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Monday, December 21, 2015

Wisdom & Coexist Bumper Stickers

My parents tell me that reading did not come easy for me and that I was about eight years old when I really began to comprehend what I was reading. One of the first Bible’s my dad gave me was a New Living Translation Messianic version. Basically, this translation changed the name Jesus to His hebrew name, Yeshua. My dad created a system called “The Word As A Way Of Life” (WWL). In WWL, you put yourself on a never-ending cycle of reading with twelve sections through the whole Bible. By reading one chapter in twelve sections everyday you can read the whole Bible about every 90 days. Of course, some sections take longer than others but the average is reading the whole Bible over and over again about every 90 days. Just the text. No commentaries. No study guides. Just the text. The goal was not deep mediation but familiarity with the text of the Bible. At the age of eight, my dad set me up with eight bookmarks reading one chapter from these eight sections everyday and I continue in twelve sections to this day.

my WWL sticker in my Bible
As I grew older, I realized in conversation with other Bible readers how much my early reading and system of reading prepared me for understanding the Bible. Most Bible readers will say that they believe in the whole Bible but many have never actually read the whole Bible. Some would celebrate reading through the whole Bible once. Some, maybe four times. I can’t even count how many times I have read the whole Bible. Sure, there were times I didn’t read. There are days I only read six sections and pick up where I left off. For the most part, I have read the Bible every ninety days from the time I was eight. I am thirty six now and I am really bad at math. I just know I have read it a lot. I don’t say that to boast of my own knowledge but to celebrate my parent's decision to get me into the Word of God at a young age. Part of the reason I am a Rabbi today is because I am still enamored with the text of the Bible and the life that can be found within its pages. I use a lot of commentaries and supplemental materials that help with studying the Bible, they are great, but nothing replaces reading and understanding the text of the Bible all by itself. 

It’s funny because I can tell what time of my life I memorized a scripture by the translation I used for my daily devotions. During my High School years is really when I began to take my faith in Yeshua seriously. I bought a little New International version (NIV) because I thought the cover was cool. A lot of the scriptures I have memorized are from my days with with that little NIV and some of the “life verses” which impacted me early in my faith still speak to me today. 

As I remember it, one of the first verses that spoke to me early on was Proverbs 9:10-12:
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder) and while many my age have been misdiagnosed, I was the poster child for the disorder. I am sure my love of Proverbs 9:10-12 comes from my parents who desperately, in all of my spontaneity and curiosity, wanted me to choose wisdom. My brain moves fast. Often, particularly in adolescence, my brain made decisions that the rest of me wouldn’t understand until it was too late. Reflecting back on my childhood I can say with confidence that I was not a bad kid but my decision making record would reflect otherwise. Many in my life treated me like a bad kid not knowing that my heart was always towards The Lord. In my struggle to understand myself I found these verses. My whole life I have desired wisdom. This proverb calls “the fear of the Lord” the very beginning of wisdom. In the world we live in there is all kinds of wisdom. There is the wisdom of philosophy, the wisdom of mathematics, the wisdom of hollywood, the wisdom of business, the wisdom of science, the wisdom of the arts. There is nothing wrong with any of this wisdom, for all wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Not being afraid of God but understanding that all things begin with Him. In all of our wisdom, intelligence, creativity, and ingenuity, there is a God that created wisdom for us. It is within the nature of human beings to believe we can be wise on our own. There is something in us as Americans, who value individualism, to believe that our ability to create comes from ourselves. Humanism is the philosophy that we as human beings can create our own good and wisdom.

The American Humanist Association defines Humanism as “a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

R.C. Sproul, the great theologian writes, that “Humanism was not invented by man, but by a snake who suggested that the quest for autonomy might be a good idea.” The truth is that we, as human beings, love wisdom for wisdoms sake, instead of loving God who gives us wisdom as a tool to discover Him. 

Proverbs 9:10-12 hits this concept directly in between the eyes. Your wisdom, intelligence, creativity, and ingenuity start with God. When He formed us in our mothers womb He put all of these good things in us and He wants credit for his own creativity. Any wisdom begins with God. Any understanding that we can have in any field begins with knowledge of the Holy One. Otherwise, understanding and wisdom become about us and what we know rather than God who, in his wisdom, gave us the capacity for wisdom and understanding.  You can have wisdom without acknowledging God but that wisdom will fade when the world comes to its conclusion. The only wisdom that will survive is the wisdom that acknowledges the creator of wisdom. 

Verse 11 tells us that if we understand that knowledge and wisdom come from God than “your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.” Even more than that, verse 12, tells us with this kind of wisdom comes great reward and that those that who mock will suffer in loneliness. Why loneliness? Because if you boast in your own wisdom when you come to the end of your wisdom you will only find yourself. There is a limit and an end to all wisdom. But If we recognize that wisdom begins with God and that any wisdom we have comes from Him there is no end to our understanding. There is thankfulness and gratefulness that any wisdom I have comes from the One who created wisdom. 

I’m always intrigued by those who mock faith. Instead of a “Jesus Fish” on their cars people have “Fish n’ Chips” or a “Darwin Fish”. In Seattle, many people seem to have “Coexist” bumper stickers with all different religious symbols in the word Coexist. Interestingly, it seems to me that the only people who have those stickers on their cars and people who are non-religious. All you need is a basic study of comparative religion and you understand that different religions cannot coexist. Sure, we can all live in the same city and treat each other with kindness. But ultimately, if you believe in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., you believe that everyone will end up somewhere after this life is over, and they all boast of different outcomes. In that sense, for anyone who is an adherent of any religion, you don’t want to coexist with people. You want people to come with you to where you will end up after this life is over. It is only those who “mock” religion that want to “coexist” and what they mean by coexist is “no religion.”  I’m not trying to lead people to religion as much as I am trying to lead people to Yeshua. He transcends religion and what we have done with religion. In His wisdom, He created the heavens and the earth, and He gave us the capacity for wisdom and understanding. Ultimately, there is an end to the wisdom of this world. When all things come to end so will all wisdom that is found on the earth. But, if we acknowledge that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” and give God credit for transcending and creating wisdom, then, “your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.”

People are searching for wisdom. We were made to be smart, intellectual, creative beings. God put in us the desire to seek out and find wisdom. Any wisdom I have is wisdom that has been given to me. I am not wise on my own. But to acknowledge the One who created wisdom is the highest form of wisdom itself. All the days of my life I want to grow in wisdom. A wisdom whose foundation is the fear of the Lord and an understanding that comes from Knowledge of the Holy One!