Holey Socks

holey_socks

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. — 1 Corinthians 1:18-21, NLT

My mother once relayed a story to me of when she was a little girl and her mother found her with a pair of scissors, cutting up her socks. When asked what she was doing, my mother replied, “I’m cutting the holes out of my socks.”

As adults, we laugh at the silly logic of children. We have lived longer, experienced more, gathered more knowledge, and gained more understanding of life’s inner workings. Thus, we easily see the folly in a child’s thinking, and realize that repair won’t ever come from a pair of scissors.

Yet how does our wisdom compare to the Almighty’s? How might our cumulative scholarship stack-up to the originator of all that exists (Gen 1:1), the one who knows no teacher (Isa 40:13-14), who has named every celestial body in His colossal cosmos (Psa 147:4), and numbered the hair follicles on every head (Mat 10:30)? How might our “brilliant” brains compare to the Creator’s whose knowledge is beyond our comprehension (Psa 139:6), whose limitless ways (Psa 147:5) are beyond our understanding (Job 37:5), whose years beyond our measurements (Job 36:26)? How might our “clever” strategies crafted in the deceitful (Jer 17:9) dark (Pro 27:1; Jam 4:14) match up against the mastermind (Isa 55:8-9) of both peace and calamity (Isa 45:7), who knows and determines tomorrow (Isa 46:10), and sees all things (Heb 4:13) as the originator of light (Gen 1:3; 2Co 4:6), even into the deep recesses of human hearts (1Sa 16:7; Psa 139:1-4)?

[Reread that paragraph a few times. Spend some time contemplating the greatness of God.]

How foolish of us to think that our self-righteous good deeds could excuse our bad ones. Does a little community service pardon one of murder (Mat 5:22; 1Jo 3:15)? Yet we extend kindness to the kind, thinking we are doing God a favor (Luk 6:32-34). Our good deeds are nothing more than taking a pair of shears to filthy rags (Isa 64:6)—a belittlement of our crimes against God (Jam 2:10-11; Psa 51:4), and a contemptuous trampling upon the blood of His Son (Heb 10:29). How foolish to think we could earn enough favor to excuse our crimes by treating the sacrifice of Christ—The Way God has made for us back to Him (Rom 5:8; Act 16:30-31)—as unworthy of our attention (Act 13:46). We are simply cutting holes out of socks.

It is time for us to rightly assess the tattered remains of our life, to abandon our destructive attempts at its repair, and recognize our old life is nothing more than kindling (Mat 3:10; 1Co 3:12-15). Only then will we see the One hope we have—to cry out to the God who gives life (Deu 32:39) and is life (Joh 11:25; 14:6), and surrender to Him the things that were never ours to begin with (Isa 43:7)—our old, ragged life (Rom 6:6). Then, we can accept what we truly need—a new one (2Co 5:17; Rom 6:4; Eze 36:26).

A New Sock, A New Life
I came to my mother with a quivering lip,
The sock was done.
“I have no sock to wear, dear mother?
I’ve ruined this one.”
She took the sock, shredded and soiled
And gave me a new one, clean and unspoiled
And into my sad eyes she smiled,
“Cheer up, my child.”

I came to the throne with a trembling heart,
my life undone.
“Have you a new life for me, dear Master?
I’ve ruined this one.”
He took my life, all shredded and soiled
And gave me a new one, holy and unspoiled
And into my sad heart He smiled,
“Rejoice now, my child.”

(A rewrite of the poem “A New Leaf, A New Day” by Kathleen Wheeler)

Billy Neal

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Watching Father Work

watchingdad

Sunday afternoon after lunch, my oldest son Elijah emerged from the house with his basketball, still in his church attire—a blue polo shirt and khaki shorts.

Standing by my Toyota Camry with my hands crossed, the car jacked up, two tires off, and the problem of a seized rear brake drum before me, I looked up and called out, “Hey buddy, Go back in and put some grubby clothes on. Why don’t you come and help me.” After all, I was soon in need of a foot to depress a brake pedal when I would be draining the brake fluid.

He returned to the house, emerging a few minutes later garbed in his usual athletic gear. He stood nearby, but quickly lost interest after a few minutes. He spotted his bright green soccer ball that he had kicked up in a tree a week prior. So he left me and turned to a more entertaining task.

Truth be known, if he hadn’t been grounded, he would have already found himself over a friend’s house.

A few minutes later, my daughter Aubrey exited the house, hopped on her bike, and asked permission to go to a neighbor’s house to play. I granted her wish, but she returned a few minutes later, visibly downcast.

“Why are you back so soon,” I asked.

“They don’t want me,” she said, relaying the upsetting details of the rejection she faced. Apparently the brother of the sibling pair she went to visit opened the door only to question her about Elijah’s whereabouts. When discovering he wasn’t coming, he told her to go “play at home.”

“Well,” I responded, “I want you.”

Unfazed at my answer, she parked her bike in the driveway and dismounted. “They won’t accept me without Elijah,” she pouted.

“I accept you. Come sit with me while I work,” I called out as she marched through the garage and into the house.

A few minutes later I walked up to the garage to get another tool. My youngest Joshua was coming out of the house, still in his pajamas. He had stayed home from church with his mother after he had run a slight fever the night before. We had come home from church to find him sitting in his tiny recliner, drawing. But by this point, he seemed to have returned to normal.

“Can I help you, Daddy?” He asked in his sweet, six-year-old voice.

I smiled, “You sure can. Just go in and change your clothes and put on a jacket.” He ran back inside. I got my tool from the workbench and returned to work.

A few minutes later, Aubrey came back outside and hopped on her bike to try again, hoping this time the older sister would be the one to answer the door and let her in to play.

“I’m ready, Daddy,” Little J said as he stood by my side, now in a more weather appropriate ensemble. He was prepared and content for whatever simple task I had for him (like pressing a brake pedal or hand tightening lug nuts), or to just crouch down and watch, a stuffed sloth under each arm, while his father labored at the repair.

And it was in that moment that the Lord spoke to me: Sometimes all the Father wants is to have His children by His side as He works.

Tears began to fill my eyes as I contemplated the thought.

How it must break God’s heart to have His children so caught up in the fickle approval of others when the Father’s waiting with open arms of unconditional love and acceptance. And how sad that we are so easily distracted away from His side by colorful distractions and silly challenges that the world offers us. But what joy it must bring our Heavenly Father when his children leave the comforts of this world (like comfy pajamas and a warm recliner) just to be by His side.

May I always chose the better thing (Luk 10:42), and be ever delighted just to be in His presence (Psa 16:11). May I value my relationship with Him over any blessings that He can give (Luk 15:28-31). May I never see the time spent honoring Him as a waste (Mar 14:4). May I only seek to go where His presence will be (Exo 33:15). May I be a treasured son that wants nothing more than to be at his Daddy’s feet, watching Him at work.

Billy Neal

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Tentmaking

Tentmaking

My oldest son hates to do the dishes. It’s that hill he has chosen to die on, persisting in resistance nearly every time he is asked to clean the kitchen. “It’s boring!” he insists, as he reverts to a three year old pouting on the floor. I guess I feel the same way sometimes—clamoring to do the more interesting work, leaving the more meaningless tasks to others. Lord knows how traumatic the tedious can be to our sensitive self-importance.

“After this Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to depart from Rome. Paul approached them, and because he worked at the same trade, he stayed with them and worked with them (for they were tentmakers by trade). He addressed both Jews and Greeks in the synagogue every Sabbath, attempting to persuade them. Now when Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul became wholly absorbed with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. –Acts 18:1-5

As I read over this passage, the sudden change in Paul once Timothy and Silas arrived struck me. When Paul first arrived in Corinth, he busied himself with tentmaking, not preaching. Except for the Sabbath where he attempted to persuade in the synagogues, Paul spent his time stitching fabric. It is not until his other companions arrived from Macedonia that Paul “became wholly absorbed with proclaiming the Word.”

I’ll be honest, this seems like a misuse of time. Paul was receiving funds from the Philippian church (Phi 4:15; 2Co 11:7-9), so why spend precious time in monotonous manufacturing work, a task that other hands could do just as well.

Some commentators suggest Paul might have been slightly discouraged or depressed, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:3-6 (see Act 18:9; 1Co 2:3). Considering all the hardships and rejection he had endured, it seems reasonable. Surely the great apostle did not learn to live in contentment (Phi 4:12) without wrestling with it.

Then I ran across a comment by Alexander MacLaren, the great expositor, regarding Paul and his tentmaking:

“Be thankful for your homely, prosaic, secular, daily task. You do not know from how many sickly fancies it saves you, and how many breaches in the continuity of your Christian feeling it may bridge over. It takes you away from thinking about yourselves, and sometimes you cannot think about anything less profitably. So stick to your work; and if ever you feel, as Paul did, ‘cast down,’ be sure that the workshop, the office, the desk, the kitchen will prevent you from being ‘destroyed,’ if you give yourselves to the plain duties which no moods alter, but which can alter a great many moods,” (MacLaren’s Expositions).

This poetic paragraph took me aback (causing me to pause and re-read it several times). Who knows what kind of healing and encouragement took place as Paul fellowshipped with Aquila and Priscilla and worked mindlessly with his hands. It was surely a blessing, a reprieve. Yet, how often do I belittle the simple tasks of life, failing to see the blessed gift of work (Ecc 2:24-25; 3:9-13, 22; Gen 2:15)? How often do I miss the fact that the mundane grants reprieve from challenge and strife?

The walk of the disciple of Christ is a hard road, with many difficult challenges (Mat 24:9; Mar 13:13; Luk 9:23; Phi 1:29; 2Ti 3:12). So if you feel bored in your work, praise the Lord He has given you something simple to do for a season. Take joy in your tentmaking; find contentment in the simplicity of sewing. There is a day on the horizon when you will face lions, bears (1Sa 17:34) and giants (1Sa 17:40-50), but for now enjoy the green pasture and still waters with psalms (Psa 23).

Billy Neal

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