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Where Intelligence Is Irrelevant

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your good pleasure.”  
Luke 10:21

I worshiped at an inner city, self-described “diverse, multi-ethnic church” the other week. I loved every second of it- of the different accents and rhythms and styles and shades.  Which bodes well, since worship times will get even more diverse.

The heavenly worship set will come from a multitude from every tribe, tongue and nation. Every. So bring on diversity.

Including the little girl with Down Syndrome who faced straight right, but sang front center in the children’s choir.

Big On Diversity

We’re big on diversity as we ought to be. But it’s even bigger to God.

I mean, he wants- he will have– a cross section to compose his Son’s Bride, the church. Male and female, Greek and Jew, slave and free- there is no difference. All are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Gender, religious affiliation, and employment status are no barriers to God. His call goes out.

But variety in the God’s Kingdom doesn’t end with those. Church diversity goes beyond sex, age and skin color. For now, at least. it extends even to IQ.

To the end that God has actually hidden his glory from some high IQ’d and worldly wise and revealed it to children. To babes. The Greek in Luke 10:21 is nēpios which, I read, means nursing babies.

Dependent, helpless babies. Little children.

IQ Won’t Bring You To God

This means that, at least when it comes to getting into the Kingdom of God, intelligence is overrated.

Rather than being a prerequisite to knowing God, high IQ might even be a barrier, or  handicap, in coming to Christ. Luke 10:21 (and Matthew 11:25-26 and 1 Cor. 1:26-31) means that no education, worldly wisdom or IQ can bring us to God.

And this truth pleased Jesus the Son because this pleased God the Father. It means that all the glory for our salvation goes to God.  Not a smidge goes to our intelligence. Nobody gets into the kingdom of heaven by reasoning and deducting and inferring his way in.

Little children know they can’t make it alone. Everybody in God’s family knows that they’re needy and helpless.

It’s like those lines from Rock of Ages,

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace…

And Jesus rejoiced in this and said, I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your good pleasure.

No Matter If You’re Not Clever

Maybe this verse grabbed me so hard last week because I’ve been part of a few conversations lately about wits. About friends who feel pressure to keep up the smart front and match wits with the wise the feeling of inferiority that comes when we compare and feel not as smart.

But the most important wisdom in the world- the only saving knowledge in the wide world- does not come with being clever.

In a sermon on Luke 10:21, C.H. Spurgeon explains how this works:

One poor soul says, “I am not clever. I cannot be saved.” Why not? Why not, when God has chosen the foolish things of this world? I often hear a person say, “But I have not head enough for these things.” You do not need a head so much as you need a heart, for the grace of God works on the heart, first, and on the head, afterwards…If you love Christ and trust in Him, you have all the head that you need for eternal life.

“O,” says one, “but I am a person of such small capacity!” Never mind. “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners” whether they are of large capacity or small capacity. Have you a teachable spirit? Are you willing to believe what the Holy Spirit reveals? To sit at Jesus’ feet and learn of Him? Are you like the babe that…takes, unquestioningly, the nourishment she gives? If that is so, you are of the kind that God has chosen! Come at once to Him.

So what causes Jesus to rejoice greatly? At least in part, it was knowing that when it comes to knowing God, intelligence is irrelevant.

It was pleasing to you, Father, to hide these things from the wise. 

Intelligence Is Irrelevant

This doesn’t mean that thinking clearly and being wise is not important. It is. We are to love the Lord with all our minds. But, as John MacArthur explains,

It’s just that those on their own can’t get there.  A man may be as wise as Solomon. That’s not going to get him to God.  He may be as intelligent as Einstein. That’s not going to get him to God.  Intelligence is neither a way nor a barrier, it’s irrelevant.  Human wisdom is not a way or a barrier, it’s irrelevant.

You can’t know me, unless I reveal something of myself to you and you can’t know God unless he reveals himself to you (Luke 10:22). And thankfully,  he doesn’t reveal himself to us on the basis of our IQ. By wisdom, Paul wrote, the world knew not God.

The natural man does not understand the things of God. God has to open our eyes. He has to reveal himself. And we have to become like children to see. We don’t need high ACT scores or college degrees.

God has favor on those who are broken and contrite and tremble at his word. Revealing himself to these is his good pleasure.

In the Wisdom of God

I’m back in my little church now. And if you measure by variety in accents and skin tones, we’re not terribly diverse. But in other ways, we are.

A little sister in Christ who happens to have autism, worships in the aisle, criss-cross applesauce style. An older brother who loves to tell big-grinned one-liners about Smiles that go on for miles and Normal is just a setting on your dryer listens to the sermon. A middle-aged sister who has a hard time remembering things belts it out with her hands held high.

Here we all are, weak and foolish, not many of noble birth (1 Cor. 1: 26-31), high school drop-outs and college grads. I wouldn’t doubt the IQ spread here would span from 50-150, from profoundly behind to MENSA qualified.

And we’re all one in Christ. We’re united because it pleased God to reveal His Son to us and save us. IQ is irrelevant here.

And that is all wisdom.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe…God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
1 Corinthians 1:21, 28-29
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Do you leak? What grumbling reveals about us.

An unthankful person is like a container with a hole in it and all the blessings that are in it just leak out. The grateful person has unlimited capacity to truly enjoy God’s blessings, while the ungrateful person can’t enjoy the blessings he does have. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, The Attitude to Gratitude

Do you leak?

Not- Does your thanks spill out and overflow? I mean leak– as in accidentally lose the contents. As in, God’s gifts are lost on you. 

A little grumbling here and there might not seem so bad, but it says a lot- about us and about what we believe about God.

Grumbling is that bad.

God hates grumbling. We’re called to do all things without grumbling.

Pastor Ritch Boerckel offers three reasons why the  grumbling of God’s people is that bad.

Reason #1: Our grumbling proclaims that our God is not good.

We might call it venting, or keeping it real, but take a minute and ask yourself: About what or whom do I grumble?

I’ll start with me. Sadly, the question is easy: I grumble when my time feels “wasted” and,  if others poor choices caused the “waste,” I might complain about them.

There- I said it.

But how, you wonder, can I draw such a straight line from my grumbling against the people and circumstances down here straight up  to God?

Well, when the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the desert, God heard it. Then he told Moses to tell themYour grumbling is not against us but against the LORD (Exodus 16:8, Numbers 14:26-27). Our Father in heaven heard their grumbling, and hears ours.

When we whine like deprived children, we don’t adorn. We don’t make our loving Lord look good. We slander his loving care to watching eyes and listening ears.

Grumbling, John Piper explains, only adds to the darkness because it obscures the light of God’s gracious, all-controlling providence. 

But there’s more.

Reason #2:  Our grumbling demands that God submit to our wishes.

We don’t put it like that, but at the end of the day, isn’t that what our complaints say? That we wish God would do it our way, would submit to our wishes. When we grumble, we’re rebel children, pots second-guessing the potter.

For has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? (Romans 11:34-35). A complaining spirit, therefore, reveals a problem in our relationship with God.

But there is a difference between grumbling and groaning. Groaning, for the record, can actually be a sign of our faith and hope in God’s promises (see Romans 8:22-24).

Groaning and disappointment, criticism and disagreement need not be the same as grumbling and complaining.

Kevin DeYoung explains,

[T]he Bible is full of examples of godly people who say, “I’m upset. I wish this were different. Lord, would you do something? I don’t like this.” …Grumbling, however, is not a humble cry for help, but saying to God, “I know how to run the universe a bit better than you do.” Instead of saying, “This really hurts, but I’m ready to receive whatever I must receive from God’s hand,” grumbling says, “This stinks, and I’m ready to rebel against God’s heart.” That’s the difference…

We’re talking about rebellion against God. Not that the situation is hard, but that God is hard.

Our situation may be hard. But our God is not hard.

He has promised his children good. 

Reason #3: Our grumbling disbelieves God’s precious promises.

God has promised to provide all our needs according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4:19) and that he will withhold no good thing from him whose walk is upright (Psalm 84:11) and that all things work for good to those who love him and called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Not to mention that his mercies are there for the picking, new every morning.

But grumbling says we don’t believe those. Or, at least, for the moment, we’re choosing to ignore them. Grumbling says we don’t trust God.

More from DeYoung,

Though you might direct it toward your spouse, your kids, your parents, or someone in authority, you’re saying to God, “You’re not taking care of me…” Grumbling dishonors God.

The problem with complainers is that they don’t really trust that God is big enough to help and good enough to care. That’s what you think when you complain. “This God?! I may say that I believe him, sing songs about him, and read a Bible about him, but I don’t really believe that he’s big enough to do anything about it or good enough to care about me.

Who knew a little complaining about the rain and work and delays and aches and pains could betray so much?

That grumbling could be such a hard habit to break?

Fill the house with gratitude.

Habit is overcome by habit. It’s called replacement. Breaking bad habits means we fill the void with something good.

Just stopping up the leak isn’t enough. In other words, Quit yer grumbling, is not the goal. That’s just the empty house. And Jesus warned that if the house stays empty, the final plight might be worse than the first (Matthew 12:43-45). We need to fill the house.

We need to do something hard: replace grumbling with thanks and turn that frown upside-down and, by God’s grace, choose gratitude.

Thankfully, giving thanks breaks the grumbling habit. In fact, it’s what we were created to do (1 Peter 2:9). Declaring God’s praise is why we were made.

So stop up the leaks. Don’t let the blessings drip through. Fill your house with gratitude.

Come, you thankful people, come.

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.

Psalm 140:13

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DARING TO HOPE: Discussion Questions & Quotes

Daring To Hope

Katie Davis Majors

Book Club Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do think this book is so popular? Did it make you cry? At what parts?
  2. Has anyone ever traveled to Uganda or close?  Does anyone want to go to the “Pearl of Africa” after reading this book?
  3. “Prisoners of Hope” are explained in ch. 5.  What did you learn about hope? Why do we sometimes resist hope? 
  4. Besides hope, what other themes did you see in this book?  Which one is the most meaningful to you right now? 
  5. “The LORD Will Provide” (p. 26, 192) is another theme. “But God’s promise to Abraham spoke to me. God wasn’t promising me ease. He wasn’t promising that things would go as planned. God wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself.”
  6. Katie mentions a few lessons that she learned about life in the Western world vs. Uganda.  What can we learn?
  7. Katie discusses the true meaning of “happy endings.” (pp. 14-15) She shares how her “happy ending thinking” was redefined (p. 39)  Does teaching our children to pursue the American dream go against her idea?
  8. Besides Katie, which person in this book is the most memorable to you and why? (Betty dying p. 124-130)
  9. Many people think that what Katie Davis Majors has done is very brave (p. 135). Do you agree? How has reading this book challenged you to do something that takes courage?  What is one thing that you will do now?
  10. Is there a Scripture verse that was referenced or a quote that spoke to your heart?  Care to share? (i.e., “A faith that trusts Him only when the ending is good is a fickle faith. A faith that trusts Him regardless of the outcome is real.”)
  11. Do you have any criticism of this book- the content, the style? What would you say to someone who says, “Easy for Katie to say, she’s living a blessed life: big family, loving husband, great health, fruitful ministry. Easy for her to talk about meeting God in the hard”?
  12.  To whom would you recommend this book? Why?

Quotations from DARING TO HOPE:

  1. Sometimes the things we would never pick for our lives gives us opportunities to receive God’s provision, to see Him working in ways we otherwise might not…
  2. It is a bit of a mess, this business of love. As more and more people enter our lives, we are left with not choice but to enter theirs as well…This, at first glance, seems so burdensome, so overwhelming, but somehow I have found it not to be any longer. Something about shouldering the burdens of another brings a lightness to our own affliction. We are in it together, and Christ is in it with us.
  3. Then we both look at that leg and see so much more than new skin. We see Jesus. He met us right there on the cold, hard cement floor of my sunroom with our festering wounds and our messy hearts. He took two broken people and showed us the scars on His hands and whispered that it was okay if we had our scars too, because the scars were always meant to draw us into His glory.
  4. In a full life of trying to do great big things for God and see His glory in big ways, He showed me that He is glorified in the small too. He is glorified in each pot of pasta faithfully put on the table for our people. God is glorified each time we look into a stranger’s eyes and acknowledge the person’s humanity. He is glorified when we focus on Him instead of focusing on our lack, and He is glorified when we help our child with her hundredth math problem..Small acts of love become whispers of His glory in the midst of our everydayness.” 
  5. I think that each of us just as lacking as the next, the most powerful thing we can do for another person is not to try to fix his or her pain or make it go away but to acknowledge it. I cannot heal or perform miracles. Even for all my trying, I cannot make sure that someone will receive salvation from Jesus. But I can be a witness. I can look at another’s broken, bleeding mess and say, ‘I see you. I am with you. I will not turn away.’
  6. I miss Katherine’s laugh, loud and infectious. When I see her children smile, I see her, and I still wish the ending had been different.I asked God Why? again and again. What could all this suffering possibly accomplish? Why would He allow us to love people so deeply? A dear friend suggested, “Maybe because He knew you would. Could it be that be God’s answer to us as we walk the hard road? “I knew you would do it. I knew you would love them.” And suddenly the hard road becomes not a burden but a place of great honor, a place of partnership and intimacy with Him.
  7. Then I think that maybe courage is not at all about the absence of fear but about obedience even when we are afraid. Maybe courage is trusting when we don’t know what is next, leaning into the hard knowing that it will be hard, but God will be near.
  8. And I want to be just like that little bird. Hope is a crazy thing, a courageous thing. Faith is a bold, irrational choice. But that little bird—she feels the sun coming, knows with certainty that it will come, even when she can’t yet see it
  9. I am the addict and doubt is my drug, this ugly lack of trust, the place I turn when I am weak. It is my lifelong Jacob wrestle, my unwillingness to lay a dear one on the altar and trust that the Lord will provide. 
  10. Our hope in Him is not determined by our circumstances but by His character, always faithful to us.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,

so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

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But is Brokenness the Goal?

Brokenness is inevitable. We get broken over sin and sickness and loneliness and failure and loss. All things have not yet been set right. We live in a broken world and we groan.

So is brokenness a good thing? It’s good to be authentic and real, right? But should we celebrate being broken? Should brokenness be our goal?

Those might seem like no-brainers. But I’m not so sure

Is the Broken Way the Best Way?

Much is made of brokenness these days. Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way is a bestseller. Songs about brokenness abound.

When asked, How are youBroken, is what some of us “real and authentic” types say. Brokenness is inevitable. We are all damaged goods.

But, like Chuck Swindoll says,

We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it…We are in charge of our Attitudes.

I have to ask, What’s the focus? Is it my hot mess and brokenness? Or is it God’s power and presentness

Because if all our broken talk makes the hurt bigger than the Healer, if it makes our brokenness- whether from sin or sickness- more real than our living hope, we’re missing the point. If my brokenness becomes a badge of honor, maybe the broken way is not the best way.

There, I said it. You can stop reading now if you like.

Do you want to be healed?

Don’t get me wrong.  It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to admit life is hard and we feel weary.

But I’m wary of a certain sort of brokenness. Because I remember the dark night of the soul when my focus was brokenness and pain. I know that pain can get proud. It can take on a life of it’s own.

Do you remember when Jesus was at the Pool of Bethesda with all the invalids gathered round? And he went up to a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years (John 5: 1-9) and asked, “Do you want to be healed? ”

It’s an odd question. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be healed? I’m not positive why Jesus asked that, but it might have something to do with the reality that brokenness can become identity.

So do you want to be made whole, healed? Or would you rather stay broken?  “Nothing is more desirable as being released from affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch,” James Baldwin has said.

If this guy got healed he’d be on his on his own. He’d have to stop begging and get a job. And if he got healed he’d have to quit complaining about his broken body.

There are a million excuses for finding identity in our brokenness. Maybe one of those is that we love the attention our “brokenness” brings. But clinging to victim status does not mean humble and contrite. It means being defined by broken.

It means stuck.

A Hard Choice

Nancy Guthrie has grieved the loss of not one, but two, of her children. She is super insightful on going through the brokenness that comes from grief and loss.

In an address to women she explained that,

To “move forward” is to take God at His Word, that He is Jehovah Rapha, He is the Healer. He has the power to and desires to bring healing into the broken places of your life.

So getting through this is going to require making the hard choice to not become women who are defined by our grief. Do you know women like that? At some point, it just became their identity; it’s the context in which they deal with anyone; it’s just who they are, and it doesn’t seem as if there’s any desire to be defined by anything else except loss.

Ladies, there is only one thing we want to be defined by, and it is not our grief. We want to be defined only by our connection to Jesus Christ. We want to be defined by Christ alone—not by the losses in our lives.

No, brokenness is not the goal. We want to be defined by Christ alone. When we are weak, he is strong. His power is perfected in our weakness. His grace is sufficient. And we are not alone.

Living that way is called redemptive vulnerability.

Redemptive Vulnerability

Stephen Lee calls says redemptive vulnerability is a vulnerability that leads to life. It’s where we share our brokenness in order to display the surpassing power and sufficiency of Christ and the gospel. Which transforms us increasingly into the likeness of Christ.

But, Lee says,

Vulnerability is not an end in itself. Rather, our vulnerability should point us, individually and together with other believers, to the sufficiency of Jesus. It looks at and hopes in the redemption we have in Christ Jesus and the work of the cross.

Then Lee talks about how we do this redemptive vulnerability thing together. He continues,

To bring redemption to our vulnerability means we open up not to wallow in our situation, but to lift our eyes together to God in hope. We can look together at his promises. We cry out together for comfort, wisdom, help, and faith… Weakness and vulnerability remind us that we are dependent and God is sufficient. God loves to meet us in our moments of need and to give us more of his grace as we seek it moment by moment, especially with others.

That happened last night.

Spotlight on God

We set down our forks and stopped to pray.

Because one friend at the dinner table is an 8-year cancer survivor. Alicia had shared in the dinner table discussion that her annual blood work and  check-in with the oncologist is coming this week. Alicia shared that she was a wee bit worried this time.

Which is when another friend paused to ask if we could all pray. Then from around the dinner table we eight did. We prayed. For peace and health, we prayed. And Alicia and her husband both thanked God for his faithfulness.

Then  we said Amen and  Alicia shared with us how God had met her with a song on the way to her last checkup. She said she’s not a slave to fear.

When I asked Alicia today if I could share that, she said, “Sure. Just don’t make it about me. I often pray that God will use what happened to glorify His name.”

That, friends, is redemptive vulnerability.

Therefore We Boast

God met Alicia in her brokenness. And God can meet you too.

Redemptive vulnerability does not put a spotlight on vulnerability, brokenness, or sin. Redemptive vulnerability highlights and magnifies how good, sufficient, kind, persistent, and gracious God is. It’s his grace that makes us aware of our need for him. It’s his grace that causes us to cry out in dependence, to turn away from sin, and to remind us of his love.

That, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, is why we boast. Because his power is made perfect in our weakness. God comes in when we’re broken and weak.

Being broken isn’t the goal, but meeting God there- or anywhere- is.

Brokenness is not the goal.

Yes, some things need to be broken: hard hearts and pride, for two.

But Pastor Erik Reed says wholeness not brokenness is not our goal.

Consider this.  It’s okay to go to the doctor’s office and admit you’re sick, but the goal isn’t to admit it and stay that way; it is to get healthy. You go to the doctor confessing you are sick, but your goal is wholeness. The same is true for churches. We go confessing we are broken people, but the gospel is good news for broken people. The gospel is a remedy to our broken souls that makes us whole. James 5 tells us to “confess your sins to one another.” It is one way we get healthy.

We walk out our faith with friends. Vulnerability liberates us from sin’s destructive power and the despair of sorrow. Things come out of the dark and into the light, where they are healed. Confession is not the goal. Repentance is.

Brokenness is not the finish line. Wholeness is.

Brokenness is not the goal. But is one way we can get to know the One who forgives our sins and heals our diseases.

That is the goal. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy…

Psalm 103:2-4

In case you were wondering about Psalm 51…

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17). Hallelujah. Amen.

That is a precious promise. Psalm 51 describes how God’s people think and feel about the horrors of their own sin. This is a Psalm, John Piper explains, about how be crushed for our sin well.

But Psalm 51:17 is not a defense for making brokenness our identity. Here’s why.

First, we need to realize that Psalm 51 was, as it says, “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” The context was David’s broken hearted guilt over his sin. The broken spirit that God will not despise was a spirit humbled and mourning for its sin. Such was King David’s after the Bathsheba affair. And if there’s one thing we know from the whole of Scripture it is that when we repent of our sin, our God is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19, Exodus 34:6-7, Psalm 103:12, Micah 7:18-19).

No, he will never despise a broken and contrite heart. In fact it’s only the broken and contrite heart, that see their need for God. In fact that’s just how our Lord started the beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. 

Second, we need to remember what sacrifice means. To sacrifice is to surrender a possession as an offering to God. And that is exactly what we do with our spirit made broken by guilt- we offer it to God. Then, He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds (Psalm 147:3).