Empty, Empty Words

Bill-Nye

I recently saw an Instagram post that perplexed me. It wasn’t just the quote itself but the number of people falling all over themselves with awe. I was thinking, what?

Here’s the quote:

“A strange and astonishing fact is that you and I are made of the stuff of the cosmos–exploded stars and other rogue material. The fact that you and I are made of stardust is one of the ways the universe knows itself.” – Bill Nye, The Science Guy

Stuff and Rogue

I am not a science expert and I am not trying to analyze everything Mr. Nye believes based on two sentences. Nor do I believe that science and the Bible cannot coexist. I believe they do. Totally. But none of those are my points.

My point is that this statement says…well, nothing. It’s awe inspiring, elating and wonders-full, but ultimately empty. Words like strange, astonishing, exploded. Oo-ah!

The Universe Knows?

Then there’s the “universe knows itself” comment. So the “cosmos_exploded stars and other rogue material” have formed a universe with human attributes like knowledge and self-awareness?

Now, before you shout me down, I KNOW that’s not what Mr. Nye is saying. I KNOW he’s mixing metaphors and using analogies and blah, blah, blah.

But if he’s not saying those things, what is he saying? What IS he saying with, “The fact that you and I are made of stardust is one of the ways the universe knows itself”?

What’s My Real Point?

My point is that we must be diligent, discerning and wise at a time when people are increasingly spouting and believing nonsense.

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Knowledge is having information and facts, while wisdom is the ability to apply that information to living a good life.

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

As I said, I don’t have a problem with science. I have a problem with science pushing out God and here’s why:

Bill Nye is correct in stating that we are made of the same materials as the universe.

“For dust you are and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:19

“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” – Ecclesiastes 3:20

But if we stop at this fact, we can – and do – naturally conclude that we are random, too, just like the stars and explosions. And…if we’re random, then we can do anything and everything we please. We can be “rogue material” and “explode”. After all, this is one of the “ways the universe knows itself”.

Again, don’t shout me down. This is the logic of today: that anything goes and anyone who says otherwise is “unenlightened” and “intolerant”.

And it’s not true at all. No amount of science or enlightenment can change the truth that human beings are repelled and destroyed by this kind of rogue behavior and the explosions of wrecked lives that it always causes.

Which is why God’s Word also says to love over and over and over and over and over again:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

These words are also awe inspiring, elating and wonders-full but they are recognize, harness and focus the greatest power in the universe: Love.

And THAT is wisdom.

Our Elaborate Fig Leaves

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I’m involved with an Old Testament Survey study as part of the Pastorship class I’m attending at our church. Something jumped out at me in last week’s lesson that I simply need to share.

“But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”” – Genesis 3:9-12

All You Need to Know

I’ve said for some time now that everything you need to know about human nature is found in the third chapter of Genesis. I’ve written about it here and a few other places but I hadn’t noticed how much three behaviors stood out in the three short verses quoted above: fear, hiding and accusing.

Sums up everyone’s behavior on the planet.

Fear

There’s a reason “do not fear” appears 365 times in the Bible in various forms, God knew we would fear. And we all fear one or both of two things:

  • Death – at the heart of our fears about money, health, love, earthquakes, control, the unknown and more is our core fear of death. Yet even this has been conquered by Christ, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:55
  • God – the primary reason people don’t accept or fully accept the Lordship of Christ is fear. Not so much a fear of Him, but a fear of losing control of the life we so much want to live.

Or a fear of being exposed

Hiding

I have found no better explanation of hiding and it’s affects than these words of Gayle Erwin in his book, The Jesus Style:

“Our true nature is not designed for us to hide our selves. The energy that goes into hiding is costly to us as persons. Anything we hide forces us to live in a way that will keep what we hide safely hidden. In other words, we become unreal–untrue to ourselves–incongruent. That unreality is opposite to the nature of Jesus who is the God of reality. No energy was spent in covering His life with a mask. In Him, there was no darkeness at all (pages 62-63).”

Sadly, we do most of our hiding in our marriages and families. Which brings us to:

Accusations

Adam blamed Eve and then God (“the woman you gave me”) and Eve blamed the serpent and we’ve been blaming everyone else ever since.

It’s the perfect cycle: fear – hiding – accusing. And because we know the accusations are weak, because they ALWAYS are, we fear being found out so we…hide. Round and round and round and round we go.

Thankfully, the cycle has been broken and we can all participate.

Humility and Conversation

The first step is seeking and walking in true humility:

  • An accurate, healthy and positive assessment of who you are – the good, bad and the ugly. While that may sound contradictory, we can and should embrace all of who we are exactly as we are because…
  • God embraces us exactly as we are. Yes He longs to grow us in His image but this is because He loves us NOT because He can’t wait until ‘we grow up and figure it out’.

From a place of healthy humility, we can then talk:

  • To God who wants to have a relationship with us. A clear, candid, real, no-holds-barred, relationship.
  • To our spouse and family who also want a relationship but, most importantly, have been given to us to help us live life well. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”” – Genesis 2:18. The key word is helper and it’s supposed to work both ways.

We can only find what’s best for us and live the life we’re meant to live by being honest and open with God and those whom God has partnered us with. Take off your fig leaf and talk.

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Our Barriers

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One of my favorite passages of Scripture is the third chapter of Genesis. I think it’s the best and most thorough explanation of human nature ever written. And not because of the fall of man.

Verses One through Six

The scene opens with the crafty serpent exaggerating the command (restriction) of God: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any trees in the garden’?”

Eve’s response about the tree is also an exaggeration when she adds, “…and you must not touch it, or you will die.”

Eve then buys into the serpent’s lie and she eats the fruit. “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” — Genesis 3:6

It’s a tale as old as time (literally) and it’s a great tragedy that happened before the fall of man.

Suspicion and Grasping

The decisions made by Eve and Adam happened BEFORE sin entered the world.

  • Suspicion: The root cause of Eve’s decision was a suspicion that God was holding out on her. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” — Genesis 3:5
  • Grasping: The root cause of Adam’s decision was a fear that he’d lose Eve.

Or to put it still clearer terms:

  • Eve put what she didn’t have ahead of God’s will. Think, “I need more!”
  • Adam put what he did have ahead of God’s will. Think, “I can’t live without..!”

They Were Human

It’s easy to read all this and think they were nuts (and also be very, very mad).

It’s also easy to read about the Isrealites constant struggles with idolatry and think the same thing. God clearly – fire, clouds, manna, quail, defeated armies, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. – was present in their lives. Yet they turned to idols again and again and again and again and again.

And why in the world would anyone put their hope and faith in poles, wooden statues, animals and stars?!!!?

Well.

The same reason we put our hope and faith in work, pay raises, 401Ks, love, food, church, television, sports, sex, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. again and again and again and again and again.

Am I saying we shouldn’t work, eat, go to church or have sex? No. I’m saying that poles are good for holding up tents, wooden statues make great art, animals can be great pets (and food) and the stars are a gorgeous reminder of God’s creativity.

Exact Obedience and Complete Dependence

God gave us the world and the fullness thereof. BUT…we must be alert about the barrier that this fullness can be.

And especially alert about OUR barriers – the things that we are putting ahead of God because of suspicion and fear.

Two encouraging Scriptures again:

God’s desire is “to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” — Deut. 8:3.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:4

God is serious. God is good.

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The Unvarnished Truth

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Jill and I were talking to a young couple the other day when Jill quoted Proverbs 25:24: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife”. Believe it or not, it was an appropriate comment at the time.

Relevance

There are two reasons it was an appropriate comment:

  1. We were in the midst of a helpful discussion about her boldness and his passivity and how they could better communicate in ways that would help them both.
  2. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

I’m telling you this story because I believe we often miss a basic truth of Scripture: simple explanations of real life.

How People Act In Real Life

Check these out:

  • Ever begged someone not to do something but they did it anyway? Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”
  • Ever wondered why the world is so sex obsessed? Genesis 2:21-24 tells us woman came from man. Is it any wonder we long to be united? Is it any wonder it’s such a powerful union?
  • In Proverbs 30:18-19, King Agur says there are three things that he’ll never understand and then he seems to say, “wait, I just remembered a fourth”. What is the fourth? “…the way of a man with a young woman.” Amen!
  • Then there’s Proverbs 5:3: “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.”
    Gee, ya think?

Everything You Need to Know About Human Nature In Two Verses

This post could not possibly be complete without quoting one of my favorite passages in Scripture:

“”Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”” – Genesis 3:12-13

You don’t need to have a PHD in Psychology to see humanity’s response to getting caught: “Yes, but…it wasn’t my fault.”

Why I Believe Scripture is the Inspired Word of God

The unvarnished truth of this and many other Scriptures is one of the reasons I believe the Bible to be what it says it is: the Inspired Word of God (Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21 and Revelation 1:10-11).

How else can you explain the inclusion of such sad, weak and lame behavior in the first few chapters? I can’t imagine that a book that many say is “made up by man” would include such blatantly shameful actions.

In my mind, a book that clearly explains the bad so well can be trusted to provide guidance on the good too. I have found that to be true and I pray you will too.

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Faith is Spelled R.I.S.K.

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I wish I could tell you I made up the title of this blog. I also wish I could tell you that what it says is wrong, but I cannot.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Parable of the Talents

In last week’s blog post, I admitted that I Am the Wicked and Lazy Servant – the one burying his talents in the ground out of fear. Today I’d like to talk about the other two servants.

The two who risked it all.

“The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.” – Matthew 25:16-17

Let’s be clear about this please: “went at once and put his money to work” means that they both immediately took their master’s funds and invested them into something – a business, crops, livestock, who knows. There is NO way to have “gained five more” and “gained two more” without investing. And investing of any kind is risky.

Faith Like Abraham

I know that this was a parable told by Jesus, but let’s not miss that it is in a section of Scripture devoted to teachings about faith in action and this one has a clear purpose: faith involves risk!

And I HATE this. Don’t you?

I honestly wish I could coast through life safely and peacefully knowing exactly what’s coming and how it will be overcome. I wish I knew that I would succeed. I wish I knew that I could double my money every time.

But that’s not how God works.

“The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1

Following the Lord is exactly that: following Him.

Faith is Spelled R.I.S.K.

What can we learn:

  • God calls us up and out: Both stories communicate trust and belief in the men being called. Abram and the three servants possessed what was needed to successfully complete their assignment.
  • Faith requires appropriation: Abram and the servants had to take that trust and belief and use it as motivation to actually use what they possessed – BEFORE seeing success.
  • Faith requires risk: Abram and the servants invested all they had. Also note that Abram didn’t really know God and the Parable of the Talents never disputes that the master was “a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed” (check out verses 26 and 27).
  • Faith is its own success: God was growing and testing Abram and as I mentioned, the Parable is only one story of faith in Matthew 25. Taken together, they all point to God wooing us to Him by testing and pushing our faith.

And we can be confident that we will more than double our investment:

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

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