It was a dream. I'm not going to say anything more about it, other than the cryptic phrase, "Elsie would understand". It sent me into a long, penitent prayer session that led me to a realization.
Last week , I had an epiphany about the atheists I had jousted with. And that was, that just like Christians, they had come to a series of points where God set things up for them to follow Him. Just as a Christian will ofttimes look back and see all the things God set up to lead them to Him. The difference being, they rejected Him every one of those times.
This morning's epiphany was that every sin committed, every, "Oh well, I'll say I'm sorry to God for that later," is one of those spots in time, and is US REJECTING HIM.
The second experience is actually an illustration of a follow up point. And that follow-up point is, how do we get to a point of letting such things in? KC was trying to watch a video on my computer last night, and it asked him to download a "Java plug-in" on the pretense that I didn't "have the latest flash player". Early this morning, I discovered something was trying to hijack my searches on google and send me to a fake "bing" site. Then, a side toolbar came up, from an outfit calling itself WebCake. There were three different programs working this Webcake, and as I uninstalled them, I found another program, Imminent.com, that turned out to be the one sending me to the fake bing. And then I found three spam shopping sites, an unnecessary sports app, and the "Java plug-in" that brought them all in. In other words, KC had allowed on thing to accomplish one purpose, and a dozen other things he didn't even realize followed it right in.
43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (from Matthew 12).
So by accepting one sin, many others follow in. In my particular case, Chuck Swindoll this morning mentioned how something that should be a gift from God becomes sinful when we take a gift meant to be shared unselfishly and turn it into a thing of our own pleasure. Switching selflessness for selfishness. And once it becomes a selfish thing, then follow in the rationalizations, the justifications, the "who is it hurting?", until it starts hijacking the search for God.
This week, my readings were from 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, and Proverbs. Let's see how they fit in. 2 Chron is a repeat of the prayer of Solomon, and the building of the first Temple. Two things to carry from here. First, note in 1:11-12 God lists all the things Solomon DIDN'T ask for- all selfish things. He asked for Wisdom and Understanding. Wisdom, as you read Proverbs, you'll find is nothing more than opening yourself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit (which is what the ancient Greeks might call "Wisdom Personified"); while understanding is the grasping of knowledge through the lens of wisdom. This will paly into our conclusion.
The second thing we want to take away here is Chapter three- how grand the foundation was, and how wonderful that which sat on it, when the motives were unselfish. That comes in direct contrast to what we find in Ezra. Here, the people had fell away, had sinned and turned against God, and had been exiled. Now they had repented and returned, and had to start over from the foundation. But because of their failure, there was a catch:
Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off. (from the end of Ch. 3)
The new foundation wasn't the same; it had been tarnished by sin and failure. It wasn't quite the glorious foundation they had before. Yes, they were still God's chosen, and yes, the again had a foundation to build on. BUT SIN HAD TAKEN SOMETHING AWAY, just like every sin of ours takes something away.
Then, we fast forward to Nehemiah, and the Temple and the wall STILL weren't done. Why? Because a) derision and opposition from the ungodly had b) prevented work from being done. But the outside factors hadn't stopped them; they were just an excuse to not get it done, because once Nehemiah got there they worked even though the opposition continued. And note something else that might just get by you. In the midst of all the people working on the project in Ch. 3, you hear this:
5 Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders[d] to the work of their Lord. And then a little later:
27 Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section, from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel.
Though the "nobles" of Tekoa failed to work, the people were the only ones mentioned that worked TWICE. If there is a lesson here it is, you cannot wait for someone else to clear out the opposition for you. Don't wait for some leader to make your path easy, do the work yourself- even if you feel you're pulling double duty.
Then comes Esther, and in case you didn't know it, Esther is the only book of the Bible that doen't mention God- not once. For you see, Esther was all about doing the right thing, even immersed in a world that DOES NOT KNOW GOD. So, guess what we've learned so far? Your sin is not an excuse, poor leadership is not an excuse, and the world is not an excuse.
Which brings us to Job. Story in a nutshell: Job is a very rich man, and has faith in God. So much riches, and so much faith, that he occupies himself asking God for imagined sins his children might have committed. But, he was doing the rituals WITHOUT working on deepening his relationship with God, or perhaps, instead of. Then it all gets taken away; and at first he takes it stoically, but as soon as the pain becomes personal, he collapses in self pity. Was he wrong to do so? What was wrong was in his attitude. See if you ever caught this verse before, because I hadn't:
25 What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. (from Ch. 3)
And what, pray tell was that? That all his physical, material things, from his possessions right to the health of his body, had been taken away. Had he been as intimate with God as he thought he was, he would have realized that he still had all he needed, and the thing he dreaded most would have been for his soul. But there was something more important than God in his life- and it had been stripped from him. He lost everything, not because of what was destroyed, but because that Foundation he should have had WASN'T THERE. Before you think God cruel for putting you through something, as Job did, check what you have built underneath you.
So, what should be underneath you, and how do you build it? That is where Psalms and Proverbs come in. Psalms 1-3 tell you what needs to be in any good foundation. Just like the concrete in a foundation needs three elements, so too your spiritual foundation.
Psalm 1 speaks of the Way of God, and the learning of it. This is the "aggregate", the big stones and the fine sand that are the body of your foundation.
Psalm 3 speaks of God being there when you call on Him, giving you protection and security. This is the cement, that binds the Way of God into your daily life- the "application", if you will, the living of that way of life.
Psalm 2, though, explains Jesus, from His coming forth from the Father, through the Authority given Him, to the Homage that we owe Him, to turn over our sins for His forgiveness. This is the "water in the mix":
Water- Water is needed to chemically react with the cement (hydration) and to provide workability with the concrete. (from "Components of a Basic Concrete Mix).
It doesn't work without the "water".
And how do you put this all together? Proverbs 1-3 go over and over the same mix: Wisdom (being open to the Spirit) + Knowledge (gained from staying in the Word, whether by "hearing and increasing knowledge" or by "seeking wise counsel" - all 1:5) = Understanding (using the Spirit to apply your knowledge).
So we started out with Wisdom being applied unselfishly to build a glorious foundation, and work our way to Understanding keeping it glorious. And just like concrete, we have to watch the "water to cement ratio". When we add the extra, selfish additives, we get a problem we can't really see until the whole building comes down.