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Looking for Wisdom in All the Wrong Places (published in The Tribune 2/4/12)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:17 PM by Fccea Webmaster
British statesman, W. E. Gladstone, served multiple terms as prime minister of England between 1868 and 1894. He once addressed college students, reflecting the optimistic British outlook of the glory days of the British Empire.

However, one student challenged him, "Sir, are we to understand that you have no anxieties for the future? Gladstone thought for a moment and then replied, "There is one thing that frightens me. I fear that the fear of God seems to be dying out in the minds of men." Clearly his fear was justified.

The Bible says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9:10). But our culture has pretty much discarded such thinking. Wisdom, after all, is to be found in institutions of higher learning, in the never-ending quest for certainty via experimentation in accordance with scientific methodology. God, if He even exists, has clearly turned us loose to find our own way. To imagine that he is not willing to turn a blind eye to whatever slight foibles we may have is to live in the Dark Ages.

But suppose for just a moment that there is a world of unseen realities that cannot be tapped by our five senses. Many physicists now posit based on string theory equations that there may be ten dimensions or more of reality, far exceeding those of our material space/time continuum. So, let us suppose that God does exist and that He is indeed the one who authored the words of Hebrews 9:27, ". . . it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." Then what?

Then, I think we could agree that someone who knew everything there is to know about the material universe -- every chemical compound, every physics equation, every mathematical formula, everything material -- but who denied any reality beyond his discernment would not be very wise after all, would we not?

And if the God who is perfect in holiness and who created both the seen and the unseen were actually going to hold him morally accountable, then clearly the fear of the Lord would be the beginning of wisdom. Other knowledge would pale by comparison.

In a previous life as an executive at Motorola, I was once hosted by the Chief of Police in Macau, a small Portuguese protectorate off the mainland of China not far from Hong Kong. Gambling was a major industry in Macau, so the Chief was anxious to show us the operation of the largest casino in Macau. The visit was fascinating.

But what struck me most was the reaction to our entrance. The establishment was abuzz with the noise and activity one would expect in such a place. Yet the moment this slightly built, unimposing man entered the building, the buzz subsided to a whisper. Instantaneously a "Red Sea" of bodies parted to create a path across the main floor. Nervous faces watched our every move. He merely pointed to someone who was immediately taken into custody. Fear of the Chief was evident in every corner of the room.

As I reflect on that experience I wonder why we find it so easy to fear a mortal man, but so difficult to fear the God who made both and holds eternity in His hands. Jesus himself warned that we should not fear the one who can merely destroy the body, but rather the One who can destroy both body and soul (Matt 10:28).

Doesn't God deserve at least a real, open-minded look? Would one be foolish to fear the One to whom we are accountable, but who is also the most loving Being in the Universe, waiting only for a sign from us acknowledging that we need and want Him to create a permanent relationship?

Might that not indeed be the beginning of wisdom?

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton/Ault
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