The suave well-dressed lawyer approached the shabby older defendant very confident that with one question he would wrap up the domestic abuse case. “Sir,” he said, “Are you still beating your wife? Answer yes or no.” The defendant looked the lawyer straight in eyes and said, “I have a yes or no question for you first. Are you still telling those blatant lies? Yes or no!” The judge would probably ask the jury to disregard both of the questions, but for a brief moment surely a feeling of poetic justice must have caused several smiles and maybe even chuckles.
Jesus was certainly attacked consistently by the lawyers, scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees with unfair and hateful questions in an attempt to trap Him with His own words. “Tell us then, is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” “Who is my neighbor?” “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” “Asking if He would show a sign from heaven.” “Moses commanded us to stone the woman caught in adultery, what do you say?” Jesus often answered such questions with a parable, and at other times He would turn the question back on them. “…give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mt 22:21k) “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jo 8:7) Jesus once used a question similar to the defendant above. “John’s baptism, —where did it come from? Was it from heaven or from men?” (Mt 21:25) The cowardly chief priests and elders refused to answer, knowing they had been wrong. (Mt 21:24)
Since Jesus is the co-creator of all things, (Col 1:15-17) He knew their evil intentions before they said a word. Unfortunately, it was not only the Jewish leaders who asked foolish and deceptive questions. His own Apostles asked Him, “…Who is greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” (*Mt 18:1K) After Peter had been told to feed the Lord’s sheep, he turned to John and asked, “Lord what about him?” (Jo 21:2)
The rich people in the Lord’s church sometimes discriminated against the poor workers (Jas 5:1-6) (1 Cor 11:17-22). They were probably asking, “Don’t I have the right to spend my own money the way I want?” Of course there are many, many other foolish and deceptive questions in the Bible
(Gen 4:9). They are often used to deflect or hide one’s real intentions. Jesus allows us to ask Him questions if our motives are pure, even ones with why in them.
A few years ago TRIVIAL PURSUIT was one of the most popular board games around. The winner had to be able to answer questions about geography, history, politics and many other topics. Trivial means insignificant or of little value and this pursuit still exists today in several areas of our society. In the secular arena, pursuits can be short-range or long-range goals, worthwhile or selfish. When one has goals of marriage, graduation, weight loss and career advancement, these are attainable with enough effort and perseverance. However, if folks are striving for vague and selfish objectives such as; wealth, strength, control, sex, beauty and fame, they will probably find frustration. The objectives one pursues on this earth are a moving target and subject to the whims of time and circumstances. Nearly everyone pursues affirmation, security, and respect, but even then they can often become an addiction and can escape one’s grasp unless they are considered a life-long quest with occasional joys and victories.
The Bible has many verses that mention things Christians should seek and pursue. “…Seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps 34:14) “…The Lord …loves those who pursue righteousness.” (Pr 15:9) “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Tim 6:11) These goals have great rewards in the short-term and in the long-term. “…Fight the good fight of the faith… Take hold of the eternal life.” (1 Tim 6:13) “He who pursues righteousness and love, finds life, prosperity and honor.” (Pr 21:21)
All Christians should understand that the pursuit itself can be joyful. Even the Apostle Paul realized that the crown of life that awaits is worth pressing on and forgetting what is behind (Php 3: 12-14). Some of the Apostles spoke of this crown and the faith and perseverance necessary to obtain it. It is called the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Pe 5:4). Paul calls it the everlasting crown of righteousness (1 Cor 9:5) (2 Tim 4:8). The crown will be for those that love God and persevere under trial (Jas 1:12). John adds that it may even lead to the point of death (Rev 2:10). Pursuing the material things which are seen may be trivial, but pursuing the unseen things is eternal (2 Cor 4:18).
Beyond is a word we don’t use much anymore, but it can be used in a variety of ways. I once spent a summer in a Mexican town called San Miguel de Allende. It was named after a man, but Allende could also mean on the other side or beyond. Another common usage is, surpassing or superior. Sometimes it will be used to mean outside the limits or reach of. We are familiar with the idioms the Great Beyond and beyond all hope.
Most of the Old Testament verses which use beyond are referring to a place which is on the farther side of (De 3:25). In one verse Jonathan told David to escape the danger of King Saul if the arrows he was shooting went beyond him (1 Sam 20:22). In another verse Balaam declared to Balak, King of Moab “…I could not do anything, good or bad to go beyond the command of the Lord….” (Nu 24:13) That was a wise promise and one echoed by other prophets but ignored by many other Bible personalities (Gen 3:2-7) (Gen 4:6-8).
Some verses in the New Testament talk about being amazed and astonished beyond measure (Mk 6: 51 KJV) (Mk 7:37 KJV). The Apostle Paul confesses that he persecuted the church of God beyond measure. He also said that he was not stretching himself beyond his measure, which some versions translate, overstepping the ability to reach (2 Cor 10:14 KJV).
Perhaps the most well-known and relevant scripture for us today is 2 Corinthians 8:3 KJV. Paul uses the Macedonians as an example of going beyond their power in their giving a gift of love, even out of their own deep poverty. This certainly fulfilled the commandment of Christ to “…love your neighbor as yourself (Lk 10:27). He set the bar very high for all Christians today. Most of us have a sliding scale of agape love—My blood relatives first, My brethren in the local congregation next, followed by my brethren in the rest of the world, then my friends and neighbors, and possibly my enemies (Lk 6:27). This involves going beyond in amount, extent, and degree. To surpass, and transcend the normal expectations, as did the Macedonians. This will be the norm in the Great Beyond, but is a goal of all committed Christians in this age.
Humans are made of dust (earth or clay) (Gen 2:7) (Gen 3:19) (Ecc 3:20). It seems clear that the Godhead wanted a container which would hold the spirit, (breath of life) soul (Gen 2:7) and image of God (Gen 1:26). Humans also were, “…made a little lower than the angels; and crowned with glory and honor…” (Heb 2:7). God then “…made His light to shine in our hearts…” (2 Cor 4:6). But to keep us humble, He put all these treasures in jars of clay (v7).
Most types of dust are considered a nuisance to be vacuumed up or washed away. During the Dust Bowl in the Western States of the U. S. A., it was a choking plague. My mother’s generation had to turn their plates over until just before eating. It is amazing that God does not consider His “dust” a nuisance because of all their rebellion and apathy. Instead He loves us (Jo 3:16) and has shown great patience towards us (2 Pe 3:9).
Jars of clay can be fragile, break and return to dust, even though they once were useful vessels. Even though most were of little value and plain looking, at times their owners would hide treasures in them. Very similar are humans who are frail and destined to return to dust (Ecc 3:20) yet have a soul that will last forever (Mt 10: 28) (Rev 21:3-4) (Rev 22:3-5). One day we will graduate from dust to an imperishable body (1 Cor 15:42-44).
It was a special gift from God that He gave us “jars of clay” so we could move about and enjoy His wonderful creation. He could have created mankind as fixed-location beings who would never run, swim or climb. However, even the most sturdy jars are sure to crumble in time. Those who are wise will use these present “jars” to the glory of God (1 Cor 6:20).
There are many types of codes
using letters and symbols to hide a secret message. Cryptograms and cryptoquizzes are a couple of
fun challenges for word sleuths. The
goal is to break the code and reveal the hidden message or famous quote. To solve the puzzle one has to have an
understanding of the nuances of one’s own language. (Imagine the frustration of trying to go from
Chinese to Arabic without first learning the alphabet of one of them.) The next step is to find a key letter that
seems to be consistent throughout the entire puzzle, then build on that
assumption. A false assumption can
totally derail the effort. Trial and error
and a good eraser are usually needed.
Some puzzles are so difficult that one must look for clues on the answer
For the serious seeker of the
meaning of life, the Bible sometimes seems to be written in code. Most people already have a basic knowledge of
God because it can be clearly seen by what one can observe in creation (Rom
1:19-20). The beginning key words are;
God is (Gen 1:1) and I Am (Jo 8:58).
This should soon lead to Jesus (Lk 1:31) and the Holy Spirit (Jo
14:15-17). The seeker may get
sidetracked by assuming he must understand the WHY question like Job and his
friends did (Job 1-37). God simply
points out the false assumptions (Job 38-41) and has them redirect to the key
If the student is diligent he
will continue the search even after many restarts and hints (2 Tim
3:15-17). If he does not give up, he
will solve the code and discover the message; God is love (1 Jo 4:8) and Jesus
saves (Mt 1:21) (Jo 3:17). As with the
secular code, once one solves one Biblical code there will be a desire to work
on others along one’s spiritual journey.
These will lead one to several areas of service and sanctification.