Archive for October, 2019

A Word to the Wise

10-30-2019 – A Word to the Wise – PART5 – Acquisition of Gratitude

Thanksgiving and gratitude are forms of worship expressed to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Gratitude’s initial expressions are towards God. Overflowing thanksgiving towards God results in a variety of attitudes towards His creatures.
One cannot hold gratitude towards the Heavenly Father and anger towards his fellow man. Let us say you have been arguing all week with your neighbor who has a pet armadillo, which he allows to wander into your yard and tear up your beautiful lawn.
Every time during the past week that you thought of your neighbor, you are angry. Friday morning the doorbell rings, you open the door and there is a team from Reader’s Digest with a sweepstakes checks in your name for $25 million dollars. Out of the corner of your eye, you observe your neighbor peering over the fence. Are you angry with him now? Well, no of course not. You are consumed with elation over the $25 million dollars. You see, the feelings of appreciation, thanksgiving, and gratitude overwhelm practically every other emotion, even fear. The only emotion that comes to mind that may be weightier is envy. Envy destroys gratitude.
Anger and gratitude are incompatible. Gratitude demands mercy, whereas anger demands vengeance. The characteristic of gratitude is expressed in thanksgiving towards God, with mercy and gentleness towards man. This is why the acquisition of gratitude is critical to the elimination of the cycle of anger. Why is a combination of treatment in all four areas necessary to put aside anger? Why is just one trait not sufficient, say just gratitude or even meekness?
Well, the Bible says that Moses was the meekest man on the earth and yet he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of an angry outburst. Meekness controlled his spirit yet his mind and heart still responded. Each area has its own weakness, which must be compensated by the strengths found in the heart, mind, or spirit.
It is also why Jesus said sweeping out the house is not enough. The old is swept out and replaced with new positive character qualities. If the old attitude is not replaced with new traits, the old practices will return with a vengeance. Jesus put it this way, “But neither do you take new wine and put it into old wine skins if you do both will be lost.” One cannot mix the new with the old. When one asks the Lord to take old ground back which was surrendered to Satan, without developing new skills and maturity, then the new ground is lost as well. In the spirit, the trait most necessary is gratitude.
Gratitude resides in the spirit of man affecting the heart, mind, and body of the person. How does one acquire gratitude? It is acquired through communion with the Father. The more one communes with the Father, living in His presence, the more one’s gratitude batteries is charged. Living for self discharges these batteries. Nor can gratitude be forced.
Gratitude is achieved by choice, never by duty. As one examines the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual gifts that God has bestowed, expressing thanksgiving to God in each of these areas for these gifts, then the gratitude batteries recharge. It is not how many gifts God has given rather how one feels, what one does, and how one expresses thanksgiving for the gifts received. Someone may say, “It is easy to feel gratitude when you are rich but I have nothing. I barely live from day to day.”
The only effect that environment has on gratitude is that in the presence of affliction or oppression it intensifies. This attribute is typified in Job, when his affliction was the greatest Job’s thanksgiving was the loudest. Though beset with the losses of his children, wealth, and reputation Job could still cry out, “The Lord give, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Gratitude is not focused on what is not but on what is. It is not focused on losses, but on one’s gains through those losses. This quality does not focus on one’s afflictions, but rather on the results of those afflictions. The depth of gratitude is determined by humility. The greater the humility, the deeper the gratitude. Levels of gratitude are attained through sacrifice thus the greater the sacrifice, the greater the level attained.
When dealing with gratitude and forgiveness it is best to envision them as states of mind. Much in the same manner, we discussed forgiveness; gratitude is to be experienced. Gratitude may be offered on an event by event basis but when it is, then it loses much of its impact on the spirit of man. Thanksgiving should be a state of mind that we exist in which reflects the joy experienced by seeing the sacrifice the Father made in giving His only Son for our sins. This experience of the spirit flows like a mighty river washing away prejudice, pride, and pretense. As one remembers this experience in their own life, they can recall the absolution of anger in the presence of this redemption. There is no room for self in the presence of the Almighty. Anger and gratitude cannot coexist. One is consumed with self while the other is consumed with God. When gratitude is obtained, it acts as a protective cover shielding one from anger.
A real story that occurred several years ago illustrates the protective nature of gratitude even in the face of torment, torture, and horror. The author of this story had been a prisoner of the Japanese and during his five-year imprisonment, had been enslaved in the valley of the Kwai. What he and his comrades endured is beyond comprehension and challenges human endurance. Near the end of the war, an incident occurred which reflects how God’s redemption may deeply affect one’s character.
The Japanese were sending the author and other POWs by train away from the front lines. At one point, their railroad cars were directed to a siding along with a load of severely wounded enemy soldiers. As they were parked beside the enemy, their enemies’ cries for water and mercy filled the air. Some of the POWs took their own meager water supply and went to comfort the enemy. In describing the situation, the author says the train was filled with the enemy, many having massive untreated wounds draining from infection and gangrene. The souls of the POWs were filled with pity for the enemy who had tormented them day and night for five years. Those who were not Christians who observed their behavior were astonished. How could they treat the enemy with such generosity?
Such is the way of the soul filled with gratitude toward the Father for his own mercy and loving-kindness. Let us therefore put aside anger.

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A Word to the Wise

10-29-2019 – A Word to the Wise – PART 4

Acknowledging the anger of our forefathers is important in putting away anger. God speaking to the children of Israel in Exodus 20:5-6 says, “I am a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” While children are not responsible for their parents’ sins, they do suffer the consequences of those sins. Just as a propensity for allergies, heart problems and other disease go from one generation to the next, so certain sins are characteristic of families. It is strange how we look to genetics to explain many of our intellectual, emotional, and physical traits but miss the connection between our forefather’s anger and our own anger. Once anger is acknowledged then one may ask God for forgiveness of their forefather’s iniquities, or self-will.
Part of the past are the offenses of others, which we may have never known personally, but they still anger us. Anger at the Hitler’s’, white or black supremacists or even the Judas’ must all be forgiven.
The popular devotional writer Catherine Marshall in her books Something More addresses this issue at great length. I would encourage you to read this material for more detailed information on anger towards historical figures.

The Body and Anger

The physical body expresses those things felt in the heart, thought in the mind, and willed in the spirit. The body cannot act independently against our desires. As much as, some would have us believe differently the body can only do what it is told to do; for this reason, we are always responsible for the actions of our bodies. Therefore, any physical symptoms that occur happen because of choices made by our minds, or emotions.
There has been a dramatic increase during the last decade in the study of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). This is the study of the interrelationship between the brain, behavior, and immunity. Dr. Sheldon Cohen is an expert in the field of PNI. His studies are designed to address whether a prediction could be made based on a person’s psychological state as to how likely it would be that symptoms of clinic illness would occur following exposure to a virus.
One of the more popular studies by Cohen involved four hundred people between the ages of eighteen and fifty-five. All the subjects were healthy at the beginning of the study. The study revealed that angry, depressed, or stressed individuals had a greater chance of contracting cold viruses. Moreover, a relationship existed between the severity of the feelings experienced and the probability of developing an infection.
Simply, the greater the anger in an individual the greater the susceptibility to infection. Similar health studies looking at other areas of the body have also shown correlations between various disease and stress. The more popular studies involve heart disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, kidney disease, and high cholesterol. Proverbs affirmed some three thousand years ago that good attitudes and good health go hand in hand.

The decision to limit or eliminate levels two through seven in our lives directly affects the body. Many think that controlling the physical expression cures the problem. It does not. Eventually the body will overcome any attempts to control if that control is not supported by changes in the emotions, mind, and spirit. Beating on a pillow will not forever satisfy destructive feelings. Nor does it alleviate the price the body must pay for the sins of the mind and feelings. The Bible enumerates some very important and very specific physical effects of anger.

  • Proverbs 17:22 A downcast spirit dries up the bones.
  • Proverbs 10:27 The years of the wicked will be short.
  • Proverbs 13:3 He who guards his mouth preserves his life.
  • Proverbs 14:30 A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot.
  • Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
  • Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

Acquiring and practicing these precepts, however, does not insure the end of the cycle. Two more things must occur if one is to succeed in putting aside anger. These occur in the spirit.

The Spirit and Anger

Two things must occur in the spirit if anger is to be successfully forsaken. First, we must regain from Satan what was surrendered when we became angry. This involves repenting and confessing our sins (I John 1:9), claiming the blood of Jesus for these sins, and asking God to take back the ground that was surrendered to Satan when we sinned. When this is complete, the final step can occur. Jesus warns us in Mt. 12:43-45 when the unclean spirit has gone out of a person it must be replaced. If this does not occur then the last state becomes worse than the first. Never is this truer than in dealing with anger or any other kind of addiction. Anger is a trap that entangles our minds and emotions. With what do we replace the anger?

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A Word to the Wise

10-28-2019 – A Word to the Wise – PART3 – STEPS TO RESOLVING ANGER

The physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual areas of our lives must all be involved if anger is to be fully resolved. The sequence in which these areas are addressed is not important. Eventually all four areas must be brought to maturity. If any area is neglected then the cycle will return. One may perceive of this process as putting on non-flammable garments. These non-flammable garments cover our mouths, minds, and spirits while clothing us in peace.

The Mind and Anger

Seven things occur in the realm of the intellect, which affect anger:

  1. A person has to decide not to give oneself permission to get anger. Anger is predicated on a willful decision. This decision may be made in an instant of time, in days, or even years. Even as young children when hurt or disappointed, we struggle with the decision whether to be angry and act out or not.
  2. The mind must choose to take responsibility for its anger. Even if the other party is 99.9% at fault for an offense, we must take full responsibility for our anger and its expression.
  3. One must choose to see anger through the eyes of the one offended. Usually we excuse our anger, failing to feel what the other person sees and feels by our acting out. We detach ourselves from the pain we cause. We must choose to see, hear, and feel the results of our anger.
  4. One should search for past offenses, which are similar to those in childhood. Situations, which were never resolved, and that are re-experienced or re-enacted in the present with attitudes, or behaviors, like those in the past.
  5. Anger is often an indicator of past guilt over offenses towards others. Our anger is reminiscent of these sins.
  6. Forbearance is a characteristic, which powerfully affects the angry mind. Scripture tells us to be slow to speak. Forbearance with others acts out this biblical injunction and stems the angry tide.
  7. The chief trait, however, that protects the mind from the type of activity which leads to or breeds anger, is the quality of humility. Humbling one’s self removes the breeding ground for anger.

The Heart and Anger

The heart intensifies anger. The heart is the pressure cooker that takes the offense and magnifies it until it becomes as a raging forest fire. The steps to resolving anger and its cycle in the emotions are these:

  1. Acquisition of Wisdom—this quality resides in the heart. The bible speaks of it as a trait of the heart as opposed to the mind. Wisdom, at its best, is seeing people and situations from God’s point of view. When wisdom is put aside then the heart seeks control. Feelings of expectations and fear of loss begin to rule. Wisdom, in contrast, sees the consequences for expressing anger, whether in what we say to others or ourselves. Wisdom cools the heart processes with soothing insights.
  2. Meekness is the quality of the heart that corresponds to the characteristic of humility in the mind. Meekness seeks to divest one of self and seeks to place other’s first. With meekness comes strength. Strength is necessary to overcome the host of feelings, which are generated by rejection, loss, grief, etc.
  3. Forgiveness from the heart is a difficult endeavor. Jesus gives us an example of this when He discusses with His adversaries the healing of a man with palsy on the Sabbath. He says, “Which is harder, to heal or to forgive?” The implication being that both are equally difficult. Both cost Jesus his life. One of the reasons we struggle with forgiveness is because we view it as something that is offered on an offense by offense basis. Someone wrongs me, then I either forgive or withhold forgiveness. While this might be handy, it is hardly healthy.
    Forgiveness should be a state in which our forgiveness is offered for past, present and future offenses. Even before the offense is committed, I have determined to forgive. After all, this is how the heavenly Father treats my offenses and the manner in which He expects that me to treat others.
    The Hiding Place is an excellent example of this principle at work. Corrie ten Boom and her sister were imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II. During the year she is confined she talks about the difference between how she copes with various offenses by the Germans and how her sister deals with them.
    Corrie sees each offense as separate and struggles with each individually. Betsy lives in a state of forgiveness, which does not attempt to discern various offenses, but forgives them all. Because Betsy is not concerned with each individual offense then she is not weighed down with anger. Thus, mercy flows from Betsy to victims and perpetrators alike. The story ends with Betsy dying in the camp and her sister being released. During the next thirty years, Corrie ponders the lessons learned about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not only present or future; it is also an integral part of the past.

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A Word to the Wise

10-26-2019 – A Word to the Wise – PART 2 ON ANGER

Level 1: Irritation and Impatience

Irritation is the level of anger that occurs first in the mind and is usually connected with the experience of loss. The loss may be due to death, rejection, abandonment, or withdrawal. The inward anxiety or irritation experienced because of the loss is frequently exhibited in physical symptoms of accelerated motor activity. Perceptions of harm would also be considered a fear of anticipated loss.
Proverbs 19:11 addresses this first level of anger when it states, “Good sense makes a man slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Paul provides the following advice about irritation, “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” From a medical standpoint, when we store up anger it can cause us physical problems which culminate in everything from high blood pressure to stomach problems to strokes. Even if one’s anger never goes beyond this initial stage, if irritation is experienced on a regular basis, that individual will have physical consequences. God’s Word warns us not to go beyond this first stage by holding onto anger overnight.

Level 2: Initial Verbal and Non-Verbal Expression

The second level of anger is accompanied by verbal expression, such as a raised voice, which tends to make hurtful remarks. Usually other symptoms are present like a red face, agitation, and dramatic exaggerated actions. At this point, our emotions become actively involved. Proverbs addresses this second stage when it warns that, “Pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood and pressing anger produces strife.” (30:33) The warning is that this stage of anger produces strife with others. It is typically at the second level that one gets their first responses from others, usually in the form of questions such as, “Are you angry?” or “Why are you angry?”
The scriptures warn us away from this path, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Level 3: First Stages of Intimidation

If the angry person has not heeded the warnings of Proverbs, failing to use procedures such as giving a soft answer, then the third level is entered. It should be noted that the soft answer might be spoken to one who is angry, or by the people who are angry themselves.
Self-talk is a powerful tool in handling anger. Positive self-talk brings the emotions under control. Negative self-talk stirs up one’s emotions. When we imagine what we would like to say or what we will say, or simply relive the experience, which made us angry, it intensifies the physical feeling.
If these steps are not practiced then intimidation begins. The purpose of intimidation by the angry person is to manipulate or control others. Its goals are self-centered. Clenched teeth and heavy breathing physically characterize intimidation. Again, Proverbs warns, “A man given to anger causes much transgression,” and “anger lodges in the bosom of fools.”

Level 4: Impaired Communication

The fourth level is characterized by impaired communication. This may mean talking, yelling, or not listening. Perhaps the person may simply withdraw, refusing to listen to others. Prov. 18:13 warns, “If one gives answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” One cannot withdraw and at the same time hear what another has to say. Hearing has to occur. We should not confuse hearing with agreeing. Listening does not mean necessarily agreeing. Listening does mean hearing what is said, thinking about it, and analyzing it in silence. One cannot be formulating an answer and actually listening at the same time.
Another form of impairment at this level is the verbal expression of anger. Proverbs 15:18 tells us, “ A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”
Perhaps a scripture more to the point is Prov. 13:3, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life.” Scripture repeatedly warns of the dangers inherent in the tongue. Listen to these warnings. “He who belittles his neighbor lacks sense. Rash words are like sword thrust. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. No human can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire.”
Once verbal expression of angry feelings occurs, finding a stopping place is difficult. Some form of action follows one’s words.

Level 5: Explosive Behavior

The fifth level is characterized by explosive behavior. In scripture the word “wrath” usually indicates this state and separates it from the previous behavior of level four. Psalms 37:8 sums up the stages to this point saying, Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Two separate levels are implied here. Wrath is a word that defines this level.
Explosive action or wrath, may be directed inward towards self or outward towards others. If the explosion is inward then the result is depression, frequently accompanied by withdrawal and even suicide. If the explosion is outward then the behavior may lead to slamming doors or other objects, acting out one’s feelings in a variety of ways, which are emotionally and physically harmful to others. Scripture warns, “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and a man given to anger causes much transgression.” (Prov. 29:22) “Scoffers set a city aflame . . . A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.” (Prov. 29:28 and 19:19). Notice how both levels are joined together in these passages.
The most prudent manner in which one should deal with levels four and five in others is discussed in Proverbs 22:24. Here we are told, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.”

Level 6: Guilt
The sixth stage of anger is guilt. However, the person does not take personal responsibility for their actions at this level. In fact, intense blaming of others or situations occurs at this level. This attitude is seen in the statement, “If only you had not _______.” Guilt in the aftermath of hostile acting out blocks insight, understanding, or discernment.
This guilt does not produce remorse or change. It continues to blame others by identifying others as the source of the problem. Often the angry person will act contrite for their behavior. This confuses others. They erroneously believe that the person is acknowledging remorse for inappropriate behavior. This is not their intent. The angry person really believes that others are at fault. However, to make peace they will say they are sorry. They concretely believe their anger and its acting out are justified. This is why the writer in Proverbs 18:2 could say, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

Level 7: Acquiescence
The seventh stage is one of acquiescence. The boiling rage subsides, bitterness sets in, and the emotions become engaged in internalizing, analyzing, justifying, blaming, and defending. While it may seem that steps five and six are the most harmful, the reality is that the most harm occurs here in the seventh stage. Now the cycle bears spoiled fruit in the form of bitterness, false reasoning, and rationalization. Examples of this can be seen in the defensiveness, which occurs with an angry person. Anger is exhibited when others attempt interventions or even remotely suggest the presence of anger. It is much like what occurs when someone addresses an alcoholic’s drinking problem. “Drinking problem? I don’t have a drinking problem.” This is often referred to as denial.
In truth, by now, the problem is far greater than denial. For by now, the long-term effects of these responses have become set, as in concrete; the personality is formed. The person may exhibit traits of narcissism, become avoidant, isolate him/herself or alienate others, develop negativistic responses, become histrionic, or even antisocial. Notice how we began with the physical response and ended up with personality formation. The two are interwoven. Separation becomes impossible after an extended period. The physical effects result in mental and emotional disease. We find ourselves enslaved to anger. How does one stop this process?

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A Word to the Wise

10-25-2019 – A Word to the Wise – It is time for us to take a realistic look at anger and its affects. The material is lengthy so it will be presented in parts
Part 1
Anger is not only one of the most prevalent, but also one of the most difficult sins to rid ourselves. Anger occurs at various levels of intensity ranging from irritation to racial genocide. The breadth of anger may be as short as a few mere seconds or it may extend throughout many generations. How does one put aside the sin of anger?
The first step in putting aside one’s anger is that of recognizing the anger in oneself. It is astounding the number of people who have no idea that they have a problem with anger. I have seen people go into rages lasting thirty or forty minutes. I would confront them with their anger and they would get upset saying, “I never get angry.” Acknowledgement precedes any definitive action required to change the anger habit. Once anger is acknowledged then it can be traced to its source.
The propensity for anger is most often traced to one’s childhood disappointments and injuries, which are relived in the present. Anger may be acquired through harm, perceived danger, or loss. Anger may be passed on to us by parents or significant others, by their attitudes or behavior. Many people say that they struggle with anger on a continuous basis and profess failure in conquering it. Our object is to define what anger is, understand its source, reveal ways to resolve anger, and learn how to arm ourselves against it.

Resolution of anger means fighting its existence in the body, mind, heart, and spirit. The arduous task of ridding these four areas of anger requires different forms of combat. We should take seriously Jesus’ warning in the parable of the house swept clean that the house may become re-infected if the void left by the house cleaning is not filled with new character. Therefore, we must put on the armor that protects us from further infestation.
There are seven behavioral activities in the body that reveal a person’s anger. These behavioral activities occur on ascending levels of intensity, which include corresponding physical consequences. Each level has its own unique traits. God provides for us specific instructions concerning these levels throughout the book of Proverbs.

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A Word to the Wise

10-24-2019 – A Word to the Wise – Wisdom and Women
My wife thinks it rather presumptuous of me to tell a woman how to become wise. She may be correct. I have learned to be careful in such matters, for my wife is a wise woman filled with good deeds, and besides she looks great in white linen.

Wise women have always been a part of society. It is instructive that the word wisdom in its various forms in Greek, Hebrew, and Akkadian, embraces the feminine usage. That is the noun forms of the word in these languages tend to be feminine. I find this interesting since the woman is the first to show an interest in wisdom. In my experience, the man seeks wisdom and insight when he has to or when he is made to. Ask any counselor who works with families. Most will say their schedules are mostly filled by women. Spend time in any bookstore and observe who is buying the self-help books.

Out of four hundred women mentioned in the Bible, there is sufficient information to ascertain some basic character traits about one hundred and forty of them. Approximately one hundred and fourteen or eighty-two percent of this number might be considered good. This conclusion is reached either by statements made about them or the manner in which they lived their lives. Of this number, nearly seventy percent may be said to have behaved, exhibited, or expressed wisdom in their lives. Even fifty percent of the evil women exhibited a worldly wisdom.

The creation of man and woman presents many interesting challenges. Limiting our observations to what the Bible has to say about wisdom, look at Gen. 2:18ff and Gen. 3:6. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” Now, it is that last phrase ‘desired to make one wise,’ which draws our attention. What did wisdom have to do with the situation?

I believe the answer lies in the basic difference between man and woman. A careful reading of Genesis 1-3 reveals a distinctive difference in their creation. Man was created to tend God’s creation–a woman was created to tend man. It takes two verses to describe man’s creation and purpose five to recite woman’s creation and purpose. This gives us some indication of the complexity of the task facing the woman.

Wisdom was not necessary for a man to fulfill his purpose. Evidently, it is crucial for a woman. Wisdom is the basic essential traits the woman is required to possess if she is to complete her task successfully. The greater the wisdom the greater the ability to tend her man. Thus, for this reason I am suggesting that the desire for wisdom is an inborn part of the makeup of the fabric of the woman’s nature.

This explains way the deceiver could deceive. Satan understood the woman’s desire for wisdom. Satan above all else desires and esteems wisdom, what else is craftiness based on? Therefore, Satan understood her craving for knowledge, wisdom, and insight.

So, how may we know that wisdom as a trait pre-existing with the woman? Lets’ consider an analogy. Say, for example, you enjoy chocolate. Perhaps even, crave its delicious taste. How did that craving come about? Was it because you just looked at it and knew it would be good? No, at some point, you acquired a taste for its pleasure. So it is with wisdom.

For the woman to crave wisdom, she had to have a prior knowledge about its goodness. The prior knowledge was based on God creating it in her in order to fulfill her work of tending to man. Helping necessities awareness, insight, and understanding. These traits are sewn into her fabric so she could fulfill her task.

The ramifications are enormous. I have spent a lifetime speaking to men and women about the innermost secrets of their lives. I have never met a woman who, either in the physical or spiritual realm, lacks the drive for the acquisition of knowledge, wisdom, or insight. Even if it were a strip tease dancer who hates men emphatically, her desire was to know how to entice them even more effectively. Some women will fulfill the need for these traits by seeking the Lord, others prefer to receive them at the hands of the evil one.

While we are speaking of these dancers consider why do they do what they do? It goes back to that passage in Genesis 3:6’ ‘desired to make one wise,’ Wise about what?
Interesting question perhaps we will address that next, or not.

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A Word to the Wise

10-23-2019 – A Word to the Wise – Conclusion

This event in the life of Jesus gives us insight into the deep feelings that the women around Jesus felt for Him. The gospels tend to be devoid of emotional reactions of the disciples towards Jesus. It is refreshing to know that some treated the Son of God with such loving care.

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A Word to the Wise

10-22-2019 – A Word to the Wise – Part 3 – Matthew-Luke Record

The situation with Martha two days before Passover is incongruent with the events in Simon the Leper’s house. Martha’s purpose was to serve Jesus. Magdalene anointed Jesus feet, out of remorse for her manner of life. Matthew and Mark tell us that Martha poured the ointment on Jesus’ head, which Jesus connects with His death. Mary purchased for His burial. No indication is given of preplanning by Martha. The cost was the same; according to the text, its value is 300 denarii. Judas is not singled out as saying anything. However, this is too much for Judas. Another $15,000 lost, his money wasted on Jesus. He leaves the house and sets up the betrayal for thirty pieces of silver equal to 120 denarii or about $6000. No small sum.

Something else that is interesting about all of this is the effect upon Jesus. I think Jesus is amazed at all this expense on His behalf. Jesus being surprised is not something we usually think of. However, it does happen. Notice the surprise expressed by Jesus on several occasions.

The woman who came up behind Jesus and touched Him was a surprise. The surprise was that someone had the depth of faith to try it. This incident is recorded in Mark 5. In Mark 6, Jesus marvels at the unbelief of the people in His hometown. Mark 7 tells of the incident with a Syrophoenician woman who pleads with Him to heal her daughter. He is taken aback by her boldness, and ability to answer Him. In Mark 9 Jesus is amazed at the lack of belief on the part of His disciples after they have seen so many miracles.

John 3 records the conversation with Nicodemus, and in verse 10 Jesus finds it difficult to understand how a teacher does not understand so simple a thing as regeneration. Jesus is somewhat surprised in John 6:64 that His disciples do not desert Him as many others have. In John 12 taken aback by the events of Lazarus’ death and the response of Mary and Martha. He weeps. In Luke 17 Jesus wonders why only one of ten lepers He has just healed returns to say thank you, and he a foreigner.

Jesus is surprised at the anointing by these women. The anointing was an event never referred to or foretold about Him. His death, burial, the Old Testament prophets, but not the anointing refer to all resurrection, betrayal, and entry into Jerusalem, cleansing the temple, and healing the sick. He was so surprised by it that the very next night, on Wednesday before Passover, He washed the feet of His disciples. It seems these women gave Him an experience He now shares with His disciples. Jesus knew how He felt, and therefore, what the disciples would feel.

We have noted much of the dissimilarity in these passages leading to a conclusion that each event was distinguishable from the other. However, there is a common thread, which runs through all three. There is a suggestion of hope.

Some of us are very much aware of just how sinful we have been in life. Some are aware of a huge burden of guilt for wrongs we have committed. For those of us who carry such a burden, Jesus has a personal message of hope. It is a sentence introduced in Luke 7:47; “for I tell you, her sins, are forgiven, for she love loved much—but he who is forgiven little loves little.” Jesus is teaching a unique lesson here. One of the greatest blessings that may come from sins is deeper love.

The depth or capacity of one’s love may be measured by the depth of sin—forgiven. It is that single word ”forgiven” that draws our attention. For those of us who have shed many tears over the harm we have brought to others, who have wished to redo sins perpetuated on others, forgiveness means everything. We hate our sinful ourselves. This is a paradox. The more we hate sinful self the greater the capacity for love of others.

One might say at this point “let me sin even more that greater love may abound.” Not so. The element that begets love –was not the sin– rather the forgiveness.

If we examine the passages more closely, we will find some character traits being revealed. Magdalene was a sinner. Her brazen brash approach may be an indicator of immorality. Simon thinks he knows the depth of her sin—doubting Jesus has a clue. Magdalene’s sins, however, are over shadowed by a yearning, yea burning to turn aside from her wayward path. Jesus affords that opportunity. Magdalene knows Jesus has the power to forgive sins. The Pharisees had challenged Jesus on this topic before.

While Magdalene yearned for purity, Martha is motivated for something different. Martha anoints Jesus’ head, not His feet. Emphasis is on a physical act. The Matthew-Mark passages are for the most part devoid of emotions. Statements like “she has done what she could,” and “worked a good work,” reinforce the physical emphasis. Moreover, it is the act that is memorized—not the woman. She is unnamed. This leads us to an assessment that Martha’s deepest need is for acceptance and recognition. It takes tremendous character to endure silently wrenching unjust criticism and say nothing.

Magdalene’s need was for cleansing, Martha, acceptance Mary’s motives were much more complex.

Death is an event of life that presses hard on survivors. The death of Lazarus, Mary’s brother shortly before no doubt signaled major transitions in the lives of Mary and her sister. Jesus intervened and raised Lazarus from the dead. Gratitude is overwhelming on Mary’s behalf.

Mary purchases this special ointment, which she plans to use for His burial in a few days. Mary applies some of the ointment and massages it in with her hair. Emotionally she has been jerked from the depth of sadness with her brother’s death to the heights of joy with his restoration. Now, once again she knows the depth of anguish because her savior is to die. She prepares her benefactor’s body for the grave.

The text is clear about something else. Jesus raising Mary’s brother from the grave a few days before is the precipitating factor in His own condemnation by the Jews. This must have been a heartrending experience for all involved.

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A Word to the Wise

10-21-2019 – A Word to the Wise – Part 2 – John’s Record

The anointing by Mary in her brother’s house six days before Passover is very different from Magdalene’s anointing both in purpose and behavior.

Mary did not wash Jesus feet, nor did Jesus act like she had. The text indicates that she had specifically bought this costly perfume of pure nard for his burial. She took a small portion of the ointment and anointed his feet. The rest is kept for Jesus burial. Jesus had been telling His disciples for some time that He was to be killed. They did not believe it, nor did they prepare for it. Mary believed and prepared before hand.

John describes the event vividly. He gives details that only a person who is present would have known. I strongly suspect that after this day none of those present would fail to associate the aroma that filled the house with Mary’s tender care of Jesus. John was here; he saw it with his own eyes and smelled the aroma that filled the house.

There is difference in what happens here six days before the Passover and with what takes place four days later. In the later case, several of the disciples are critical of the sacrifice. Here, Judas stands in the forefront as Mary’s accuser, which is significant in that the other disciples said nothing on this occasion. Four days later they become the accuser, and Judas is silent. The motives of Judas are different than the other disciples.

Judas is very upset. Why do you suppose the intense feelings? After all what is a little perfume? With a little knowledge of the economics of the period, much light is shed on the circumstances. The text says the value of Mary’s gift was 300 denarii. Translators do not give a very accurate picture of what this means. Some put in a footnote that the amount is worth about fifty dollars. Others give other amounts. Most miss the economic reality.

In Jesus’ time one denarii was equal to a day’s pay for a laborer. In our language, today when the rate of pay for unskilled labor is $5 per hour, the cost of a days pay would be fifty dollars (their work day was ten hours long). The value is $15,000. No wonder Judas is upset. By the way, notice that Judas knew its exact worth. Later the disciples guessed. His money being wasted. A thief steals because he deludes himself into thinking he has a right to take it. Therefore, Judas believes that this is his money being wasted on the Savior.

Another reason for Judas being upset has to do with Mary. Judas did not like Mary. How do we know? Because thieves hate their victims and their naive attitude. Notice also that Judas must have either taken or tried to take the remaining perfume for Jesus tells Judas to let her keep it.
Another reason for Judas being upset has to do with Mary. Judas did not like Mary. How do we know? Because thieves hate their victims and their naïve attitude. Notice also that Judas must have either taken or tried to take the remaining perfume for Jesus tells Judas to let her keep it.

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A Word to the Wise

10-19-2019 – A Word to the Wise – What follows is a short textual study which seeks to clarify the Gospel record concerning the anointing of Jesus by women. It comes it 2 or 3 parts. Many misconceptions surround the anointing of Jesus. Incidents are recorded in all four Gospels attesting to the event. Some would say that there is just one event, and each Gospel writer gives different information. Others, the majority of conservative biblical scholars, would suggest that there are really two different events. It is our premises that there are actually three different events.

We will outline the basic information that suggest the three events and then present some ideas about why Jesus may have been anointed three times.

The appendix gives the full reading of all three passages and frequent reference will be made to these passages. It is suggested that the reader quickly scan these passages before going further.

Luke’s Record

The student of the gospels can immediately see that the passage in Luke 7 stands apart from the other records. Luke does not mention a specific time while all three of the other gospels place the event within a week of Passover and the death of Jesus. Luke does record the event as taking place right after John the Baptist’s last message which occurred during the second period of the Galilean ministry. Most authorities place this time period between the summer of 28 A.D. until the Passover, April 18, 29 A.D. If this is correct then this event happened at least a year prior to the crucifixion.

Numerous elements recorded in Luke’s account differ with the other gospels. As noted above the time is a year before the other gospel events. Luke places his episode in the home of a Pharisee. Whereas the events recounted by the other gospel writers occur when the Pharisees have established themselves as staunch enemies of Jesus. Moreover, there is a price on the head of Jesus, which is not the case in the time period covered by Luke. Also, the conversation between Simon and Jesus in the Luke 7 passage appears amicable. The later incident is placed in the house of a leper, a place a where a Pharisee would never go

Other differences include how the anointing takes place. The response of both the host and guest. Even the actions of the woman in Luke are different from the women in the other episodes. Luke’s character washes Jesus feet with her tears; neither of the other two mentions tears. The woman in Luke dried the tears with her hair; while Mary in John’s Gospel massages the oil into his feet with her hair.

These differences set Luke’s episode apart from the other accounts. Turning our attention to the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and John, again we see a diversity, which sets them apart from each other.

John says the event he records takes place in the home of Lazarus a few days after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Matthew and Mark agree that the event describe takes place in the home f Simon the Leper.

John says the incident he is referring to happen six days before Passover and the death of Jesus. Matthew and Mark place the episode they recount two days before Jesus is murdered. Now, one could reach the conclusion that the writers are just confused, an accusation often made by some scholars. However, if one accepts that three actual separate events occurred, then one is free to look more closely at the differences in behavior, which gives clues to motivation. A summary of the events appears on the chart in Appendix I.

It is suggested then that Luke records and event, which occurred a year prior to the events in the other three gospels. Matthew and Mark jointly describe the same event, which occurred two days before the Passover and Jesus’ death. John recounts a different event occurring four days before the one described in Matthew-Mark.

Some interesting details present themselves. Major differences exist in the purpose in the women’s minds as to what they did and why. To personalize the events and hopefully draw out these nuances, we will assign a name to each woman. Mary is of course the only one given a name in Scripture and that is in John 12. The unnamed women in the Luke passage we will call Magdalene. The unnamed women in Matthew-Mark we will refer to as Martha.

It would appear that Magdalene’s motive was somewhat dissimilar to Mary or Martha. Magdalene comes to Jesus with a tremendous burden of sin. Magdalene is most certainly aware of her great sinfulness. She at the same time is brazen; she did not give a thought to coming into a Pharisee’s house and paid him no attention. I suspect she knew the man well. We can only speculate as to how she knew him. Magdalene’s entrance and behavior are dramatic and purpose oriented.

Immediately we are confronted with a perplexing statement by Luke. The text says she was “standing behind him, at his feet.” Jesus was sitting down! How can that be and what does it mean? Luke, I think, chose these words with great care for they both hide and reveal at the same time.

Luke is using what is called an idiomatic expression. This word ‘standing’ is often used figuratively, carrying with it the idea of being immovable. Thus, Magdalene planted herself at the feet of Jesus and was not to be moved.

Then Luke turns around and uses a figurative idiomatic expression literally. The phrase ‘to kiss the feet’ carries with it the idea of worship. Magdalene is firmly at the feet of Jesus, worshipping and bestowing great care. She is here for two purposes; to express ‘great love’ and to acquire forgiveness.

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