Thursday, February 29, 2024

Words of the Wise


Well-driven nails by One Shepherd !! 
This morning in my Bible reading I focused on two passages - one from Ecc. 12 and the other from Acts 16.  
Ecclesiastes  12:11 --  I love the words of this passage, they always stir my heart-emotion.
Let me quote the words .. 
"The words of the wise are like goads, 
and the words of the scholars are like well-driven nails, 
given by one Shepherd, "
Do you see the pictures painted in this verse?  

Goads -- are farming implements , a round stick with a pointed end used to urge cattle to move forward, or in the right direction.  So to apply the analogy we see that the words of the wise are meant to be 'sharp' as in they get our attention and spur us on in the way we should go. 

The next picture is that of a carpenter driving nails into the wood.  My dad was a carpenter and how often I watched him drive one nail after the other with unfailing precision straight into the wood.   Here the analogy points to the fact that words from the wise or the wise scholar will not 'knock' us off course, will not cause us to bend to the right or to the left but will encourage us to stay on a straight path.  

And the 'source' of these good words?  The last picture is that of the Shepherd.  Who is a Shepherd but one who cares for his sheep. He will watch over them, protect them, feed them, care for their health and well-being.  And the pivotal word here is ONE ... Who is the ONE Shepherd but Jesus ... the WORD made flesh in the one who is a faithful and true Shepherd. All the words that are 'wise'  ,that are 'true' come from ONE source - "I am the way, the TRUTH..!".  Truth is the kind of thing that defines 1 plus 1 equals 2.   Any 'word' contrary, is immediately recognized as being false. 

In John 16:13 Jesus - the ONE Shepherd -  promises that when the Holy Spirit comes, whom He calls the Spirit of Truth, He will guide us into ALL truth.  He will only repeat the words of the ONE Shepherd.  
You and I and every believer have the indwelling Spirit of Truth, who guides us into all truth. 
But the enemy is also at work to distract us from hearing/recognizing that 'voice'.  We are easily moved to doubt we are 'discerning' God's Voice , we are overwhelmed with the amount of info and knowledge and media voices that bombard us daily. And so - too often- that soft voice is covered by the noise around us.   
Self-doubt is the most effective tool in the enemy's hand isn't it?  We are quick to second guess whether it was our own thought/feeling or if we were discerning the nudge of the Spirit., and we tend to err on the side of caution and surmise that it was our own 'words'.   I want to encourage you to be confident in knowing that you CAN and DO hear the voice of the ONE Shepherd through His Holy Spirit that lives within you.  

in Acts 17:11  The Bereans are commended, praised, because they checked what Paul was teaching , against the words of the One Shepherd.  If Paul came as guest speaker to our church do you think we would all be checking to  see if he was speaking 'truth' ?  I don't think so ... and yet  if the Bereans were praised for checking Paul's teaching for themselves .. and they only had the Old Testament!!  -  how much more should we heed the warning to be discerning - to check for ourselves what we hear - no matter who the 'teacher' is ..  (myself certainly included!!!)   Know for yourself what 'words' are well driven nails given by ONE Shepherd - the Spirit of truth !!  

The second passage I focused on this morning was an account of fitting life-examples of the Ecc. passage. In Acts 16. we have snap-shots of the 'word' being spoken and how it was received and by whom. 

The first example is Timothy who met Paul, who desired to have Timothy join him in spreading the 'word'.  We know Timothy gladly responded and in verse 4 we see that Paul and Timothy delivered the 'gospel truth' as it had been determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.  The 'words' agreed.
The second example was a man from Macedonia whom Paul and  Timothy and Silas were sent to preach the 'word' - again the man heard and believed. 

The third example is a woman named Lydia, who was obviously a wealthy independent woman. How do we know?  She had her own business - a weaver of purple (worn only by the rich) she was leading a group of women,  and she had the authority to open her home and hospitality to Paul and company.. She was already a worshipper of God but verse 14 says that she 'opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul".  She discerned the 'words spoken by ONE Shepherd" 

The fourth example is the demon-possessed girl.  She followed Paul and his friends proclaiming that they spoke the 'words of truth'.  Paul cast the demons out of her and she was set free, to the anger of those who had used her for their monetary gain!  

The fifth and last example is the keeper of the prison that Paul and Silas were cast into.  When God sent an earthquake to get the prison keeper's attention as well as set Paul and Silas free, the jailer received the word of truth and he and his household were saved !!  

how beautiful , how powerful are the words of Truth.  Truth has the power to set free, to change anyone who receives it ... whether a  Greek youth, a man from a foreign city,  a rich business  woman, a demon-possessed girl  or a jailor doing his job!  

I love how in each of these examples the word 'spread' through the one who first heard and received the 'word', to impact their sphere of social contact.   
May we learn from these examples and know how powerful the unchanging truth is and may we be discerning so that our 'words' will be well-driven nails that will not cause someone to 'bend' from the truth, but will be life to those who hear us. 

Friday, February 9, 2024

 . I was actually looking for a different image,  but this one   caught my eye .. and imagination! 

How often do we judge things with a false or twisted mindset or world-view!  We judge by our own standards, our own preferences, our own tastes or desires. 
And too often we voice those false judgments,  and words are powerful ... especially to children. We can all think of something someone said to us as a child that we have never forgotten and we still feel the influence of those words --- good or bad.  
If we follow the analogy in the image of the fish, think of that poor fish.  If it is told by a squirrel that considering how easy it is for them to climb a tree, they must be very stupid to not even be able to get out of the water  !!!  And the fish, seeing the squirrel run up and down the trees with such skill, concludes that the squirrel must be right ... and he must be very stupid.  
We are vulnerable, easily tempted to make us believe we are 'less than' we really are. 

My granddaughters' generation is into what they call 'thrifting'.   For those of you who are around my age remember how embarrassing it was to have to wear hand-me-down clothing.  Even purchased second hand clothes was only for the poor.   Yet today, it is praise worthy and a habit that is  enthusiastically embraced!  
Garbage used to be garbage -- all went into the one garbage can.  Today it's about how or what can be recycled and we have 4 different bins that garbage needs to be sorted into, plus the depot for what can't be put to the curb.  All because we have a cultural mindset of 'recycle, don't waste'. 
A good thing , isn't it ?  We have all heard 'waste not, want not' !!  

What got me thinking along this thought path, was learning something about the egg shell. How many egg shells have we all thrown away?  my friend Mary encourages everyone to crush the egg shells and use them as a very nutritious plant fertilizer, but I have never thought of them as an edible food item! 
My husband has recently developed some kind of stomach related medical problem -- ulcers?  inflammation of stomach lining?  I don't know, he hasn't been to the doctor yet.. though he does have an upcoming appointment. So I was searching the internet looking for natural remedies.   And to my surprise the egg shell was very high on the 'healing' potential list..  Boil egg shells for sterilizing, then dry them  .. then crushed into powder -- coffee grinder works great..   Then add a teaspoon to a cup of hot milk ... or mix into your drinks of choice. Who would have thought that we were throwing away a valuable part of the egg?? 

God is the original 'nothing wasted' recycler.  When you study nature everything has its place, everything plays a significant and important part in the ecosystem.  My response is -- well, except for mosquitos.  But then I researched that and found how very important they are and if they were eradicated the breakdown of the food chain would filter down to affect us !! 
You only have to look at a flower, to appreciate how every detail is important, how every animal is cared for in their given environment, how the seasons follow one another, how the ocean tide flows in and out ... on and on.. 
We read in Romans 1 how God created the earth to display His character.  It is so clear that no detail in God's sight is wasted.  
On the contrary, we tend to be  wasters ... Why?  because we don't see or recognize the value of something and throw it out. .  

We see God's 'no waste' rule even in scripture.  I love how every word is important -- hence the title of my latest book "No Word Wasted".  But it is also shown in the stories of the Bible.  The feeding of the 5000 from a little boy's lunch,  where the crumbs were gathered up,  the widow's oil and grain that lasted throughout the time of famine,   Joseph's story of the storing of extra grain so there was a  supply  for the famine years, even our tears he collects and keeps in a bottle. (Ps. 56:8)   
I love that even though God is not a waster, He is generous to the extreme!  God never heard of the popular saying .. "Less is more!"  He says 'more and greater is better !!" 

But I want to tie this back to the egg shell and mosquito.  If God created every detail of His creation to have an important purpose, then does it not follow that He would also not waste anything about His highest creation - man made in His image? 
Do you think you are the egg shell that is a 'throw-away-  or the mosquito that is an annoyance?  That is totally contrary to God's character, and His expressed love for His children all through scripture!  Yes, you are unique ... God intended you to be!  So don't compare yourself to someone else.  (remember the fish and the squirrel) 

Okay... so I've convinced you that you are NOT  a 'throw-away' or 'nuisance' in God's Kingdom.  But it goes much deeper.  
What about the details of your life?  What about the difficult circumstances, the tragic events?
Do you believe He is  in the midst of them , orchestrating them for good? 
 What about your sin,  your failings, your wrong choices and decisions?  Do you think He can recycle those too to 'create' something good on your behalf and for His glory?  
This morning, I was  reading  Paul's comments on this thought (Rom. 6:1).. "Wow! really? then let's sin some more so that God has more to 'recycle' into something good !!" (my paraphrase !! ) 
But he quickly lays that argument down and says ... "Of course not! if God can recycle even our failings, how much more will He use us when we die to self and live in His righteousness!" (again, my paraphrase) 

The enemy is always ready, to distract us and he plots for us to live in discouragement or despair thinking we have messed up.  How quickly God forgives when we come to Him with heart-confession.  Why quickly?  Because He is eager to begin the restoration - the 'recycling' process.   
Being a creative person , as many of you are as well, we understand the joy and fulfillment of taking something 'useless' in itself and creating something beautiful and valuable. That is a 'God-characteristic' that He gave us so we can believe Him when He says ... "I have wonderful plans concerning you,  I can make you into something beautiful !!"  (my paraphrase of Jer. 29:11)

The trouble is that many of us, at least at some points in our life,  are 'hoarders'!  Hoarders of guilt about past or present sin, hoarders of resentment.... of unforgiveness, of anger.  Hoarders of remembered offences.... we note and label every one !   
It's hard being a hoarder.   It fills up good spaces that could be used for something so much more useful and enjoyable. 
We can keep our 'garbage' , or give it to God for 'recycling'. 
Can we embrace, even get excited about the fact that God loves to recycle?  Remember that the material gathered for recycling is completely worthless in itself and has  very little value, It is the vision,  creative ability and skill of the one re-creating that is important to achieve  the oft surprising value and worth of the end result.   If we admire this gift in other human beings... how much more should we believe that God - the greatest Creator of all - would be able to take the worthless 'junk' we give Him and in His forgiving and restorative work turn it into something beautiful - something that causes  us to shine in His kingdom and give Him glory !  

Here are a few verses that speak to who we are in Jesus,... there are so many more!  Take note  when you are reading them to KNOW that they are meant for YOU, personally, if not you, then NOONE. 
 Jeremiah 29:11, Malachi 3:16,17 , I Thess 1:4, II Cor. 5:17, Eph. 2:10, John 1:12 Philippians 4:12, Col. 3:12 Rom. 8:1 John 15:16 , II Cor. 3:18