Driving Toward the Morning Sun (Part 1)

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” – Isaiah 64:6
“And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD” – Ezekiel 37:13-14

In my first post, nearly 3 months ago, I footnoted that the name of this blog is taken from an old twenty øne piløts song and that I would explain later.  Well, here we are.  This one will focus on the song, and Part 2 will expand the idea behind the blog beyond the song.  Otherwise, this would have been a very long post.

The song, “Taxi Cab” is from the band’s first album, self-published in 2009.  Songwriter Tyler Joseph has called it something he just threw together to sell at the merchandise table at shows.  Several of the songs are brutally honest discussions of Tyler’s struggles to find meaning and to maintain faith in God.  There’s a brokenness there you can hear in Tyler’s voice and there are videos of him breaking down and crying during live performances of songs from the album like “Addict with a Pen”.

“Taxi Cab” is my favorite of these early songs, and when they performed it live, I nearly cried myself!  It was Halloween, 2018, at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC and fans came to the show in costume.  We saw Gandalf, Jesus, and even a Tyler doppelganger there!  In 2016, the band had achieved this honor: “Twenty One Pilots are just the third rock act with simultaneous top five Hot 100 hits in the chart’s 58-year history, following only The Beatles and Elvis Presley”[1]  But at this sold-out 2018 show, they chose to include “Taxi Cab”, a song about being saved from brokenness by God!

A Beautifully Plain Taxi Cab
Often in these posts, I’ll include a “Coda” at the end, but for this one, you might want to watch the lyric video, or just read the lyrics first.  I’ll wait.

While I haven’t decoded every reference and metaphor in the song (Tyler often embeds both a spiritual and secular meaning), the basic structure of the song is this: the verses describe Tyler’s faults and inability to please himself and God; the “rap” is a story of Tyler’s salvation; and the chorus is an encouragement to find strength in that salvation.

Verse 1 says:
“I wanna fall inside your ghost; And fill up every hole inside my mind
And I want everyone to know; That I am half a soul[2] divided”

Tyler confesses that he lacks knowledge, and even where he does have knowledge, his inner being is in conflict and unable to do the right thing with that knowledge.  It is a similar cry to that of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15-23, where even with the truth we have, we remain at war with ourselves and can’t act the way we want to.  On the positive side, he understands that the knowledge gaps need to be filled by “your ghost”, a reference to the Holy Spirit, and that confession is an essential first step to progress.  He is frustrated with what he doesn’t know and asks for help from the One who knows all.  More knowledge isn’t the answer to his moral failures, but faith is.

With verse 2, he adds to the confession and frustration:
“I wanna strip myself of breath; A breathless piece of death I’ve made for you
A mortal rotting piece of song; Will help me carry on but at least you heard”

Here Tyler is asking, “what’s the point?”  In other songs, he encourages others to find purpose in their creativity, but here he says his own efforts at creativity are “mortal” and “rotting” and he’s considering giving up on music.  As declared by Isaiah in the introductory verse, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment”.  We cannot meet God’s standard.  But again, a slight note of hope: “at least you heard”.  There is value in the song as a prayer, as an honest expression, as a release.  It keeps him from jumping off the ledge of despair.  He awaits God’s response, and that response comes from the rap verse of the song.

Overcoming the Grave
“Taxi Cab” is the first song where Tyler included a rap, and while it’s more “spoken word”, it’s full of interesting images and symbols.  While there are multiple possible interpretations – some say it is about a failed suicide attempt – it’s clear one intended interpretation is as a story of Tyler’s salvation, and I’ll point out 3 key ideas:

First, Tyler finds himself dead and helpless.  As a result of his incomplete knowledge, his inability to do the right thing, and failure to create something of eternal value, he finds himself locked in a coffin packed in the rear of a hearse.  He’s tried everything but can’t change his fate.

Second, unable to save himself, God intervenes on his behalf in ways impossible for him.  He had tried to scratch his way out of the coffin!  But, “the hearse ran out of gas”, someone “picked the lock” of his coffin, and he “found the breath I was searching for”.

Finally, his destiny has changed from death to one where “all your blood is washed away and all you did will be undone”. He is out of the hearse and into the Taxi Cab, which will carry him to heaven.

Putting the rap in the context of the verses, you find that through clever songwriting, Tyler packaged much of the “Romans Road” tool of Christian evangelism into a song about overcoming depression and performed it to a packed house at Capital One Arena!  He may not have specifically used the Romans Road as a guide, but the key concepts are there.  For those not familiar, the Romans Road[3] is an easy to memorize and share summary of the Christian gospel using verses from the book of Romans.  It quickly describes the need for salvation and the way to salvation using these verses:

Romans 3:23 – All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Romans 6:23(a) – The wages of sin is death
Romans 6:23(b) – The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
Romans 10:9 – If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved

Saved to what?  Eternal life, where we become what we were created to be.

While works cannot earn us salvation, in Christ, Tyler “found the breath [he] was searching for” and so can we.  “Breath” here might be another reference to the Holy Spirit, as the words for “breath” and “spirit” are often the same in the Bible’s original languages.  If it is, then the Holy Spirit is the missing piece in Tyler’s creativity, the part that transforms it from mortal to eternally relevant.  Salvation brings meaning to our works, to our creativity.  As in the valley of dry bones vision in Ezekiel 37, God rescues us from certain death, gives us His Spirit, and a destiny (see verses 13-14 in the intro).

The final bit of the rap, where the blog title comes from, is a conversation between Tyler and “three men” who were driving the cab, and now in control of his destiny.  These men represent the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all of whom are involved in Tyler’s new story.  He asks, “Am I alive and well or am I dreaming dead?”, and one of them answers:

“We’re driving toward the morning sun
Where all your blood is washed away
And all you did will be undone”

This blog is called “Driving Toward the Morning Sun”[4] because Jesus, our forerunner (see last post) has purchased for us a destiny and a purpose.  Therefore, how do we bring the eternal into our present?  How does receiving the gospel empower us to live?  Unless we focus our eyes on the promise of God, we become mired in circumstances and ineffective.  We become entangled in attitudes, activities, and goals with no eternal value.  We grieve the Holy Spirit and don’t experience the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

I want every post to echo – in truth and in tone – the last lines of the “Taxi Cab” chorus:

“I said ‘don’t be afraid’.  I said ‘don’t be afraid’
We’re going home”

Part 2 coming soon.  With a new song.

[1] https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/7488038/chainsmokers-hot-100-halsey-closer-number-one-shawn-mendes
[2] The source of my “Author” profile on the blog
[3] This site has some more helpful detail on the Romans Road: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/salvation/what-is-the-romans-road-to-salvation.html
[4] Some sources say the lyric can also be read as “Morning Son”, more explicitly saying that our destiny is to have the character of Christ. 

The Sure Eternal Path

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 6:19-20

We have all seen the John 3:16 signs.  At seemingly every sporting event, someone with a spot guaranteed to be on camera has one.  T-shirts, bumper stickers, frisbees, and probably even iPhone cases have this verse.  This verse is so popular because it is a concise and easy to remember summary of God’s message to humanity: although the world has turned on Him in rebellion, He has not given up on it, but loves His people enough to make the ultimate sacrifice of His own Son to save them from perishing.  In the last post, I wrote: “God’s purpose in creating His kingdom, populated by His family, will not be thwarted by sin because sinners are the only people available to join His family… Through the death of His only begotten Son on the cross, God became Father of His people”

But what’s “eternal life”?  What is God offering?

It’s not that those who believe in Jesus will simply live forever, because that’s actually true for everyone.  The Bible explains this, but I like this quote from C.S. Lewis[1]:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

So, this “eternal life” is different than just biological existence for all time.  In my last post, I wrote: “Wisdom is the ability to choose between the path of righteousness and the path of the wicked.”  However, the Bible also contrasts the two paths as representing “life” and “death”.  If “life” is being on the path of righteousness, then eternal life means that the destiny of those who follow Jesus is to eternally choose the path of righteousness.  This eternal life is also lived in community where everyone else is always on that path, and everything that exists in that world will reflect righteousness.  Every decision we make will be in the Spirit; we will always have the right Answer.  This does not mean that we will be robots following orders, but it means that our morality and creativity will be unconstrained by our fallen nature.  Righteousness and justice will “come naturally”.

In the meantime, Christians can taste this future, but incompletely, as they imperfectly try to follow Jesus.  It can be quite frustrating as nobody can meet the standard no matter how hard they try.

The Inner Place Behind the Curtain
Now the 2nd introductory verses, from Hebrews 6, contain one of my favorite Biblical metaphors.  Hebrews 6:19 starts with “We have this”, but what is “this”?  Earlier in chapter 6, the writer wants his readers to “have the full assurance of hope”[2] and tells them that Abraham was blessed and multiplied into a nation, not by Abraham’s efforts, but by the promise and oath of God, who cannot lie[3].  After all, the famous hymn is called “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, not “Great is My Faithfulness”.  The destiny of the Christian is founded on the cornerstone of Christ’s completed work, and God will not change His mind.  Verses 19 and 20 were written to make this statement as emphatically as possible to the 1st Century Jewish reader.

For other readers in the 21st Century, some background might be necessary:  The book of Hebrews, written for Jews who had become Christians, includes a lot of imagery they would recognize like “the inner place behind the curtain”.  In the Old Testament, God’s tabernacle, and later temple(s), were indications of at least two things: that He was present with His people, and that He could only be approached in the way He prescribed.  God is Holy and Just, unable to tolerate sin, so entering His presence is serious business.  In the very early days of Israel, the Levite priesthood were commanded to kill anyone who came too close to God’s presence[4].  A vastly elaborate sacrificial system was implemented to illustrate God’s requirements for meeting with sinners: an innocent creature had to die.  Animals symbolized the later sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Even the altar upon which the animals were sacrificed required its own sacrifices to be acceptable.

But the “Holy of Holies” was the ultimate statement of how serious approaching God is.  This innermost room of the temple was only entered once per year (on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur), and only by the high priest, who only can enter after hours of preparation.  Once there, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed bull on and in front of God’s “mercy seat”, the cover of the ark of the covenant and a sign of His presence[5].  Later Jewish tradition (not found in the Bible) indicates that others would stand outside the room holding a rope that was tied to the high priest, who also had bells tied around his waist.  If those outside heard the bells jingling, followed by silence, they would assume the high priest did not atone properly for the sins of the people, died in God’s presence, and needed to be dragged out by the rope.

While being dragged out, the high priest would pass under the veil, or curtain, that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies.  This curtain was a physical reminder of the barrier to God represented by His holiness.

Anchor and Forerunner
Hebrews 6:19 is the only place in the ESV Bible that refers to a metaphorical anchor.  Literal anchors are mentioned in the book of Acts and nowhere else.  As you know, an anchor is a heavy object, usually metal, attached to a boat or ship by rope or cable for the purpose of securing the vessel to the bed of the body of water.  Typically, an anchor is used to keep you in place.  However, Hebrews mentions a forerunner because this anchor is used to secure you to a destination, not to keep you in place.  Where you are now is not your eternal home and God does not want you to anchor there.

In the early centuries A.D., a “forerunner” was a boat sent to meet larger boats at sea, take their anchor, carry it into the harbor, and deposit it at the destination.  Thus, the incoming boat was still at sea, but assured of reaching its destination.  It just had to follow the path of the rope to the anchor, which would also keep it from going too far adrift.

So, we now have the parts of the metaphor about what provides our “full assurance of hope”: anchor, curtain, and forerunner. (Melchizedek I’ll leave for another time)

What Hebrews is telling us is that our hope is in God’s promise, and that the promise is secure because Christ Himself took our anchor and secured it inside the Holy presence of God where atonement has been made for His people.  When Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday, He cried “it is finished”[6], and “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”[7]  In one moment, all of the elaborate Old Testament ceremony symbolizing the requirements for being in God’s presence became irrelevant, and Jesus became “the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh”[8]  Once for all, His flesh was the only sacrifice necessary for us to know God.  For His people, there is no longer a veil or curtain as a barrier, but through the tearing of His own flesh, we have sure and eternal access to Him.

While we remain metaphorically at sea tossed by waves of chaos, Jesus is in the Temple, and the Holy Spirit is at sea with us “hovering over the face of the waters”[9].  The Spirit is both a connection to the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul”, Christ our forerunner, and also a voice telling us what to do in the meantime.  We’re surrounded by, and are, a creation in progress, and He gives us our task, but also the certainty of ultimate success.  While our purpose can be frustrated, God’s purpose is sure, and His promise is for His people.

Consider this: If God wanted to change His mind about you, He’s had plenty of opportunity before now.  Hours passed while Christ was on the cross.  He was mocked as helpless and unable to save Himself, while Jesus knew at any moment, He could ask His Father to send twelve legions of angels to save Him[10]!  (Or He could just save Himself).  In those hours, Omniscient God considered all the sins of all His people over all of time and decided: “Worth it”.  The all-powerful actively chose to embrace powerlessness in the face of hours of torture to save His people.  He will not turn His back on you now, or ever, if you are His.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6

Upgrading the Moral GPS
Remember that the purpose of the forerunner metaphor is that we may “have the full assurance of hope”, enabling us to walk in the path of righteousness.  Confidence that our hope is in God’s promise and Christ’s faithfulness has several implications.

First, having Jesus as our forerunner means that our Moral GPS is always pre-programmed with salvation as the ultimate destination.  2 Corinthians 5:5 says “God…has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” and the Life Application Study Bible notes: “His work in our lives today assures us that the healing process will be thoroughly completed in Christ’s presence. Each time the Holy Spirit reminds you of Scripture, convicts you of sin, restrains you from selfish behavior, or prompts you to love, you have evidence that he is present. You have the Spirit within you beginning the transformation process.”

We all take wrong turns along the way, but we end up with Christ in the end.  Our mistakes don’t cost us our salvation, because God already knows them and has taken them into account.  This doesn’t mean we haphazardly proceed without any concern of consequence, but as I wrote in an earlier post: “We should not be afraid of God, where we are motivated to passivity – avoiding mistakes that would anger the one we fear.  We fear God in that we revere Him and respect His authority, thus actively seeking to please Him.”

If you are in Christ, the Spirit prays for you, “groaning”, while speaking to your spirit internally.

Until Jesus returns, the other voices in the GPS don’t turn off, and we’re not always 100% sure of what God wants.  There may seem to be more than one “good” option.  Security in Jesus makes us tend toward moving forward.  Mistakes are part of the process, and we can learn and grow from them.  Even if you have some doubt, it’s God’s faithfulness that counts.

Second, God called you for a reason, and it might be related to your current circumstances.  1 Corinthians 7:17 says “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”  You have a role in God’s family, and it’s a role only you can fulfill.  Therefore, in your Moral GPS, fear God’s voice for you alone, not what God has called others to do.

In the book “Compassion” cited in earlier posts, the authors write: “Saints and ‘outstanding’ Christians should…never be perceived as people whose concrete behavior must be imitated.  Rather, we should see in them living reminders that God calls every human being in a unique way and asks each of us to become attentive to His voice in our own unique lives.”[11]  You are called to be you, not the Apostle Paul, Billy Graham or Mother Theresa.

Third, knowing you won’t lose God’s favor may give you courage to not live to please men.  God might tell you to do unexpected things.  Perhaps things that are outside the norm or have not been done before.  Therefore, in the Moral GPS, we must discern what part of our “rebelliousness” needs repentance, as being outside of God’s justice and righteousness, and that which merely violates social and other convention.  Sometimes being yourself as God intended means being unlike what others expect by earthly standards.  You may be called to meet a specific, timely, need for something creative.  There may be a powerful, but unconventional way to encourage others.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58

Lauren Daigle’s hit “You Say” is a great closer for this post.  It is a reminder of the reliability and strength of Jesus and His voice when other voices, including perhaps your own, are turning against you.  An anchor of hope in the midst of trouble.  Only God can tell you who you are.

Watch the video
Or read the lyrics

[1] Lewis, C.S.  The Weight of Glory (1941).
[2] Hebrews 6:11
[3] Summary of Hebrews 6:13-18
[4] Numbers 1:51. The Levites were a type of priest, after whom the book of Leviticus is named.
[5] Leviticus 16:1-16
[6] John 19:30
[7] Mark 15:38
[8] Hebrews 10:20
[9] Genesis 1:2
[10] Matthew 26:53
[11] McNeill, Donald P.; Morrison, Douglas A.; Nouwen, Henri J. M.  Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life (1982).

Godly Offspring Aren’t an Accident

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” – Genesis 1:28
“Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking?  Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” – Malachi 2:15

The first recorded words that God spoke to man and woman were “be fruitful and multiply”.  So, as close to man’s beginning as you can get, God created the family.  If God’s intention from the start was to build His kingdom, it needed people in it for Him to love.  Malachi confirms: “what was the one God seeking?  Godly offspring”.  He wanted a family for Himself, and for each other.

After this early command, one might expect the Old Testament between Genesis (the first book) and Malachi (the last) to be an instruction manual on having a Godly family, and many are only familiar with the “hero” stories learned in Sunday School.  In total though, it’s difficult to find examples of good parents in the Bible.  There are plenty of examples of bad parents, but the most striking story is perhaps that of Judah in Genesis 38.  (And here I feel I should provide a warning that this story has a lot of sexual content.  The full Bible is not a PG movie)

The story[1] starts with Judah taking a foreign (Adullamite) wife, named Shua, against God’s guidance to only marry Israelites so as not to be tempted by foreign gods and religious practices[2].  Judah fathers three sons by Shua, named Er, Onan, and Shelah.  Judah takes Tamar to be Er’s wife, but Er died before having children.  Preserving the family line through descendants was extremely important in ancient Israel, and a brother would marry his fallen brother’s widow to bear children in his place[3].  Therefore, Judah told his second-born, Onan, to take Tamar, but Onan would “waste the semen on the ground” because he selfishly didn’t want the children to belong to his older brother.  Onan also died before having children.  Having lost two sons, Judah sent Tamar to live with her father instead of giving the last son, Shelah, to her.  Judah claims that the reason was that Shelah was not old enough, but it’s implied in the story that Judah thinks Tamar is somehow responsible for the two son’s deaths.  Judah had created his own narrative to explain his misfortune as Tamar’s fault, when it was really God’s judgment for the sins of Judah and his sons.  Genesis makes it clear that God was displeased with Judah marrying a foreigner, that Er died for his own wickedness (verse 7), and that Onan died for avoiding his responsibility as a brother (verse 10).

When Judah’s wife died, he waited a while, but then decided to seek a prostitute.  Tamar, having never been wed to Shelah even though he was now old enough, sought offspring by disguising herself as a prostitute and soliciting Judah.  He did not recognize Tamar, and she conceived a son by him.  Prostitution was common in the land then and was often associated with cult fertility rituals for local gods.  Not only did Judah commit a sexual sin, but he was probably also worshiping other gods.  Later, when Tamar is clearly pregnant, Judah accused her of immorality, but she was able to prove that Judah was the father by producing items he left with her when she was disguised.  Ashamed of being discovered, he “did not know her again”.

In just one chapter, we have the command to produce Godly offspring violated by: foreign marriage, wickedness, refusal to conceive, refusal to offer the third brother, and prostitution.  God must be frustrated with His struggling family, but He does not give up.

In the last chapter of Malachi, shortly after the “Godly offspring” reference and before going silent for 400 years, God ends the Old Testament with:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.  And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” – Malachi 4:5-6

A restoration of proper family relations is the promise that ends the Old Testament.  “Elijah the prophet” is later revealed as a reference to John the Baptist, also spoken of in Isaiah 40:3 as the one who would prepare the way for the Lord Jesus.  The same Jesus who is announced in the genealogy that opens the New Testament in the gospel of Matthew:

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.…and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram” – Matthew 1:1, 3

Here is the miracle of the grace of God: the children born of Judah and Tamar were twins named Perez and Zerah[4].  Matthew could have chosen only those “heroes” of the Bible taught in Sunday School to show Jesus’ superior lineage, but instead chooses to highlight the story of Genesis 38.  Why include these people?  Because there is no other kind.

God’s purpose in creating His kingdom, populated by His family, will not be thwarted by sin because sinners are the only people available to join His family and to raise His family on earth.  Isaiah 53:6 declares:

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
             and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Through the death of His only begotten Son on the cross, God became Father of His people through adoption into His eternal family.

But if God’s purpose is inevitable, then why should we bother to be good parents and people?

In the movie Tenet, released last year during the pandemic, there is a scene where one character sacrifices himself for another.  The movie revolves around a technology called “inversion” which allows objects and people to be reversed in time.  Near the end of the story, two characters have a conversation “before” one character travels backward to sacrifice himself to save another character, but “after” the other character has been saved.  They both realize the sacrifice was essential to victory, but also that in the “before” character’s timeline, it hasn’t happened yet.  Can the sacrifice be avoided?  Then comes one of the best quotes of the movie: “What’s happened, happened. Which is an expression of faith in the mechanics of the world. It’s not an excuse to do nothing.”

In God’s view from eternity, “what’s happened, happened”, but He has taken into account all the sins and successes of mankind.  The choices we all make, including the mistakes, are part of the “mechanics of the world”.  All the mistakes will be borne in judgment either by the sinner, or on the cross with Christ.  But we also know “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).  Doing God’s work is His will, is our purpose, and will be rewarded in heaven.  Doing nothing is not an option.

Steve’s Instruction Book for Dads
Some years ago, I was a new dad.  I also had a full-time job with a 1 ½ hour each way commute and was getting an MBA.  As you may guess, time was at a premium for me.

My Moral GPS was getting inputs from a couple of places.  First was a coworker I’ll call “Steve”.  He was a senior person at the non-profit where I was working at the time, had a book at his desk called “God’s Instruction Book for Dads”, and liked to speak his mind.  He once told me his teenage daughter refused to ever talk to him, which he brushed off as “typical teenager”.  What made that comment more interesting was that I later mentioned making sure to leave work in time to see my daughter before she went to sleep.  She was only a few months old at the time.  “Steve” asked me “what do you want to waste your time with that for?  She won’t remember any of it!”

The other voice, and the one I listened to, was my wife.  Any opportunity where I was home, and our daughter needed a bath or a book read, or anything, my wife often suggested I do it.  “You’ll regret it if you don’t”.  Of course, her voice aligned with “the right thing to do” and so I did my school or work at other times.  I didn’t get fired, and I graduated in time.  But, most importantly, I just told this story about Steve and mom to my now-teenage daughter a few days ago as we were talking and having pancakes together for dinner[5].  Relationships take time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a perfect dad, but actions have consequences and don’t take anything for granted.  Fathers and mothers matter, and they sometimes need encouragement and reminders to be good parents.  I recently had a conversation with someone right before Father’s Day who said his kid was a teenager and he wasn’t needed any more.  This was a lie.  I told him that he mattered to his son.

Raising Adults
Some quotes just stick with you even if you have no idea where they came from.  During college, I heard a speaker at some event (don’t remember who or where) say that it’s wrong for parents to say they are “raising children”.  They “have children”, but unless they change their focus to “raising adults”, they’re going to end up sending their kids out on their own as unprepared children, he said.

The Old Testament ends with the call to raise Godly offspring, followed by the prediction of restoring the family through Jesus.  So, what are these Godly offspring who are the adults we seek to raise?  If you’ve been following along on this blog, you can probably guess that Godly offspring:

  • Have within themselves the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to choose the path of righteousness over the path of the wicked,
  • Because they fear the Lord with a reverential awe, making them listen to, and act in, wisdom instead of going any which way,
  • Which they learn from tasting and seeing for themselves that the Lord is good, by turning to Him in repentance and finding Him loving and faithful,
  • Building on the cornerstone of Christ and measuring their actions with the tools of righteousness and justice

They can only find this by God’s grace, but these Godly offspring are the adults the world needs.  Able to make strong decisions that impact the world in a positive way for Jesus.  Able to identify and decide among the voices that confront them in the streets and the Spirit that speaks to them.  They need to learn to fear God by first fearing, but then becoming independent of, their parents or guardians.

The Fatherless Aren’t
In my last post I wrote about different perspectives on truth.  Truth of the way the world is.  Truth of the way it should be.  Gospel Truth.  But I’ll add one to the list now:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:27

God the Father has a special place for those who don’t have an earthly father. He will be Father to them. Therefore, be Jesus to the widows and orphans, showing them the Way to, and the love of, their Father. There is a reason the Lord’s Prayer starts with “Our Father” – because ultimately all depends on Him.

Many in the world reject God as Father because of the failure of fathers in the world.  Genesis 38, with all its warts, shows us that Judah and many others were part of God’s plan to use sinners to reach sinners.  To become the Father of His eternal people, despite the failure of His people to be good fathers.  There are no Godly offspring without the sacrifice of Jesus.  There is no human Jesus without a genealogy of sinners.  There are none to inhabit heaven without the sacrifice of a human Jesus, God’s only Son, given for you.

Although Father’s Day recently passed, take every opportunity to be grateful for fathers, for parents, for those who take on parenthood in other ways, but also think about those who have no earthly provision.  Those who see Jesus see the Father, so help people see Jesus.  God’s purpose for Godly offspring will be fulfilled and praise Him that you have the awesome responsibility and opportunity to be a part of that work.

You matter.  To God and to others.  Whoever you are.

[1] The following two paragraphs summarize Genesis 38
[2] Deuteronomy 7:3-4
[3] Deuteronomy 25:5-10
[4] Genesis 38:27-30
[5] Breakfast for dinner is an amazing thing.

More than Truth

“The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.
Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.” – Proverbs 14:20-21
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” – Mark 1:1

In May, I heard a sports update on the radio that eight members of the New York Yankees baseball organization, including players and staff, had tested positive for Covid-19.  Then the radio host raised his voice in alarm and added: “and all of them were fully vaccinated!”  The next day, I read a different report online about the Yankees that said all who tested positive were asymptomatic.  The first report didn’t mention that they were asymptomatic, and the second report didn’t mention that they were vaccinated.  Both reports were factual, but both reports were misleading.  One sounds like good news, and the other bad, but it’s the same story.  I can’t judge the intent of either source, but the point is that there is more to discernment than telling the difference between truth and lies.

While there is absolute truth, not all truth is the way, and not every way leads to life.  In the last post, I introduced a “Moral GPS”, our internal chatterbox of voices that influence our decisions.  In choosing between these, I wrote “Facts matter, but any voice can have facts.”  You can choose the wrong direction even if the signs pointing that way were “true”. A key input to that system is the media.

During the pandemic, many became increasingly frustrated with the idea of “truth”, and this has at least in part been intentionally engineered.  Bogeymen were everywhere, and you or your neighbor might be one!  Frustration is good for politicians and journalists, which is nothing new – consider these quotes and their dates:

“The biggest big business in America is not steel, automobiles, or television.  It is the manufacture, refinement and distribution of anxiety” – Eric Sevareid, CBS journalist, in 1974

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” – H. L. Mencken, in 1923

Feeding this frenzy is the fiction that if journalists and others are telling the truth, they are “objective” or “unbiased”, and therefore “ethical”.  This claim of objectivity is not only light years from the truth, but also theoretically impossible for anyone but God Himself.  I studied journalism at what is considered a top school in the United States, and although they didn’t outright teach bias, they taught us to think about what goes into making the following decisions and others:

  • What stories do you publish “above the fold” of the newspaper, where people are most likely to see it?
  • Which quotes do you place early in an article (people usually don’t read the entire article, but please keep reading this one), and which do you place later?
  • Which sources do you work harder to get a quote from, and which do you give up on after leaving one voice mail?  The ones that support your view, or the ones that contradict?
  • Which statistics do you cite, or not cite (to save space and make deadline)?
  • What term do you use to describe a person or idea?  The term used by advocates, or by adversaries?

There is no “lying” going on behind many of these decisions, just “editorial discretion”.  There were, of course, manipulated polls and other things I learned about, but very few outright lies.  In the more modern media age, though, these things are elementary.  Now technology even allows companies to make these decisions for other people’s content!

Of course, not all journalists are unethical, which is just like any profession, but the industry trend seems to be downhill, and those who get the most attention are often the worst examples.  It’s an industry in need of a revival.

Frustration is also good for some economically.  “Big tech” businesses made a ton of money during the pandemic, partly by feeding your anxiety.  Algorithms and clickbait aren’t interested in informing you, only manipulating your emotions to draw you to advertising.  They analyze in labs how the chemical reward system of the human brain reacts to different things so that you will return for that “high” repeatedly.  They’re making you emotional on purpose.  Bad news sells.  Thoughtful news, not as much.  Again, the intent and the business model are nothing new, but technology has made it ruthlessly efficient, and a pandemic-panicked population created a captive audience with so many “normal” activities unavailable.  One of my best moments of 2020 was getting to a movie theater in November.  It was a needed distraction and a healthy sense of normalcy[1].

Consider also this quote:

“One of the most tragic events of our time is that we know more than ever before about the pains and sufferings of the world and yet are less and less able to respond to them…There appears to be a general assumption that it is good for people to be exposed to the pain and suffering of the world…If we let the full content of newscasts enter into our innermost selves, we would become so overwhelmed by the absurdities of existence that we would become paralyzed” (emphasis mine)

This comes from a book I just read titled “Compassion”[2], written in 1982.  Before the internet and smart phones.  Let that sink in.  The suffering of the world is not a yoke you want to carry, but it’s in the interest of many journalists, politicians, and computer programmers to make you feel it.

Truth + Perspective
So, how do we start to filter all of this?  Proverbs 14:20-21 quoted above provides one example of how the Bible deals with and presents truth.  Both verses are “true”, but each has its own perspective.  Verse 20 describes the world as it is: “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends”.  No matter the economic and political system you live under, you recognize this as generally “true”.  Ancient Israel had the same “truth” as the modern world.  But what do you do with this information?  Your self-determined Moral GPS might tell you to pursue riches, because it is “good” to be liked and have friends.  Who wants to be disliked?  If this is “just the way it is”, why go against the grain?  Greed is good.  More on this later.

This isn’t the only Proverb that states things as they are, with no value judgment attached.  Another example would be Proverbs 17:8 – “A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers.”  This doesn’t mean one should give bribes, but it’s “true” and helpful to know how bribes function, even if your goal is to avoid them.

Fortunately, verse 21 adds perspective in God’s value judgment on the truth of verse 20: “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.”  If you fear God, your course of action is not to reinforce the truth of verse 20, but to seek to correct the situation with righteousness and justice.  A Christian must be concerned about what to do, in addition to what is true.

The Illusion of Pax Romana
Also, at a higher level, there’s “Gospel Truth”, a sort of master narrative that adolescent truths and narratives want to be when they grow up.  In “Evil and the Justice of God” by N.T. Wright, he says, “the word gospel itself…was a direct confrontation with the regime of Caesar, the news of whose rule was referred to in his empire as ‘good news’, ‘gospel’”.  Before Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the “gospel” was an existing genre of literature, or more accurately propaganda, exalting successive Caesars as bringing in and sustaining the Pax Romana[3], or “Roman Peace” which lasted roughly the first two centuries A.D.  Wikipedia describes it “as a period and golden age of increased as well as sustained Roman imperialism, order, prosperous stability, hegemonial power and expansion”.  These gospels sometimes assigned miraculous powers to Caesar and ordered that he be revered as a god.

The Christian gospels are not “biography” by genre, but “gospel”, a narrative to challenge the existing narrative.  Jesus operated in the environment of the world’s greatest empire, which would endure no rival, no other gospel.  From this perspective, His ministry looks different.  All He had to do was walk down the street – any street – and find problems not being solved in Caesar’s great empire and He was promoting a different narrative.  Mark’s gospel says those who saw Jesus “were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”[4]  Actual miracles showing that He could solve every problem He encountered, while He promised a world where all problems are solved for those who believe in Him.

However, those who were happy with the empire didn’t go quietly.  Proverbs 14:20 truth was just fine with them since they were the rich ones enforcing the rules.  “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”[5]  Preservation of the “Pax” often led these leaders to clash with, and ultimately crucify, Jesus.  John 11:48 records the panic of religious leaders about Jesus’ activities: “If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”  When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, they protested because it was “against the rules”, which they needed people to follow, otherwise the Romans would have to step in, re-establish order, and probably put in new leadership.  Their fear of Caesar was so strong that they determined to kill someone who was able to raise the dead. Make sense to you?

Early Christians faced similar problems.  Much of the persecution of the early church was because “The exclusive sovereignty of Christ clashed with Caesar’s claims to his own exclusive sovereignty,” according to historian Earle Cairns[6]

Conform Wisely
Back to the original topic of this post: journalism.  Part of the genius of the founding fathers of the United States was that, by granting freedom of the press, they were putting government and journalism in opposition to each other (at least in theory) and opening the way for multiple perspectives to get a hearing.  They knew that limiting distribution of “truth” to those in power was dangerous.  The powerful would be satisfied with Proverbs 14:20 truth.  In the world of Pax Romana, Caesar is god and loyalty is required for the prospering of the kingdom.  There can be only one narrative.

If you live in a country with press freedom, be thankful.  Diverse information is needed to rightly understand the broad situation of our world and immediate surroundings, but too much of that knowledge can be soul-crushing, draining us of compassion needed for the problems right in front of us.  The wrong truth can make us despise our neighbor, or to support the wrong gospel.

The Bible commands: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” – Romans 12:2

How do we do this?  Maybe God could tell us the “right” network to watch, the “right” amount to watch, and the “right” solution.  However, nobody but God is the Answer.  Therefore, each person must practice discernment as the Spirit guides and give grace to others.  Each must learn to fear God and let Him overrule the other voices in our Moral GPS.  If we pay attention, we know the Bible is not silent.  Proverbs alone contains a lot of relevant wisdom on the subject:

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (13:20)
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (18:2)
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (18:17)
“Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the LORD.” (20:10)
“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,
lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” (22:24-25)

Find news that suits God’s purpose for you and helps you glorify Him.  The world needs Proverbs 14:21 truth, and God requires it.  Like Jesus did wandering the streets of His day, look in your circles – family, church, neighborhood, workplace, state – and have compassion for those who need good news that isn’t in the news.  For some of these people, the institutions of your particular “Pax Romana” failed them – family, community, the courts, the government, even the church.  Perhaps a judge declared against them wrongly?  Perhaps they were a victim of abuse nobody knows about?  Maybe there is some other secret struggle or sin?  A disability, either permanent or temporary?  Perhaps they just don’t fit in with the clique of your neighborhood?  Maybe their employer made a “business decision” that cost them their job?  Some might have been hurt by the pandemic in less-obvious ways: they lost their life savings when their small business went under, they struggle with mental health, they saw their college dreams fall away, and any other number of things.

You won’t hear about many of these people on the news, and often politicians aren’t interested in their problems, especially if it makes their narrative look bad.  Anyway, these lost sheep don’t want publicity.  They just want compassion first, then perhaps help and a way forward.  Or perhaps just compassion and hope.

Individual people can be understood and shown compassion; narratives and statistics can overwhelm us and shut us down.  In the book “Compassion” quoted earlier, the authors write: “When information about human suffering comes to us through a person who can be embraced, it is humanized”.  They also write that the expression “to be moved with compassion” occurs 12 times in the New Testament, always in relation to Jesus or God the Father.  The original Greek behind it suggests not just a passing feeling or sentiment, but something you feel in your guts.  When Jesus found hurting people everywhere He went, His compassion compelled Him to help them.  In feeding people, healing people, and spending time with outcasts, Jesus made it clear that the Pax Romana wasn’t “good news” for everyone.  He wasn’t necessarily trying to pick a fight, but He couldn’t help it.  God is love after all.

You may upset the “Pax Romana” of your time and place, but every “Pax Romana” is illusory and temporary.  Break some rules.  Be creative.  Don’t let anyone recruit you into a cause that isn’t yours and that isn’t God’s.  Don’t let them lay heavy burdens on your shoulders that are impossible for you to bear.  The weight of the world was on the cross, but not your cross.

I’m horrible at compassion but working to do better.  I hope that a lot of us can do better as we emerge from the pandemic more aware of the impact of only seeing the world through windows.

If you are one of the hurting people, reach out for help.  There are likely more people who care, and more resources available, than you know.  You’re not a statistic.

Thank you for reading.

If you can spare a few more minutes, check out the song, “Never Take It” by twenty øne piløts.  It’s an upbeat sounding, yet defiant, take on how media tries to “weaponize you and I”.  The lyrics are fantastic.
Lyric video
Lyric page

[1] One of the worst things about 2020 was that I knew there were people who hated me for going to a movie theater and “putting lives in danger”
[2] McNeill, Donald P.; Morrison, Douglas A.; Nouwen, Henri J. M.  Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life (1982).  I bought this book in 1993 but never read it until re-discovering it recently while looking for another book someone texted me about during a nap.  I decided to read it since compassion is so needed given the societal damage done by the pandemic and related trends.  Glad I did.
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pax_Romana.  Yes, Wikipedia is a lousy source, but this is a blog.
[4] Mark 7:37
[5] Matthew 23:4
[6] Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church (1996).

Tuning in to Wisdom

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” – Psalm 130:4
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” – Proverbs 9:10

So far, I’ve written about Jesus as the only Answer to our need for purpose.  He is the only one qualified to be the Truth we can rely on, the Way to our salvation, and the Life that can restore us to what we are intended to be.  Jesus is the cornerstone upon which we must build our lives and impact the world around us, as a witness to the God who loves us and offers us a new heaven and new earth where His purpose and our purpose are perfectly aligned.

God’s “perfect system” exists only in heaven, but in this world, He calls His people to do His work, pointing the way to His kingdom. But if we are to create for His glory, we require His wisdom, which I briefly mentioned last time as “set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth”, and there, “like a master workman”[1] To all the people and kingdoms of the world, His call is to repentance. If you want utopia, you need to go through Him.

Now we come down from the almost cosmic level of the prior posts to the level of the individual.

Learning Fear

What follows started with me pondering Psalm 130:4: “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”  I read this a few weeks ago and initially thought it was backwards: why does knowing that God forgives make us fear Him more?  Shouldn’t we fear Him less when forgiven?  Also, if “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”[2] then to find purpose we need wisdom, and to have wisdom we need fear.

Getting Psalm 130:4 to make sense with the order of forgiveness, fear, and then wisdom required a re-thinking of repentance.  My conclusion was: the one who has not been forgiven has not repented, and the reason they did not repent was that they did not fear God.  They did not understand Him properly.

But the one who has been forgiven has repented, and they repented because they understood that was the best thing for them to do.  A proper understanding and respect for God’s character makes us turn to Him with our guilt, rather than run away from Him.  We should not be afraid of God, where we are motivated to passivity – avoiding mistakes that would anger the one we fear.  We fear God in that we revere Him and respect His authority, thus actively seeking to please Him.  When we pray and ask for forgiveness, it’s often a simple prayer made with the proverbial faith of a child, but if you unpack the implications, prayers of repentance acknowledge:

1) Him as the source of the law, the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong
2) Him as the righteous judge who is personally offended by our sin
3) His omniscience, knowing we cannot hide our sin
4) His uniqueness, as there is no other God to turn to
5) His steadfast love for us, knowing He bore the cost of our sin, and therefore we can approach Him
6) His compassion since He lived as a man
7) His power and willingness to heal us
8) His consistency of character: that He is not arbitrary
9) …and more

If we don’t implicitly or explicitly believe these things, then why repent and ask forgiveness from God?  Why expect to get it?  Exploring that set of statements could fill multiple volumes of theology books, but we don’t need that knowledge.  Fortunately, in His grace, He honors our heartfelt confessions.  He paid the price for all our inadequacies – even when we don’t fully understand our own prayers or who we’re praying to.  The Spirit pleads with the Father on our behalf[3].  Without His inexhaustible grace, our doubt on any one of these points might prevent us from repentance.  Mercifully, our forgiveness is based on His faithfulness to us: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

The righteous must live by faith because otherwise God would be playing whack-a-mole with our doubts for eternity.  Faith – our trust in God – is imperfect but it is the only thing that can bridge the gap between the faith of a child and the omniscience of God, who knows all our doubts and all their answers.  We come as we are.

In pondering Psalm 130:4, I better appreciate how complex, and in fact, miraculous, repentance really is.  Genuine repentance leads to forgiveness, which gives us a better appreciation of who God is.  We will have lived Psalm 34:8 for ourselves:

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Only through your acceptance of the cross, where Christ’s atoning blood was shed for you, can God in His Holiness commune with you.  Only through forgiveness will the Holy Spirit come and live in you – the indwelling referred to last time.  Only by tasting of His goodness do we really know what He is like.  It requires participation on our part.  If you never repent, you don’t know what it tastes like, only what you’ve been told.  And you might not have been told the truth.

So, forgiveness enables proper fear of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord enables wisdom, but what’s wisdom?

Upgrading Wisdom

I’ve had some sort of working definition of “wisdom” for most of my life.  As a teenager, I remember joking that it was the ability to learn from other people’s mistakes.  Sounded teenager-wise, but how do I know what’s a mistake?  Later, I read somewhere about wisdom being “skill at living life”.  Also sounds useful, but perhaps vague and worldly feeling.  Even later in life, I started thinking of it as “being able to make decisions based on facts, instead of wishful thinking.”  This has been even more useful, but which facts do you follow?  How do you choose between two “true” options?

Now I have a new definition: Wisdom is the ability to choose between the path of righteousness and the path of the wicked.  Reading the Psalms and Proverbs specifically, there is a contrast between these “paths”, and an idea that moral decisions are like a route between places.  You can be on one path or the other, and with wisdom, “you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path”[4]

You may be thinking: “that sounds like a moral compass!”  I’ll respond with: “you need to upgrade your technology.  We use GPS now!”  Let me explain.

A compass is too simple a metaphor.  Wisdom is usually not like a clear sign pointing the way, although God can use whatever means He chooses.  In our experience, wisdom is more like one voice among many on a broken Moral GPS system, that speaks about all “political, social, cultural, personal, moral, religious and spiritual”[5] factors in our environment and from our experience.  It tells us to go places we shouldn’t and not to go places we should, weighing pros and cons in multiple voices.

A pre-Christian GPS considers all these factors, and a person makes decisions as they see fit to prioritize among them.  Salvation requires realizing the GPS is broken, trusting someone who knows how to fix it, and then striving to follow the new instructions.  When this happens, a Christian gets an added feature in their Moral GPS, a “Holy Spirit download” that adds one more (heavenly, loving) voice to the cacophony.  The Spirit speaks of the justice and righteousness referred to in both Proverbs 2:9 and in Isaiah 28:17. The Spirit speaks with the wisdom needed to measure from the cornerstone and fulfill our purpose as individuals in God’s image.

As we make decisions in the world, they reflect an inner decision, as we consult our Moral GPS, but remembering that it’s still a broken system.  Proverbs 1 contains an interesting parable.  As we walk down the streets of our inner map, Wisdom calls out and raises her voice in the markets (Pr. 1:20): “If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you” (Pr. 1:23).  But the streets are noisy (also Pr. 1:20) and you continue down the wrong street (perhaps to take shelter from the voices in your head).  Wisdom refuses to answer when you discover your mistake too late.  If you respond to wisdom, you get more wisdom.

A funnier example is in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, where Lancelot is rescuing Galahad from the Castle Anthrax.  The women of the castle live alone without men and when the knights stumble by (fooled by a false Holy Grail), the women try to seduce them into staying.  Galahad should know the right thing to do, because 1) he is nicknamed “the Chaste”, and 2) the castle is named Anthrax. However, the lure of Zoot and the other women is so strong that Lancelot must forcefully drag him away.  They argue: “Can’t I have just a little peril?”  “No, it’s too perilous”.

Sometimes we have the grace of a Lancelot to save us from falling into the trap set by the wrong voices in our moral GPS.  Sometimes we’re alone.  Sometimes we’re among people who want us to do wrong.  In these cases, the strength to choose wisely must come from inside.  Back in Proverbs 1:29, wisdom says people go on the wrong path because “they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord”, suggesting that’s the deciding factor.

Absent Lancelot dragging us away, it is the fear of the Lord that makes us listen to, and act in, wisdom instead of going any which way.  It is the fear of the Lord that makes us listen to the correct voice in the broken GPS, to weigh that voice above the others.  The Holy Spirit may or may not add facts to the conversation, but it adds God’s heavenly perspective, influencing us to choose what is eternally valuable.  God does not want to drag us kicking and screaming into righteousness; He wants us to be thankful for His love and trust Him to know what’s best for us.  He knows about, and cares deeply about, every possible consequence of our actions to us and to others, not just the ones we see, or even want.

Wisdom is about taking the right action, not about accumulating facts.  Facts matter, but any voice can have facts.  In context of the Great Commandments[6], wisdom is what tells us how to love God and others actively, but in a way based on obedience that leaves the results to God.  In the book of Acts, Ananias didn’t minister to Saul, the notorious persecutor of Christians, because he thought it would end up well for Ananias[7], he did it because God told him to, and God knew that future Saul was Paul, the author of much of the New Testament.  Ananias didn’t decide based on the facts as he knew them, but he adjusted the facts in light of revelation from God.  Also, wisdom might sometimes tell you the best action is to do nothing.  Sometimes wisdom flashes a red light while others are flashing green.  “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” – Pr. 14:12 and 16:25.

Wisdom is why the Way, the Truth and the Life must be a person, not a set of rules or philosophy.   Truly, only you, in relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, can figure out what your purpose and identity in the body of Christ are.  Wisdom is proactive and specific to you.  Nobody else’s situation is your situation, and nobody else has the same relationships, abilities, and resources.  Books, advice, and experience can be helpful, but you need to “taste and see” the Holy Spirit in you, working at your very core where only He can reach.

Wisdom will put you on a path that provides you, and this world, a taste of heaven.  It is informed by a justice and righteousness – God’s law and Christ’s character – that is not of this world.  With wisdom you can build and create on the cornerstone of Christ.  The world might not like it, but the world is not your Creator.

Fulfilling our purpose requires Wisdom and Grace, motivated by Godly fear – perhaps even the boldness of Caleb in the wilderness to face giants despite the majority opinion[8].  The next post, God willing, will be about combating the other voices in the Moral GPS.

Future Topics: Mind Your Own Business, Learning from Chaos, Walking on Water, some song analysis, recycled posts from my old, defunct blog, and hopefully much more!

Thanks for reading – comment below and/or share if you want.  What was meaningful to you?  What did you disagree with?  How do you define wisdom?  How does the world?

[1] Proverbs 8:22-31
[2] Proverbs 9:10a
[3] Romans 8:26-27
[4] Proverbs 2:9
[5] See last post.  These are some arenas of opposition defeated by Christ on the cross, and that He wants His people to influence.
[6] Matthew 22:37-39.  In short, love God and love your neighbor.
[7] Acts 9:13
[8] Numbers 13:30

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