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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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Green 17: In Praise Of Patrick

Sisters at Croagh Patrick, “Ireland’s Holy Mountain,” 6/19/14

Amid a green-shirt forest the church sang St. Patrick’s Breastplate yesterday. Today kids donned shamrock hats and finished their littleman traps. Tomorrow we’ll chew our corned-beef and cabbage and watch green-beer revelries on the nightly news. 

Aye, we’re all Irish this week. 

A few of us, though, will stay “Smitten” the whole year round. Since my glorious, God-blessed, Irish-gift-trip last June, I am, and-in so much as Hibernia points me heavenward-  hope to remain, forever smitten.

I’m proud to be Irish, and not just on March 17th. Patrick is a huge reason why. I asked the boys if they knew who Patrick was- Oh, sure, a saint, they quipped

Patrick, a sinner, a simple country person, unlearned and the least of all believers-that’s how he began his Confession. And you, how do you answer: Who was Patrick?

Will the real Patrick please rise

Patrick was not a leprechaun, nor mere legend, although legends about him abound.

He did not expel snakes from Ireland: the snakelessness of Ireland had been noted by the Roman geographer Solinus in the third century. He did not compose that wonderful hymn known as ‘Saint Patrick’s Breastplate’: its language postdates him by about three centuries . . . He did not use the leaves of the shamrock to illustrate the Persons of the Trinity for his converts: true, he might have done; but it is not until the seventeenth century that we are told that he did. (Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity, 82)

What we do know of St. Patrick comes through two ancient texts: his Confession and his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. Both are in complete form and can by easily accessed here.  They were both written by Patrick, handicapped, as it were, by his late-learned Latin skills in the middle 400’s. These two texts are, in fact, the oldest documents in Irish history.

From them we know that Ireland’s patron saint was not Irish but British by birth. Magonus Sucatus Patricius was born to a good Christian family around 390 Roman Briton. He admits, however, that he was not a good Christian growing up.

At age 16 he was carried by Irish raiders into slavery in Ireland. Alone in this “strange, wild land,” Patrick turned to God and grew in faith while herding on the Irish hills.

Six years a slave, he heard a voice call, “Come see, your ship is ready.” Heeding, he fled and reached a port perhaps 200 miles away. At first denied passage, he went away and prayed. Even before he had finished his prayer, a sailor shouted to him, “Come quickly, for they are calling you.”

Patrick reached mainland Europe a few days later with his pagan shipmates and made his way through France to a monastery in Italy. Some years later, he returned to Britain and found home “among my parents,” who joyfully welcomed him, begging him never to leave again. 

Then another life-changing vision. A man came to him with countless letters from the Irish people, and I read the beginning of the letter, the voice of the Irish people. While I was reading out the beginning of the letter, I thought I heard at that moment the voice of those who were beside the wood of Voclut, near the western sea. They called out as it were with one voice: “We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us.” This touched my heart deeply, and I could not read any further; I woke up then. Thanks be to God, after many years the Lord granted them what they were calling for. (Confession, ch. 23)

St. Patrick is my homeboy. 


Here are five reasons why-1600 years hence-this Irish leader so endears himself to this 39 year-old American evangelical.

1. 
Patrick overflowed with a thankfulness that made him resilient when hard times came. In an age when the smallest trifle sets us off, when wireless fails or a traffic delays evoke instant grumbles, we’d do well to follow Patrick’s example. 

So I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. I can today with confidence offer my soul to Christ my Lord as a living victim. He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties…This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among the nations all the time, wherever I am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too. Whatever comes about for me, good or bad, I ought to accept them equally and give thanks to God. He has shown me that I can put my faith in him without wavering and without end. (Confession, ch. 34)

2. Patrick loved Ireland’s green hills, but so much more, the lost souls who dwelt among them. He knew-better than many of us-how to engage a pagan culture. 

We are so often aloof and distant with the unsaved. But Patrick would pitch his tent beside chieftains, befriend and convert. Then he’d do it over again,

…Fishing well and with diligent care, as the Lord commands, “Go and make disciples of the nations….” spreading wide the net so that a great throng might be captured for God. How has this happened in Ireland? Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ. (Confession, ch. 40-41) 

3. Patrick viewed his life and work through the lens of Scripture. His burden to serve was directly linked to Scripture’s commands. We are untethered to Scripture, adrift in life’s river despite all the props and apps offered us. Biblical allusions pepper Patrick’s Confession and Letter

Patrick, says author Richard Fletcher, “was soaked in the Bible.” Are we so soaked that we make and explain our big decisions through this lens? Do we see light in His light?

I am greatly in debt to God. He gave me such great grace, that through me, many people should be born again in God and brought to full life. Also that clerics should be ordained everywhere for this people who have lately come to believe, and who the Lord has taken from the ends of the earth. This is just what he promised in the past through his prophet: “The nations will come to you from the ends of the earth, and they will say: How false are the idols our fathers got for themselves, and they are of no use whatever.” And again: “I have put you as a light to the nations, that you may be their salvation to the end of the earth.” (Confession, ch. 38)

4. Patrick struggled with his sin but leaned heavy on God’s grace to fight it and keep the faith. Do we?

Do we give in, give up, give way to sin- all the while denying its lifelong drag toward death. Or with Patrick, daily fight the good fight, daring not trust ourselves, looking to the Lord and to his strength? 

I know I cannot trust myself as long as I am in this body subject to death. There is one who is strong, who tries every day to undermine my faith, and the chastity of genuine religion I have chosen to the end of my life for Christ my Lord. The flesh can be an enemy dragging towards death, that is, towards doing those enticing things which are against the law. I know to some extent how I have not led a perfect life like other believers. But I acknowledge this to my Lord, and I do not blush in his sight. I am not telling lies: from the time in my youth that I came to know him, the love and reverence for God grew in me, and so far, with the Lord’s help, I have kept faith. (Confession, ch. 44)


5. Patrick saw many a splendid Irish sunrise and sunset, but worship them he did not. But we worship created things- Florida sun, bright kids, Facebook fame- even over their Creator. 

Patrick’s warning still rings clear,

The sun which we see rising for us each day at his command, that sun will never reign nor will its splendour continue forever; and all those who worship that sun will come to a bad, miserable penalty. We, however, believe in and adore the true sun, that is, Christ, who will never perish. Nor will they perish who do his will but they will abide forever just as Christ will abide forever. (Confession, ch. 60) 


Patrick’s Christianity, writes Greg Tobin in The Wisdom of St. Patrick, was simple, direct, practical, as earthy as it is mystical, not so much Roman Catholic as baseline Christian, and not so much Irish as truly universal (catholic with a small ‘c’)

Patrick was at once brave, bold pioneer-missionary and humble, servant-shepherd of God’s Irish flock. He was zealous and honest, ever aware of his own short-comings, and forever God’s grateful debtor. 

In his final Confession he prays,

… for those who believe in and fear God. Some of them may happen to discover this document and read its words, composed in Ireland by an unlearned sinner named Patrick. May none of them ever say that whatever little I accomplished was a work of this ignorant man alone. No, rather, know this: that it was a gift from God and that it occurred only for God’s good reasons. And that is my confession before I die. (ch. 62)


Irish history is a dramatic tale of turning from idols to serve the living God. It’s a remarkable true story of a pagan world turned totally upside-down, and converted. An unlearned sinner named Patrick had an awful lot to do with it.

Maybe he ought have his own holiday. 

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.


Hebrews 13:7

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Transmission

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture will give thanks to you forever; 
from generation to generation we will recount your praise. 
Psalm 79:13

Gabe dashed upstairs and scanned the room. He found her at once.

The sight was cause for both mile-wide grin and mile-high shoulder sigh. Dinah, in typical lagomorph fashion, was lounging leisurely, ears flopped to the floor.

And in typical Gabe fashion, he tackled her.

And announced:

I think Dinah’s doing fine. She must have chomped up that balloon* really well. 

And without a moment’s hesitation,

Thank you, Lord!

And then,

Dinah ate a balloon, was feeling fine… (Sung to the tune of “Bill Grogan’s Goat”)

And off he went, to Legoland in “The Downstairs.”

In his essay titled, “On the Transmission of Christianity,” C.S. Lewis explained that, if they exist, we ought use clear, simple answers to explain our problems. If today’s youth find it hard to figure their sums correctly and we know their schools stopped teaching arithmetic, we’d consider that the cause, not some “vaguer, larger explanation.” We need not think that, say, “gangster films had undermined the desire to get right answers” or “the influence of Einstein had sapped the ancestral belief in fixed numerical relations.” Stick with simple.

Likewise,

If the younger generation has never been told what the Christians say and never heard any arguments in defence of it, then their agnosticism or indifference is fully explained. There is no need to look any further… Having discovered that the cause of their ignorance is lack of instruction, we have also discovered the remedy. 

There is nothing in the nature of the younger generation which incapacitates them for receiving Christianity. The young people today are un-Christian because their teachers have been either unwilling or unable to transmit Christianity to themNone can give what he does not possess himself.

All that to explain why I revel tonight.

Gabe’s knee-jerk thanks is proof. Train up a child. And, One generation will commend your works to another. And, Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving. My seven year-old’s thanksgiving outburst is cause for my own.

And so I thank the Lord. Despite myself-my grumbling grumps and frustrated fumes-there’s still some transmission going on.

*In case you wonder: Gabe dumped water balloons on the floor just before dinner. Dinah picked green. Maybe she thought it was celery, he said. We talked about bowel obstruction and stomach acid and other grim digestive realities. He worried.