Thursday, May 21, 2015

Exploring Wisdom and Cunning in Scripture

In the tenth chapter of Matthew, we find Jesus calling his followers to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” In the 16th chapter of Luke, we find a parable that is seldom taught or discussed in churches, primarily because the individual being held up as a positive example is a shrewd and deceitful manager. These verses can cause problems for many with a view of scripture that essentially boils down to “be good and polite, never lie and never cut corners.”
Abraham, Sarah, and the three visitors - when
God changes the reason about why Sarah
had laughed when he talks to Abraham- Gen. 18
But what if the God of the Bible has given multiple examples where guile and cunning are called for, and rewarded? What if the God of the Bible really is calling for followers who can accomplish more for His purposes through stealth and a basic understanding of human nature than by adamantly following rules that may or may not line up with what the Creator of the Universe is trying to accomplish through His people?

Interestingly, scripture provides multiple examples of God's people acting with cunning and shrewdness to move events forward – and many times those individuals and their actions are declared righteous and good.

Here are just a few examples:

1.   Jacob – Genesis 27 gets us right into the story of Jacob (with help and guidance from his mother who was inspired by a prophesy when she was pregnant with Jacob and his brother) deceiving his father to obtain his brother's birthright. That's followed by Jacob being deceived by his father-in-law, tricked into marrying Leah when he really wanted to marry her sister. But, were it not for these events, we would not have the 12 tribes of Israel. There's much more to Jacob's shrewdness, it's well worth exploring.

2.   Tamar – Genesis 38 is fascinating – Tamar marries the first-born son of Judah, when that son dies, she is married to the second-born son (tradition) – he dies. Judah promises that when the third son is old enough, he will be married to her, but he clearly has no intention of keeping that promise. Tamar plays the part of a prostitute to carry on the family bloodline – and when all is brought to light, Judah declares her more righteous than he. Worth noting, the descendants from Judah and Tamar play pivotal roles in future battles for Israel.

3.   The lying midwives – Exodus 1: 15- 21 – The ruler of the land gives a simple order to these midwives, “if a Hebrew woman gives birth to a boy, kill it.” The midwives fail to carry out that order and when they are asked about it, they actually play on the prejudices of the ruler, essentially calling the Hebrew women animals, “the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” Again, scripture is clear on how God deals with these liars, “So God dealt well with the midwives... He gave them families.”

4.   Spies – Numbers 13 – if you go to the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, you will see that the museum refers to this section of scripture as the earliest written example of spies being used. This makes the God of the Bible the first spymaster.

5.   Rahab – Joshua 2 – This woman is absolutely incredible – she not only hides the two spies sent by Joshua, she sends the local authorities on a wild goose chase and then initiates a contract with the spies to save her family.

6.   Ehud – Judges 3:12-30 – awesome adventure, filled with cunning and military strategy

7.   Jael – Judges 4 – 5 (prose and poetry of the same events) – this woman invites the fleeing military leader into her tent and comforts him with milk and has him dozing off when she drives a tent peg through his skull – I'd call that cunning.

8.   Gideon – Judges 7:16-23 – you gotta love the psychological aspect of this battle scene – simply surround the enemy camp and make a whole bunch of noise – that's using your head when you're incredibly outnumbered.

9.   Naomi and Ruth – Ruth 3 – Naomi plans and plots with her daughter-in-law to get the attention of Boaz.

10.           Boaz – Ruth 4 – the way Boaz handles the possibility of any rival suitors is an incredible example of wisdom and cunning.

11.           David - 1st and 2nd Samuel – David gives us numerous examples of wisdom and cunning – from doing what needed to be done to obtain food and supplies for his men while on the run to pretending to be insane to avoid being taken prisoner to arguably political marriages.

12.           Nathan and Bathsheba – I Kings 1: 1-27 – This story is better than an episode of “House of Cards” - and in some ways it's reminiscent of the way Naomi and Ruth plotted together – while we've already talked about David, it's important to note how he resolves the situation with what amounts to a giant political rally – all of this comes together to make Solomon the next King of Israel.

13.           Esther – The book of Esther is a story packed with intrigue, examples of wisdom, cunning, and shrewdness.

14.           Jesus – throughout the Gospel accounts we see Jesus acting and speaking with shrewdness in how he handled questions and opposition from local authorities. We also see this in some of the relationships fostered throughout his adult life (namely Nicodemus – who plays a key role in getting Jesus' body following the crucifixion).

15.           Paul – in the second half of the Book of Acts we see Paul regularly acting with wisdom and cunning – specifically in Acts 22 when he's about to be beaten and casually mentions his Roman citizenship, then in Acts 23 when he's defending himself and brings up an intentionally divisive issue knowing those on the council would start arguing amongst themselves.

Again, these are just a few of the examples scriptures offer, but enough to say that perhaps the God of scripture really is looking for people who can cause things to happen with more subtlety, grace, and cunning than one might think based on some of the simplistic views of faith.

So what?

So, what is the practical application today?

When looking at influencing society, it could be argued that using wisdom and cunning can be much more effective than using loud, direct, and most times ineffective methods (boycotts, demonstrations, etc.). It could also be argued that those who understand these things know where real battles need to be fought and don't waste their time and energy on more trivial matters.

If we take scripture seriously and if we want to really be used by God in effective ways, it might behoove us to take seriously the instruction to be wise as serpents.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Day before election day 2012 - my 50+ predictions...

Today is Monday, November 5, 2012 - the day before Election Day - and I am going to make more than 50 bold predictions about tomorrow's races!

I know a lot of pundits are hedging their bets when it comes to making absolute predictions, but I am not some weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby wanna-be when it comes to calling political races.

That is why I'm going on the record right here and now to offer my predictions in more than 50 political races throughout the state of Delaware. You can screen capture this page now to show that I don't make any changes Tuesday night when the results come in - then compare my predictions with the results and you will see how accurate I am.

And while I am normally not a betting man, I'm willing to wager on any or all of these races - let me know how much money you want to put up!

OK, here's the predictions:

Senate District 1    Harris B. McDowell, III
Senate District 2    Margaret Rose Henry
Senate District 3    Robert I. Marshall
Senate District 7    Patricia M. Blevins
Senate District 9    Karen E. Peterson
Senate District 10  Bethany Hall-Long
Senate District 13  David B. McBride
Senate District 16  Colin Bonini
Senate District 17  Brian J. Bushweller
Senate District 18  Gary F. Simpson

Rep District 1   Charles Potter Jr.
Rep District 2    Stephanie T. Bolden
Rep District 3    Helene M. Keeley
Rep District 4    Gerald L. Brady
Rep District 5    Melanie George Smith
Rep District 9    Rebecca Walker
Rep District 12  Deborah D. Hudson
Rep District 13  John Mitchell
Rep District 14  Peter C. Schwartzkopf
Rep District 15  Valerie Longhurst
Rep District 16  James Johnson
Rep District 18  Michael Barbieri
Rep District 21  Michael Ramone
Rep District 24  Edward S. Osienski
Rep District 25  John A. Kowalko, Jr.
Rep District 26  John J. Viola
Rep District 27  Earl Jacques
Rep District 30  William R. Outten
Rep District 35  David L. Wilson
Rep District 36  Harvey R. Kenton
Rep District 39  Daniel B. Short

City of Wilmington Mayor  Dennis P. Williams
City Treasurer  Henry W. Supinski
President of City Council  Theopalis Gregory, Sr.
City Council District 1  Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha
City Council District 2  Ernest M. Congo II
City Council District 3  Darius Brown
City Council District 4  Hanifa Shabazz
City Council District 5  Samuel Prado
City Council District 6  Sherry Dorsey-Walker
City Council District 7  Robert A. Williams
City Council District 8  Charles M. Freel

New Castle County Clerk of the Peace  Kenneth W. Boulden Jr.

New Castle County Council District 7   George Smiley
New Castle County Council District 8   John J. Cartier
New Castle County Council District 10  Jea P. Street
New Castle County Council District 11  David L. Tackett
New Castle County Council District 12  William Bell

Kent County Clerk of the Peace    Loretta L. Wootten
Kent County Register of Wills   Harold K. Brode
Kent County Levy Court District 1   Brooks P. Banta
Kent County Levy Court District 3   Allan Angel

Sussex County Council District 1   Michael H. Vincent

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

some thoughts on street preachers...

So, there's another video making the rounds of street preachers doing their thing - and this led to some social media discussions about the practice and one of the biggest proponents of the practice, Ray Comfort. 

So, let me throw this out here: It was about four years ago (early 2008) when my church hosted a weekend conference that featured Ray Comfort. I did not attend the conference, but I was there Sunday morning when Mr. Comfort spoke. Below are a couple of e-mails I wrote at the time - the first one is to some members of my church who questioned why I did not attend the conference - the second is an e-mail I sent to Mr. Comfort's organization (and i'm including the response I got from them).

Here's excerpts from the first e-mail:

I had first heard about Mr. Comfort about a year ago and had checked out his web site and listened to his message, "Hell's Best Kept Secret." While I can certainly agree with the initial premise - that many churches are preaching a "feel good" message and many Christians don't focus on sharing their faith - I have a very hard time with the response Mr. Comfort proposes.  
With every e-mail I received from Living Waters and every time I would visit the web site I would look for something with which I could agree and support.  
What I have found is someone who picks on the easy targets - liberal Hollywood, godless evolutionists, etc. I found myself more and more uncomfortable with the tone and the tactics. Quite frankly, I disagree with his assessments of both groups and I am actively involved with discussions with representatives from both the film industry and the scientific/evolution fields in an effort to encourage real dialog and appreciation across the board. I believe there is much to be celebrated in the products coming out of the film industry and much to be learned from our friends in the fields of science - it is my hope that they will take a closer look at what real faith is rather than consistently turning to the tired stereotypes that are out there.  
I have to be perfectly honest, I believe that if every Christian were to adopt the Ray Comfort style of evangelism then the damage done to the cause of Christ would be tremendous. I believe that for every one person who may be converted to Christ through street preaching and confrontational evangelism that there are dozens, if not hundreds, who are turned off to the gospel message. I wholeheartedly detest the "what if this person were to die tomorrow" mindset which defies all logic. I am most uncomfortable with someone who treats their faith as a numbers game - implying that your worth as a Christian is based almost entirely on how many people you have "witnessed" to.  
I would argue that the cause of Christ is much better served by a body of believers who are doing what they are called to do, which starts with loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength - and is quickly followed by loving their neighbors as themselves.

and here's the e-mail I sent to Mr. Comfort:

Mr. Comfort,
   I am a member of Hockessin Baptist Church in Delaware and heard you speak at our 9:00 service on Jan. 27. I hope your visit to Delaware was enjoyable and you found our church welcoming.
   I agree with your premise that far too many churches are focused on a "gospel light" approach at best and, more often than not, some very unscriptural teaching about health, wealth, and prosperity. I agree that some of the most popular pastors on the national stage are little more than motivational speakers without much biblical depth.
   However (and you know if you're getting an e-mail like this, there's going to be a "However"), I am concerned about the impact of some of your responses to that problem. I would ask that you prayerfully consider the following.
   I fear that your teachings could lead to one or more of the following unintended consequences: 
  1. Christians believing that if they are not "witnessing" to everyone they meet then they are somehow falling short of their Christian duty (seriously, I know people who have felt this way)
  2. Christians believing that by passing out tracts they are completely fulfilling their Christian duty
  3. Christians seeing everyone as nothing but another potential convert (I think an appropriate comparison might be to that of a new life insurance salesman or Amway representative) - and I think most people know when their getting another rehearsed "pitch" as opposed to a real conversation
  4. Christians seriously limiting their view of God's creativity (God can only save this person if I give them this tract, deliver this speech, and walk them through the sinner's prayer)
  5. Christians developing an "us vs. them" mentality -- if the person doesn't respond in the correct way, we're ready to argue them over to our side 

   I believe the thing I found particularly difficult to comprehend was the story you told about a young man approaching you and stating he had doubts/questions about certain parts of scripture. You said your response was to first call the man a liar, then tell him he's insulting God with his doubts.
   The reason that caught my ear is that young man could have easily been me just a few years ago. That's when I started coming to Hockessin Baptist with a proverbial "boatload" of doubts and questions - I can safely say that if anyone had responded by telling me I was insulting God with my questions then I probably would have walked out and would not have returned.
   You see, Mr. Comfort, I also believe we serve a God who is OK with people's doubts and questions. Quite frankly, if you can read through the Bible and do not have questions, then I would seriously question your ability to reason. But I have found that by actually researching those questions, I have enjoyed a richer and fuller faith than I ever thought possible.
   So, what's my alternative? It's easy for me to criticize, you're probably thinking, but what do we do about a world that's going to Hell? Here's what I believe - I believe those who have chosen to follow Christ should immerse themselves in that relationship through prayer, bible-study, and fellowship - I believe that when those who are in Christ are living in that reality, then having the natural, real conversations with others flows effortlessly. 
   Again, I simply ask that you prayerfully consider this - I welcome any opportunity to discuss anything you would like - and I wish you and your ministry well.
   Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Ken Grant

and here's the response:

Thank you very much for your message. We appreciate your comments and encouraging words. Please keep in mind that because of the sheer volume of emails we receive at times and our limited staff, it may be very difficult for us to send you a personal response. However, please understand that we greatly value your feedback and will strive to serve you to the very best of our ability. If you are in need of counseling, please contact your local pastor.
If you were writing to check on an order you placed online, please call us at the number below, or email us at for the quickest possible response (be sure you include your name and order number).
Until the whole world hears,
The Staff at Living Waters/Way of the Master(800)437-1893 Monday thru Friday,  8am - 4pm PST.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jason Boyett - one of the best bloggers out there - but not for now...

So, a few years back I opened up one of the magazines to which I subscribe to find an article that I thoroughly enjoyed.

A google search later, and I find the writer, Jason Boyett, had a cool blog and some great books - like The Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse (I laughed so hard I didn't even realize I was learning!)

I e-mailed Jason to let him know how much I enjoyed his writing - he responded - and the next thing you know, we're exchanging ideas and information on a regular basis.

Jason is a truly talented writer (check out O Me of Little Faith), an exemplary blogger, and a thoughtful and intelligent person.

Here's a few random things I've learned from Jason:

1. It takes humility and skill to have a real discussion involving people from a wide variety of positions

On more than a few occasions, Jason's blogs have been places where deeply religious people have debated each other and atheists, agnostics, and people of various faiths have joined in the discussions. Jason seemed to always welcome good discussion and did everything he could to make all feel comfortable and treat them with respect.

2. It's OK to be wrong and it's important to acknowledge it

In September of 2010, Calvin College cancelled a scheduled performance by The New Pornographers - Jason wrote about it, criticizing the move - then he got more information and posted one of the most complete, comprehensive apologies I've ever read.

3. Humor helps in almost all situations

Whether it's expressed as a snarky observation or it's used to keep people interested in what could otherwise be a dry subject or to diffuse a potentially volatile subject - humor helps communicate in ways that straight prose might not - Jason's writing uses those humor tools extremely well.

There's a lot more, but you get the idea.

Earlier this year, Jason ended his blog on faith and doubt and focused on his blog about fatherhood.

This month, he's brought that blog to a close.

I am saddened by this.

I understand what he's doing (focusing on things that pay the bills and that more people will read), and I know I'll still get to enjoy the occasional article, book, TV interview, etc.  - but I'll miss the regular updates, the insightful observations, and the example of fine writing on a regular basis.

I hope Jason returns to blogging when the time is right for him and his family.

For now, I just want to offer a heartfelt "Thank You" on behalf of myself (and I assume your other readers) for inspiring, educating, entertaining, and encouraging. You've got a real gift and we appreciate you sharing it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jewelry on Video!

The Lovely Bride will have her jewelry available for viewing and/or purchasing this Saturday, April 23 - from 11:00 AM - 2:30 PM at Bella Vista in Pike Creek (Click Here for details and directions).

So, THIS is exciting - we shot our first jewelry video!

I told the three starlets I was going after the look and feel of "Antique Road Show" - I think they nailed it:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Five years after I had my son kidnapped...

My son is 18 years old today (Yes, I feel old).

So, it was five years ago that about 20 guys got together and kidnapped Justin, took him out to a barn about 20 miles away, and put him through a series of tests.

Yes, I helped organize the whole thing (although the end result was so much more than I could have envisioned thanks to the awesome offerings from all the others involved).

Yes, Justin had "asked" for this adventure (though he didn't know exactly what he had asked for at the time) - and he had control during the entire experience - and all went well (I hope to have the full story to post soon)

Five years later...

Justin has embarked on several adventures, he's shown initiative, demonstrated compassion,  and lived loyalty to friends and family - and yes, he's had a few "learning experiences" along the way.

Justin is quite the musician, an impressive performer with a quick mind and ability to work with a crowd.

Justin has spent a considerable amount of time volunteering for a variety of organizations in the area, he has a knack for helping people address real issues - one time he was at the Empowerment Center in Newark and made sure two men got the job applications and interviews they needed - I think he was 15 at the time.

This year, Justin has been spending his Wednesday evenings as a camera operator for a local television show and an exciting venture known as - cool stuff.

Let me say this - I am both proud and impressed with my son - who he is, how he thinks, and what he does.

Allow me to follow that with this - I am both proud and impressed with the incredible community of friends and family we have who continue to teach, support, encourage, correct, help, and grow with us. I cannot express how much I appreciate all of the men who were part of the kidnapping five years ago - and I cannot tell you how blown away I am by all who make a difference in Justin's life.

Happy Birthday to Justin - I can't wait to see more of your life's adventure!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Questioning God

I want to introduce you to Jon Boulet.

Jon is one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and insightful individuals I know - He's served numerous tours as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force throughout the Middle East - and he's one of the pastors at the church my family calls "home".

Jon is also a key person in making LOMA Coffee a reality.

So, starting this coming Wednesday evening at 7:00 - Jon is holding a series of conversations called "Questioning God" at LOMA Coffee - yes, there will be free coffee and dessert - but more importantly, I believe there will be thoughtful, intelligent, insightful discussion about that place where our thoughts about God and spirituality meet the reality of life.

Here's Jon to offer the invitation:

If you're up for some really good discussions - I hope you'll come to LOMA Coffee (3rd & Market Streets, Wilmington) any Wednesday evening at 7:00.