The Broken Promises of Humanity and the Majesty of Our God

Today’s reading was once again out of the Deuterocanonical Books. I have found the Common English Bible to be a great help in reading a portion of text I am unfamiliar with in my tradition. It keeps me aware of the importance of good translations that are easier to read.

Sirach 43 is a tribute to the incredible majesty of God. And it should be a sobering reminder to our frailty as humans.

While we are called to “creation care” in our world, nothing is more full of human pride than to have some politician, or even scientist, stand in some place like New Orleans or New Jersey after a hurricane and declare something foolish like, “We need to make sure something like this (wait for it)… never happens again.”

Oh… really? So you’re going to move the city of New Orleans to above sea level finally?

I am not denying the effects of climate change and I make no claims in that particular argument as to exactly what should be done. But this I know: our actions are important, but they are not the final authority. And we need to stop acting like we’re the be all and end all of this planet.

Climate change, economic change, healthcare change… whatever it is… we need to work hard to do what is best as we see it, but let’s get over ourselves!

Hurricanes will come again. If New Orleans insists on staying below sea level, there will still be threats and more empty promises from foolish politicians as to how this will never happen again.

YES, we need to be responsible.

NO, we do not get to ultimately have the final say in what nature does as the Creator calls for its actions. And Sirach 43 is a powerful reminder.

19 He pours frost, like salt, upon the earth,
and when it freezes it has pointy thorns.
20 A cold north wind will blow,
and ice will freeze on the water;
it will settle on every pool of water,
and the water will put it on like armor.
21 He will consume mountains,
burn up the wilderness,
and extinguish grass like a fire.
22 A mist hastens the healing of all things;
the dew that appears
will give relief from the heat. (Sir. 43:19-22, CEB)

And this:

27 We could say many things
and never say enough.
The final word is: The Lord is “the All.” (CEB)

The final word belongs to the Lord. Not to us.

We can try and promise new things. We should indeed work to make things better. But we are not the final word.

That’s not to say we give up. It is a call to say, “Worship the One who does make the call when it comes to his creation.”

Our eyes need not be on humanity for final solutions. Our eyes need to be UP… and our lives need to be worshiping.

Comfort for Us Who are Left Behind

Not “Left Behind” (like that book series). Left behind as we remember those who have gone on before us.

1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
3 and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
4 For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
6 like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
7 In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them forever.
9 Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.
(The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Wis 3:1–9). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

Eternal Memory.

Verse of the Day, or Why I Like the Deuterocanonical Books

Reading through the Deuterocanonical Books of the Bible (which Protestants, especially Pentecostals aren’t “supposed” to read) really provides some insight.

When people are dead, 
they inherit maggots, vermin, and worms.” (Sirach 10:11, CEB)

That was in yesterday’s reading.

Today’s reading offers some other nice tidbits:

“Don’t praise people
for their beautiful looks,
and don’t despise people
for their appearance” (Sirach 11:2, CEB)

Basic facts of life, and good advice to boot.

Hard Work

Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them. (Ann Landers)

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” (Chuck Swindoll)

In our spiritual lives there are times of breakthrough, and that means some tough work. It means tough work in prayer. It means tough work in all kinds of areas.

In a prayer time last night one of the things that came up in our prayer was to not stop pushing in prayer now because there is a little resistance. Then the thought came to us, “Don’t stop in prayer when we get a little success, either!”

There are times of resistance right before key times of breakthrough. How many breakthroughs are missed because we stopped short in prayer?

Set your heart straight, be steadfast,
and don’t act hastily in a time of distress.
Hold fast to God
and don’t keep your distance from him,
so that you may find strength
at your end. (Sirach 2:2-3, CEB)

Be the Hunter

If there is anything worth hunting… it is wisdom. We live life in “pursuit” of so many things, but the greatest pursuit in the ancient texts is the pursuit of wisdom. And the call is to be as tenacious with that pursuit as you would with any other pursuit. Actually, even a little more tenacious.

22 Pursue her like a hunter, 
   and lie in wait by her paths. 
23 Those who peer into her windows 
   will also listen at her doorways. 
24 Those who lodge near her house 
   will also fasten a tent peg in her walls. (Sirach 14:22-24, CEB)

When we choose to seek out wisdom, and then really pursue wisdom… we will find the reward.

Don’t bother to pursue… and she stays far away.

8 She keeps far away from the arrogant, 
   and liars will never remember her.  (Sirach 15:8, CEB)

Our pursuits must be intentional. This isn’t something for the lazy in life.

The Incredible Abundance of God

Whenever I take the time to read briefly in the Deuterocanonical Books (Apocrypha) I find such wonderful nuggets. Sirach, reading like Proverbs, continues to reveal the richness of pursuing God’s wisdom.

26 If you want to find Wisdom,
then keep the commandments,
   and the Lord will supply her to you in
   vast quantities.
(Sirach 1:26, CEB)

God doesn’t sprinkle the richness of his Kingdom on us. He pours out his abundance on us. Seek the Lord. Pursue his way and find an abundance of the Kingdom.

We need a taste for the richness of the Kingdom again. We’re satisfied with fake desserts and processed meat-like substances. We are missing the incredible feast of the Kingdom of God.

The Beautiful Wisdom

One of the reasons I like the Common English Bible is they translated the Deuterocanonical Books. While I am not a regular student of these books, I love having easy access to them, and in such a readable translation.

Sirach is Proverbs all over again, with so much that is very familiar. This is great material for praying, meditation, and spiritual growth.

26 If you want to find Wisdom,
then keep the commandments,
and the Lord will supply her to you in
vast quantities.
27 Fearing the Lord brings
wisdom and education.
He is pleased with faithfulness
and gentleness.
28 Don’t disobey the fear of the Lord,
and don’t approach him
with a divided heart.
(Sirach 1:26-28, CEB)

No Guts, No Glory… and It’s in the Bible!

My familiarity with the 66 books of the Protestant Canon are what keep me a bit “leery” of the Common English Bible. (Leery isn’t a good word, but there is something that keeps me from diving full into the CEB.)

The familiar phrases and cadences of the Bible are with me. I have grown up with the Word. I think I am probably called a “biblicist” now. (Labeling is such in vogue right now in the religious blogging world.)

So, the familiar mantra of using “Human One” for “Son of Man” goes along, I readily admit there are phrases I am just used to in other translations.

Not so the Apocrypha. THIS is the place where I understand the need for more “dynamic equivalence” when it comes to fresh territory. Reading the Apocrypha for me is like reading the Bible for the first few times as a new believer unfamiliar with the cadences and phrases of the Bible.

And this is where I enjoy the Common English Bible the most. Reading the Apocrypha I can understand the complaint about the Bible being too “stilted” in its language.

I was reading through the Daily Office today and one of the passages was out of Sirach. Since the online Daily Office was using a more established translation,I decided to take a look at the Common English Bible. It did not disappoint.

Sirach 51:21 (NRSV)

My heart was stirred to seek her;
therefore I have gained a prize possession.

The Daily Office translation used “inmost being.”

The CEB:

My guts were stirred to seek her;
   for this reason I gained
   a desired possession.

I can understand “heart” and probably “inmost being.” That’s familiar enough from the Psalms in other translations. But guts

It takes guts to seek out wisdom. No guts. No glory.

Are We a Burden?

Announcing my weak attempt to preach from the Apocrypha elicited some wonderful responses. One text sent was a prophetic/Messianic text from the Wisdom of Solomon. It understand it can be taken as Messianic, but the passage (Wisdom 2:12-20) begins with, “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man…”

It is a passage speaking of the wicked who are tired of having someone righteous in their lives.

“…he is inconvenient to us…”

They are tired of the righteous example, so they want to be rid of him. Consider this verse: “the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.” (Wisdom 2:15)

These are challenging thoughts! I like to be liked. I really do. Yet, there are times when my life, my stance in life, my reaction to life, needs to be different. And being different will, at times, cause problems. We may, as believers, become a burden. Those who are unrighteous just may not like being around us! That is not to say we work to be obnoxious. It IS to say that there are times that our lives in Christ really do separate us from unrighteous living and that gets to be uncomfortable.

Lines of separation SHOULD appear from time to time! I fear we are so caught up with the desire to be liked, those lines aren’t quite so distinctive any more.

There are times our faith WILL be tested. There are dear brothers and sisters all over the world living in such situations. Their lives are a burden to some very unrighteous people, unrighteous powers, and these brothers and sisters are tested because of it.

Sometimes lines do get drawn and we need to understand that we will at some point be a burden to unrighteous people. In that day, we need to know in whom believe. We need to be fully persuaded of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And THIS springs from the Apocrypha!