Social Media is Full of Absurdities


Social media is a great place to share short bursts of pontification, whether in memes, quips, quotes, or what have you.  Sometimes a little more research may do some good, though.  Several times recently I’ve seen the quote below shared by people protesting what they see as people in power playing loose with Covid data to pompously push pernicious policies that are precariously close to imperious:

“Truly, whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire

Since this quote was often posted by Christians, they might be appalled by the context of the quote:

“Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. If the God‐given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God‐given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.”

On the positive side, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.[1]  Being a Christian requires holding on tight to things that seem absurdities to the world, but it also means we have the “God-given sense of justice” that requires we show mercy to those whose absurdities are different from our own.

I recently started a series of quote posts, so when I post an absurd quote, it may be intentionally absurd, but probably not.  Don’t be shy about letting me know, mercifully…I think Abraham Lincoln said something similar on his website.


[1] 1 Corinthians 1:25

Keep Your Eyes on the Road


The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
            but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.” – Proverbs 17:24

Wisdom keeps us on the path of life but doesn’t always mark it out for us far into the future.  Even if the fool identifies a correct future destination or goal, the path to get there might bend in ways they won’t see by looking only at the end goal.  The discerning focus on the daily task and the daily bread.

Today matters.

The Desires He Delights to Give


Does God give us what we desire, or does He decide what we desire?  Some of my earliest prayers I remember (I was probably about 6) are ones asking to wake up the next day with my room full of all the toys I wanted.  Naturally, I never woke up to a room full of toys.  God probably knew I would only ask for more, and there would never be enough.  That doesn’t mean I only prayed that prayer once…I learn slowly, but He is patient.

In later life, after understanding Christianity somewhat better, one of the first Bible verses I set out to memorize was Psalm 37:4, which says
Delight yourself in the LORD,
            and he will give you the desires of your heart.

But I still wondered: are the desires what He gives us, or is the fulfillment of desires what He gives us?  I now believe it is both.  In the times I genuinely seek Him, I find that He molds my desires, so they become more aligned with His character.  I also find that He directs those desires toward what will fulfill them.  While that fulfillment is not always immediate, I learn to trust from what He does fulfill that all will be made right in eternity and learn patience and peace.

When we truly delight in Him, we end up finding out that what we desire is righteousness; we also find out that He provides all the righteousness we desire and need.  We find those desires fulfilling rather than frustrating, we find that fulfillment durable rather than fleeting, and therefore find ourselves content rather than anxious.

However, we don’t always delight in Him, and we find ourselves conflicted and unfulfilled.

Therefore:
“Commit your way to the LORD;
            trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
            and your justice as the noonday.” – Psalm 37:5-6

Today, pray we will find our delight in Him.

Grandpa Solomon’s Retirement Advice


Have you ever asked yourself what Solomon, son of David, king of Israel, and author of much Biblical wisdom, would have to say about modern retirement?  Probably not, but I’m going to write about it anyway, because Solomon actually had some relevant advice.

Since this blog is not a source of income, I have a day job which happens to involve helping companies help their employees save and invest for retirement.  In American culture, retirement has in some ways replaced heaven as the future we hope for.  Advertisements promise retirees can do all the things they dreamed of doing during their working years.  Travel.  Relax.  Read those books you’ve been putting off reading.  If you can, buy a yacht.  After all, if you’ve worked so hard for it, you deserve it, they say.  Like many marketing schemes, something good and prudent (saving for retirement) is wrapped in a lot of gloss to get you to do something you might not do otherwise.  Sacrifices made now are worthwhile because of a later reward.

A guest at church this morning inspired me to write this post, since he was working with a ministry to grandparents.  The ministry is called Legacy Coalition (website link).  While talking with him, I made a connection and wanted to share it here.  That connection is that Solomon[1] when writing Ecclesiastes was acting in the role of a wise, Godly grandfather in a way that offers a sharp contrast to the story of retirement that goes unchallenged in our culture.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon lays out an argument that he lived almost the exact life pictured in our retirement ads but learned to regret it.  While still a very young man, he had the power and wealth to try anything he wanted.  He planted vineyards and drank a lot of wine.  He built gardens and pools and acquired many servants and property.  He also had 700 wives and 300 concubines.[2]  He could have everything he desired – everything the retirement ads would show you if they could be R-rated – but he ended up disappointed.  Ecclesiastes is his advice to those who come after to not repeat his mistakes.

While a blog post can’t cover all of Ecclesiastes, I must add that Solomon did encourage us to invest for the future, but also not to place all our bets on one specific vision of the future: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.  Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.”  (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2).  A long, healthy and prosperous retirement is one possible future among many, but eternity with God is a future certainty.  Earlier in the book, Solomon writes: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  God gives us a sense of what He has planned for us, but not many of the details.  We should not foolishly ignore the future, but we should not cling to one future we desire at the cost of the present God has given us and the future He already knows everything about.

Solomon encourages everyone – young and old – to live more in their own moment, enjoying the gifts God has given them and sharing those gifts with the people around them.  While Solomon is encouraging the young to not repeat his own mistakes, he is also encouraging the old to share their perspective.  In both cases, Solomon is telling us not to stress too much about what may or may not happen, but to invest what we have in light of what will be meaningful in eternity.  Joy comes from enjoying the relationships and things God has blessed us with now, not from sacrificing the now in light of a false vision of retirement.

Solomon recommends joy in God’s provision, and so I close with this quote, and pray that we all experience joy and thankfulness in the gifts God has given us today.  Don’t keep them to yourself.

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.  Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.  Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” – Ecclesiastes 9:7-10


[1] I’m going to proceed for the sake of argument that Solomon is the author of Ecclesiastes, although I know some debate that and it’s not explicitly stated.
[2] 1 Kings 11:3

4 8 15 16 23 42 – Blessed are the Meek #3


Do you ever feel that God has appointed a task to you that you can’t see the point of?  These opening verses refer back to previous posts about Jesus asking Martha to move the stone away from the opening of Lazarus’ grave, and also to the man who was given only one talent to put to work for his Master’s benefit:
“Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” – John 11:39
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’” – Matthew 25:24-25

As we continue a series on the Beatitudes with the third Beatitude “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth[1] I am reminded of the mid-2000’s TV series Lost, where character Desmond Hume is trapped on a mysterious island and enters a code into a computer every 108 minutes.  He does it – even in the middle of the night – because he was told he is “saving the world” by someone he trusts.  When the code – 4 8 15 16 23 42 – is entered on time nothing happens except the re-setting of a clock to 108 minutes.  “The numbers” are referenced over and over again in the show, individually or all together, and seem to have a mystic power over events.  The number of minutes allowed to enter the code – 108 – is the sum of the six numbers.  Even fans seemed to believe “the numbers” had power – there was a boom in playing them in the lottery.

As other characters find Desmond and ask questions, the numbers and the button become a case study of faith versus reason.  Why is he doing this?  Eventually, the button isn’t pushed on two occasions and the consequences are very serious indeed, but this lesson is only learned by failing to act on faith.  While initially faith demands that Desmond enter the numbers over and over again, the two failures show that there was a reason behind Desmond’s faith even if he didn’t know it.  It wasn’t pointless after all.  However, failure isn’t always the best way to learn to be meek.

Every Talent Matters
In a story told by Jesus in Matthew 25:14-30, a man entrusts his servants with some money (the “talents” in the story were a large unit of currency, and the word later came to mean a natural or special ability): five to one servant, two to the next, and one to the last servant.  The first two servants use their “talents” to bring in more for their master, but the last buries the money in the ground to keep it safe.  This servant might have been thinking: “What’s the point?  The other guy has five talents, and with that I might be able to do something.  But with only one…Why bother?”  But if the master’s intent was to keep the talent safe, why would he give it to a servant?  It was only after some time, when the master returned from a journey, that the servant learned the consequence of his inactivity.  The servant is cast out and his talent is given to the better servant.

Waiting until we have more to offer, more to do, or a better sense of the possible consequences is like burying our talent in the sand and therefore determining for ourselves that it does not matter and there is no point.  In the words of “Shy Away” by twenty øne piløts, you “manifest a ceiling when you shy away.”  Whatever purpose God has for our talents – in their exact amounts and types – it wasn’t for us to bury them.  The meek servants who took what they had and worked for their master’s interest, were rewarded.  “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.[2]

For me personally – sometimes I put off, or want to give up, writing because it seems pointless – who reads this anyway?  But it’s what I currently feel compelled to offer.  Blogging may seem a strange thing to do, but it’s better than burying these ideas in the ground and hoping a fruit tree magically pops up.  I don’t know what will happen when I do or don’t write, but I know a refusal to be meek to our Lord has consequences.  Sometimes we aren’t sure why, but we know Who is asking.

Play Your Own Numbers
Jesus has not asked me (and probably not you) to enter “4 8 15 16 23 42” into a computer or to move a stone from a tomb, but He knows exactly what He wants us to do, to become, and how He wants to impact others through us.  There are specific needs He wants only us to meet, including our own needs for meaning and joy.  We should never just copy someone else’s “numbers,” but seek our own.  If Lost fans won the lottery with those numbers, they would have to share the prize, but if each won playing their own way their prize would be much bigger.  Likewise, I believe the eternal reward is higher when you play the numbers – and only the numbers – God gave you personally[3].

Consider God’s personal instructions to you as your own lottery ticket, or the most important treasure you will ever have:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” – Matthew 13:44-45

Being meek is not a matter of how much one has to offer but knowing who you offer it to and being faithful to that master’s interests.  It is not a matter of knowing why, but a matter of trusting the One who asks you to be meek.  He is the King of the Kingdom.

Finally, just because the consequences aren’t obvious to you doesn’t mean there aren’t any:
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Guardian angel Clarence Oddbody, in It’s a Wonderful Life


This post continues a series on the Beatitudes. To start at the beginning, click here, and for the next post click here


[1] Matthew 5:5
[2] Matthew 25:29
[3] Is it stretching the point to say what happened to Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-3 resulted from them trying to “make up their own numbers”?

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