An Intelligence Test

Acts 17:16-18Test

On the Tonight Show, host, Jay Leno, has a frequent segment called “Jay Walking.”  He goes out into the area surrounding their studio… talks to real people (only to about 15 people and then about 9 make it on the show) and after about an hour of shooting they are ready to go.  Here is a sample of what Jay finds:

A Man who thought the first president was Benjamin Franklin.

A Woman who when asked how many stars were on the American Flag atop a nearby flag pole answered:  “I can’t tell, the wind is moving it too fast.”

My favorite:  A graduate from college still in cap and gown was asked what the Gettysburg Address was.  After hemming and hawing, Jay asked her: “Have you heard of it?”  She responded:  “Yes, I’ve heard of it.  I don’t know the actual address though.”

When asked what separates the inner ear and outer ear, one bright person said:  Your brain?

Another was asked:  Who lives in Vatican city?  Their answer:  Vaticans.  Jay responded:  “No, but he has a tall hat.   Answer:  “Abraham Lincoln?”

Shows like that make me feel smart.  I love shows like that.  Jeopardy, not so much.  Those contestants seem to know everything.  “What is the weight of a ball bearing off a Boeing 747, Alex?”  “Correct!”  They are smart, but that is only Jeopardy smart.

Then there is “Brilliant” smart… it is an intelligence that goes beyond remembering facts… these people have the capacity to understand things at an ultra complicated level.  They can be intimidating.  Particularly if they come to conclusions you don’t agree with.  The atheist with his book about why God doesn’t exist has a lot of degrees after his name.  You know he is wrong, but how do you reason with someone so intelligent?

Often when met with “brilliant” smart, we just stay silent.  Obviously we have nothing to say.

Paul is about to step into the world of the culturally elite.  He had to feel a bit intimidated as he entered Athens.  But he knew he was defending the truth and to stand up for the truth is always the intelligent thing to do.

Heard the story recently of Courtney Ellis, a former graduate student at Princeton:  “When I attended graduate school for English, there were many occasions when my fellow students openly ridiculed the name of Christ. To my great detriment, I stayed silent. I was quite vocal about my belief in Christ at church and with my friends, but I was terrified of what might happen to my reputation if the people at my school found out I believed in Jesus. … Most of them were just ignorant about who Jesus is. Several of them had never even met a Christian before and assumed that all Christians were the uneducated, judgmental stereotypes we sometimes see in the media. Yet, I was still afraid.

As the program went on, I began to feel guiltier for these silences. If I couldn’t be obedient to Christ in such a central thing, how would I be able to serve him in other ways? God was faithful in my rocky road to obedience—opportunities to speak up for Christ continued to come my way.

One day a fellow student asked me flat out—right before class, when many other people were around—if I was a Christian. I was at a crossroads. … I had a clear decision to make.

I took a deep breath, and, with God’s help, I said a soft, shaky, “Yes.” The student looked at me for a second, skeptically.

“Interesting,” she said. “I always thought that Christians were like circus freaks…but you’re actually kind of smart!”

It was a small step, but even the smallest step made in obedience is progress. God tells us not to fear for our reputations, because the truth will always win out.”

[More to Come]

A Christian’s Response to Evil

CaringProverbs 6:16-19

Not sure where you were when you heard the news on Monday.  I was at the church office.  My tablet buzzed on the desktop like when I’m getting an email.  But it was actually an update from my USA Today app:  “Blasts heard at the sight of the Boston marathon.”

I knew.  I just knew.  This was going to be bad.

And as the story poured out over the news the next few days… like you, I was in shock.  And I was filled with sympathy for the victims,… But also there was this angry, cranky thing that began to develop.  This normally calm and collected, peace loving pastor was getting increasingly hot.  It was kind of  a simmer because it was a “I’m in denial” kind of mad.  Eventually I was able to get in touch with my feelings.

And I took them to God.

Reading my Facebook newsfeed it seemed that everyone from my family members to friends to complete strangers and even corporate entities were offering words of comfort to the people of Boston.  But even so… there was this underlying bubbling up of rage.

One late night comic said:  “I know it is my job to make you laugh.  And I know some people need to watch TV or something to get their mind off of such things.  But I don’t want to.  I’m angry.”

Tuesday, as I was working on my Sunday sermon, I became increasingly convinced that I needed to change my topic from Christian friendship to the subject of evil.

I don’t usually preach topically.  I don’t usually preach on current events.  But I believe that some needs need to be addressed from the pulpit.  Not just because of Monday’s events… and not just because of the increasing onslaught of violence America has been experiencing, but because we as believers need to be prepared to talk to our neighbors, our co-workers, our hair-cutters, our unsaved family members, etc. in a time like this.

Many lives were saved at the Marathon that day because of a large number of first responders already present there at the finish line.  Not only were they close to the events to offer aid but these workers and others at Boston area hospitals had already been training for just such an unfortunate event for years.

How about us?  Are we as believers prepared if something like this happened close to home? At a Titans game?  At our block party?  In our family home?  What is the right response?  I’m pretty sure seething about it isn’t the solution.  So I went to the Scriptures.

Over the next few week or so, I will humbly offer some of what I found.  I hope it is a comfort.  For now, I have posted an old sermon of mine (“How God Will Deal With Evil”) on my sermon download page.   I included an article by Mel Lawrenz, titled:  “Facing Treachery, Again” on my “Around the Web” page (see tab above).   And Sunday from the pulpit I will preach on this topic and hope to post that sermon next week as well.

In the meantime, I want to share where God stands on Boston’s events.  He stands against those behind this terror (as of this writing, one suspect is dead and the other is in hiding).  Out of the seven things Proverbs 6:16-19 says that God hates are:  “…hands that shed innocent blood.  A heart that devises wicked plans.
and “Feet that run rapidly to evil.”

As to how God feels toward the victims?  Psalm 34:18 – “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  As those who claim to be God’s children… let us prepare our hearts as we near those hurting in our world today.