill that read:

—$1 chalk mark

—$4,999 knowing where to put it!

The old man had a practical knowledge of the machine which led him to success in his trade.  In the study of Proverbs, practicality has been the driving force. Proverbs is all about living life well.  The purpose of the book is for attaining wisdom (1.1-2).  As noted in the previous 2 posts, Wisdom takes on personhood in chapter 8.  The discussion has been about finding the identity of this Wisdom character.  To recap, Wisdom:

  • A person (Proverbs 8.12)
  • According to Proverbs 8.22-26, Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.
  • According to Proverbs 27-29, Wisdom was with God during creation.
  • Wisdom is the master Craftsman of creation. He is the hands that would do the building. (30)
  • By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord. (35)

Standing at the decision point of the identity of Wisdom, the Gospel writer John is a key witness.  He begins his book in this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John uses “Word” as a title for Jesus in this passage.  With that being said, look through the list of attributes the John gives the Word:

  • He was there in the beginning.
  • He was with God.
  • He was God.
  • Through him all things were made.
  • Life was in him.

If attention is turned back to Proverbs, the connection is easily made.  The first statement, that of personhood, is implied by John attributing a name to Word, so consider the second statement: “Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.”  John 1 certainly affirms that statement. The Word “was” and “with” God “in the beginning”. (1.1)  Genesis 1.1 would add that God “spoke” into existence the cosmos.  He gave the directive for creation.  Elsewhere, John would add that he doesn’t follow his own will, but differs to the will of the Father (John 5.30; 6.38; 8.28).

The third statement from Proverbs, “Wisdom was with God during creation” is clearly defended by John 1.1 so warrants no further discussion.

The fourth, “Wisdom is the master Craftsman of creation. He is the hands that would do the building” is attested too in verse 3 of John 1: “Through Him all things where made.”  As discussed earlier Jesus was there at creation.   I like to think of it this way.  God the Father was the General Contractor.  The Holy Spirit hovering over the waters was the creativity and designer, but Jesus the Son was responsible for putting the “x” down.  He was the one hammering nails, pouring the concrete, building the univers with the night of his muscle and the sweat of his brow.  He was the master craftsman.  You think it was a coincidence that before his three year ministry that he spent 20 as a carpenter.  It’s hard to find the same kind and amount of experience in a pile resumes.  Jesus was not only the word being spoken to create, he was the ability and skill, the heavy lifting to do it.

Statement Five: “By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord”.  John tells the story of a paralyzed man at a pool.  He had been there for 38 years wanting to get into the pool and be healed.  Jesus heals him and then warns him of worse things to come should sin reign in his life. (John 5.14)  Then Jesus changes the topic to “eternal life” in his next discussion about this ordea.  Jesus says: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life…” (John 5.24)  Jesus makes it clear: just because you’re walking around doesn’t mean your living.  For Matthew, Mark, and Luke, eternal life is living forever in Heaven; but for John eternal life happens now!  Whoever hears and believes HAS eternal life.  It is not a quantity of life but a quality of life.  It’s not forever life but a for  real life!  Proverbs makes it clear: if you attain wisdom you will have life.  Proverbs is about living the best kind of life as that life is only attained through Wisdom.

Jesus came into this world and got his hands dirty. Jesus was sent into our world because that is where God’s knowledge took action; that is Wisdom!

If Proverbs really is all about practicality and living the best life, then the Wisdom Character must be Jesus.  Solomon the author of Proverbs makes it clear that we Cain attain every thing else, wealth , fame, fortune, but if we miss Jesus, if we fail to gain Jesus, then we miss the point!  Jesus really is the only way to live the life that Proverbs lays out as wise and Godly.  It is as if he was reading 1 Corinthians 1.30: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”