The Preaching of the Cross is Nonsense

 

Isaiah 43:1-7

Acts 8:14-17

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Psalm 29

The words of a sage who describes himself as Solomon but may not be; Ecclesiastes 1:2.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” NIV

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanityESV

Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.] There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smokeMSG

Utter futility!—said Koheleth—Utter futility! All is futile! JSB

This is the first reading for the week (Thursday). Doesn’t that get you motivated for work? In chapter 2 the sage lists all his great deeds as well as his great wealth. In Ecclesiastes 2:11 (Friday) he admits the following.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
 NIV

Saturday, the reading turns positive.

I have seen the task God has given humanity to keep us occupied. He has made everything suited to its time; also, he has given human beings an awareness of eternity; but in such a way that they can’t fully comprehend, from beginning to end, the things God doesCJB I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they liveNIV

What do we make of all this? Are our lives worth living?

The sage ends his 12 chapters with, the sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere God and observe His commandments! For this applies to all mankindJSB

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, says, The preaching of the cross is, I know, nonsense to those who are involved in this dying world, but to us who are being saved from that death it is nothing less than the power of GodPhillips God’s teachings apply to every human and all will be judged by those teachings. Those of us who have allowed Jesus to attach himself to us will be judged the same as Jesus.

In college, I had a couple of teachers who returned tests starting with the highest grade to the lowest. If the highest grade was a perfect score, one also announced that to the class. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone else could receive the same score as the top paper? That’s what Jesus does for us.

In 1 Corinthians 2:10b, Paul adds; For nothing is hidden from the Spirit, not even the deep wisdom of GodPhillips In verse 14, Paul adds; But the unspiritual man simply cannot accept the matters which the Spirit deals with—they just don’t make sense to him, for, after all, you must be spiritual to see spiritual thingsPhillips

Today’s reading in Acts is a testimony to the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God’s Message, they sent Peter and John down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet fallen on them. Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy SpiritMSG

A close reading of the Bible reveals many times when the Holy Spirit came in people. It always comes from God in the Old Testament and from Jesus in the New Testament. Here, we see the Spirit being channeled from God to Jesus to Peter and John, then to the Samarians.

In Luke 3:21-22, we read; Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” ESV

It is important to note that the Spirit descended on Jesus alone. Others were baptized, but it was not their time to receive the Holy Spirit. Even the Apostles received the Spirit for a few days at a time according to their needs. It was not until after Pentecost that his followers received the power of the Spirit of God.

When you wonder if you have the Holy Spirit with you, ask yourself if you are doing what God wants. Even if you are without the Spirit, you will do good. Nearly everyone wants to do good at least sometimes. Many hard-core atheists are very generous to others.

But just doing good is not enough. Doing what God wants is another level. It is the Spirit level, even if you have trouble feeling the Spirit.

I have had hands laid on me more than once and have laid hands on others, but I have never felt a tingle, let along hearing the voice of God. Did the Spirit pass me by? I don’t believe so. Too many things have happened in my life that are not explainable without the presence of the Spirit.

I have made enough trips to Haiti to understand that all the help I gave in building projects and in assisting medical workers is indeed vanity. All those people will die, all those buildings will be destroyed. But I did show the love of God. I did make friends. I did brighten the day for at least some of the poorest people in the Americas. On my last building project, all I did was take pictures of those who worked. I also photographed the kids who came to watch and let them see themselves on my small camera screen. When I stand for the Judgment, that is what God will look at.

Doubt, but believe.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme HERE.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

If Only I Knew Where to Find Him

 

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Psalm 22:1-15

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 10:17-31

Just after last week’s reading, in 2:11, we read: When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort himNIV They sat with him for seven days without speaking—often the best thing friends can do.

The first verse of chapter 3 is: After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birthNIV That cursing takes up all of chapter 3, yet, he does not curse God.

The next few chapters include efforts by his friends to get him to admit to his sins so he can once again walk with God. Their advice is sound, but only if Job sinned.

Job is upset precisely because he had not sinned. If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with argumentsNIV

We see Job in the same state that all humans are in, at least from time to time. Sadly, some people live their lives apart from God. It is not easy to stay tuned to God. We live in a world of sophisticated radio transmitters and receivers, but the receiver we use to hear God is more like the very first crystal radio which required constant tuning. By constant, I mean a person had to wiggle the tuning nob all the time to stay with the changing signal.

Unlike those first wireless transmissions, God is constant. His Word to us does not change. But our receivers are defective. Our sin overpowers the message. That is especially true when we do not keep our hand on the tuner.

Many preachers tell us we must read the Bible and pray to know His Word. That is not bad advice, but it falls short of helping us all the time. Like Job, we want to sit down with God face-to-face and get clear-cut answers.

In the 1920’s, G. Campbell Morgan wrote a book called The Answer of Jesus to Job. I have lost my old copy from the sixties, but his theme was, no surprise, Job wanted to talk with God, he can do it by looking at Jesus.

Morgan stated Job’s plight this way. Bluntly Eliphaz had said, get to know God, and all will be peace. Job replied in effect, that is the difficulty. How am I going to do it? And in these actual words, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him!” It is one thing to tell a man to acquaint himself with God, but quite another to show him how he is to do it.

Jesus’ answer is that we can only find God where he lives. Man cannot make contact with God by any action which is earth-bound. Morgan goes on. We find ourselves in an upper room with a group of men of our own humanity, men who have also known this desire of the spiritual life for God. In the midst of them there was One, a Man of their humanity, looking with human eyes at them, as they are looking at Him.

By looking at Jesus, we can see God. In John 14:9, Jesus told Philip, The man who has seen me has seen the FatherPhillips In this passage, Jesus had already responded to Thomas by saying, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. NIV

Notice how Jesus stressed action: I am the way. Following Jesus is not about sitting in a pew. Attending the Ecclesia—the church—renews us for the real work of following in the Jesus way.

Too many people today identify with Job, and Thomas, and Philip, but there is no need. We can see Jesus in the reading of the Bible, and we can see him at work in the lives of people around us.

After the death of Mother Teresa in 1997, her private letters were published, revealing her inner Job-like struggles. In one letter she wrote, Where is my Faith—even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness—My God—how painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith—I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart—& make me suffer untold agony.

But she worked on. She walked in the way of Jesus, even as she struggled to see him. Too many super wealthy TV preachers make it sound so easy, and perhaps it is with $200 million in the bank. But for those of us who grind our way through each day, trying to see through the mist to find the goal, it is not so easy.

Don’t feel too bad, Thomas and Philip stood next to the living Jesus and asked to see God.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence