What To Do With Your Hands 2: What NOT To Do

There are many forms of divination out there. Pick your poison. From simple augury (really, a catch-all term), to necromancy (communication with the dead), to ornithomancy (divination by birds in flight), bibliomancy (kinda hard nowadays with e-readers), to tea-leaf reading, to palmistry, astrology… It’s quite literally endless.

A losing hand

Follow the suffix -mancy back and you’ll run up against a deep etymology. It’s essentially a suffix meaning “divination”. The prefix determines what type. My opinion is that it’s the same root for hand but I can’t prove it. While the word “emancipation” literally means “to release from the hands”–the “man” part referring to the hand–to draw the parallel between divination (anytypeof-mancy) and “something done with the hands” might be a bit of a stretch. At least from a professional linguistic standpoint. But for purposes such as these, it makes perfect sense. As an aside, the word “emancipate” in Ancient Roman legalese, literally meant “to free from paternal obligation and control”.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18, emphasis mine)

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 33:3) Come on! It can’t be that easy, can it? Actually, it is. It’s human’s who’ve made a mess of things and muddied the waters.

Every culture, the world over has, or had, its forms of divination. Something deep down compelled them to seek out answers to the unknown and largely unknowable by means other than, what? Scientific curiousity? Well, first of all, many people still practice these things to a greater or lesser degree. Secondly, there’s a measure of closure when one seeks an answer to an unknown issue through a medium (literally/figuratively) other than God. Or prime evidence. But we’re necessarily talking about the supernatural. And just because it feels right, doesn’t mean that we’ve received truth.

“And the Lord shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes:” (Deuteronomy 6:22)

While there’s no doubt that God uses signs, the way that God leads since the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is primarily through His Spirit. We didn’t just receive a portion of the infinite Holy Spirit to ignore and sideline. He’s here to lead us and guide us through all of our affairs, both the mundane and the supernatural. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (and daughters) of God.” (Romans 8:14)

Where can we go with this? Really nowhere unless we’re being led by the Holy Spirit.

I met a man one day with a jaunty porkpie hat. A musician, we talked for a minute or two. And when I mentioned that a dream of mine was to someday play electric bass, he asked to see my hand. I extended my right hand and he took it in his then proceeded to tell me about myself. I thought he was going to tell me that I had good hands for that sort of thing, develop callouses and all that. How naive! I wasn’t expecting him to read my palm. The things he said, while ambiguous and vague, did touch on seemingly innocuous things that were part of my life (as I’m sure are part of everyone’s). And everytime for a time after, that I thought about the things he touched on, I felt trapped by the things he said. One thing I will say though, there seemed to be an inner detachment to his character and personality that set him apart from other people. A…hands-off approach?

“The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands.” (Psalm 76:5, emphasis mine) I imagine a bunch of ancient soldiers, sans hands, wandering around the battlefield, groggy with sleep, searching for a large wicker basket of severed (not bloody, cartoony) hands that sits, hidden behind some large rock. The verse really refers to those who are proud and have forgotten what their hands are to be used for. Tsk. Tsk. I waggle my finger.

Hands off!

I wholeheartedly disagree with divination—anyone seeking a sign from some source using a set of esoteric rules that must be performed just right. The Bible condemns it too: “There shall not be found among you any one that…useth divination” (Deuteronomy 18:10) One thing I’m inclined to wonder about is, who set up the rules by which any kind of divination is supposed to work? The short answer, in my opinion, is that it’s our faith, misapplied. We bring to pass thoughts and notions from sources other than God, and then we’re off and running in a direction opposite God’s will for our life. It’s almost like a higher form of superstition–with an added evil component. Is superstition just a higher form of OCD? Food for thought…

Superstition is a crazy thing. The very rules and regulations that hold mystery and meaning for one, are totally dismissed and passed over in favor of one’s own common sense and insight, by another. Here’s the thing though. Both, bereft of God’s leading, will take you by the hand and ultimately lead you astray.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, emphasis mine)

“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:13)

Walking In the Spirit (Proverbs 3:5-6 part 4)

“…and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6b)

And we’re off!

Psalms (37:23) says that “the steps of a good man (or woman) are ordered by the Lord”

I used to wonder (worry) about this. Knowing that God was real and wanting to walk in His plan for my life, I fretted over the minutiae of my life, because I knew that “he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” and vice-versa (Luke 16:10). But divorced from love and grace—the two things that God uses to enable us to live as Jesus did—life can be a drag. Boring and dry and loveless. We think that, in order to get God to give us stuff (material or immaterial), there needs to be a transaction (an economic arrangement, as it were). Tit for tat. I do this, You do that. This thinking, because of what Jesus already did and does for us (life, death, resurrection, intercession), is now obsolete. But this doesn’t mean that the Old Testament is outmoded. Jesus came and “fulfilled” the law (Matthew 5:17-18). Everything is now in Him. Going back to the verse from Psalm 37, the definition for “good”-ness is now defined as commitment to a person: Jesus . And not just a set of beliefs or ideals. As in actively knowing Him in the here and now.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

As Christians, our walk, “our conversation” (Philippians 3:20), is still defined by the principles laid out by Solomon in Proverbs 3:5-6—as followed in love. The difference is that we now have the indwelling Holy Spirit who performs the promise of Proverbs 3:6: “He shall direct thy paths”. This promise, of being “led of His Spirit” (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16-18), silences any worry and wonder (the negative kind) and frees us to live in the liberty, grace and love that Jesus paid for with His life.

Looking back, I guess it does cost something after all: our attention. Our inward sight and adoration fixed on God. There is a sacrifice but it’s so worth it.

As we live out Proverbs 3:5-6, in the long run, we fulfill God’s call for our life—all while our attention’s on Him. One moment, one acknowledgement at a time.

In closing, a story.

My dad accepted the Lord in the Winter of 1968. He was home from college on Christmas break–miserable. One of the last things that happened in his dorm prior to leaving for home was a conversation with a couple guys about Jesus. The only reason, he says, that he even deigned talk to them was because he didn’t feel like working on an overdue biology assignment. The door to his dorm was open and while there was still work to be done, he couldn’t help but hear in the halls the carousing and commotion brought about by the impending vacation. He heard a knock on the open door and let in the two men (they had purposed only to speak to those whose doors were open) and talked with them for a few minutes. They even used his Bible (from his Methodist ubringing, which he had on a bookshelf but never read) to point out truths regarding God and Jesus. He thanked them and they left him with a pamphlet and a phone number. At home (he lived in Virginia), he wrestled with the issues that were presented to him a few days before. After a brief chat with a next-door neighbor (who happened to be a pastor) that still didn’t silence the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he made his way back to his old room on the second floor of his house. The Bible from which the men introduced the promise of something new lay at the foot of his bed. He knelt down by the side of the bed and prayed the prayer of salvation as found at the end of the pamphlet. He made it halfway and then made a mistake in the recitation. So he started over—and again failed to get it right. The third time he prayed to God, thinking that he had to say things just so, God answered him with a flood of peace and the knowledge that he’d been born again. After he got up off his knees, with newfound confidence (and also something as-yet undefinable), he asked quite the pointed question of His (now, new) Heavenly Father. “You got anything in this book I can use?” He walked around to the end of his bed, picked up the Bible and opened it up to the book of Proverbs, third chapter. He put his finger, very inconspicuously, on verses five and six.

And the rest is history.

Ways and Means (Proverbs 3:5-6 part 3)

Moving forward (by the way, forward progress is only achieved by following God, without Him we wander… see Psalm 119:10), the way that the first two commands are…”achieved”, is by following the third: “In all Thy ways, acknowledge Him…” (Proverbs 3:6a)

Wait. How many ways? It says all of them. The idea, or ideal, is echoed in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (10:5): “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Also in his first letter to the early Christians in Thessalonica, he says to “rejoice evermore”, to “pray without ceasing” and “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 respectively). All of these actions—sharing your thoughts, rejoicing, praising, thanking—are directed upward, to God. And the first part of the sixth verse of the third proverb encapsulates it perfectly when it says to “acknowledge Him” in all our ways.

Asaph the psalmist makes an interesting point in Psalm 50. He closes it out by writing from God’s perspective. The last verse (23) says “whoso offereth praise, glorifieth me”. I see this to mean that, in God’s “liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17), and with the freedom of choice that He gives us, He will accept any means of fellowship and interaction that we, in love, want to show to Him. In other words, as long as we are staying connected to God by any of these inward activities—praise, prayer, worship, gratitude, thanksgiving, or even just talking to Him—then we are walking as Jesus walked toward the Father.

“for I do always those things that please Him.” (John 8:29b)

When Jesus died and rose again, He made it possible for us to be reconnected back to God the Father. Sure, the umbilical may have been cut upon (our physical) birth, but with the Lord, we are ever connected to Him in the Spirit when we believe and receive Jesus. It’s something that you can always look back on and sense and trust. The ideal though, is to actively realize the connection in the here and now.

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

Now we’re ready to go!

Whose Understanding? (Proverbs 3:5-6 pt. 2)

The second part of Proverbs 3:5 says:

“and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

The New King James version calls it “insight”.

I suppose the way to follow this second part of the passage (Proverbs 3:5-6) is to follow the first, first. Another word for “lean” is “trust”. And if we’re trusting in God (with all of our heart/life), then we’ll inevitably run up against a clash where the Christ-like response that we know we should have, either from having read the Bible, or having received an intimation of His character directly, seems to contradict the situation at hand and the “correct” response it calls for.

“Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)

I’ll give you an example: say you have a friend who is clueless to something that you see, and in your opinion “everyone sees”. First of all, God sees everything. And if you really are seeing one layer deeper about a subject, then it’s God who has allowed you to see it in the first place (this is His insight). But put this into practicality. You, in and of yourself, are unable to open their eyes—to remove the scales, as it were—on your own. This would be an example of your own insight clashing with God’s. When I think that I can, just by informing my friend of this deficiency in his outlook, open his eyes and make him see what I think he needs to see, I’m relying on my own insight. And if I continue on, I could block the hand of the Lord from revealing to my friend what he needs to see and I could even end up hindering the Lord from healing the breach in his heart that caused the blindness in the first place. The danger in revealing things to people that they themselves are blind to is that they could end up trusting you and not turning to God for themselves. The correct response in any situation and especially those involving people—friends, family—is to trust God and not rely on your own insight. Hold them up in prayer. “Bear the burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

Love builds up, it “edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Forgiveness and compassion are aspects of love that, when lived out towards God, ourselves and others, circumnavigate the harsh, ineffective and ultimately detrimental insight that (I believe) Solomon is referring to in this verse. The same idea is expressed by Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians (8:2) when he says “and if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” He continues in the next verse: “but if any man love God, the same (that person who loves God) is known of Him.” and again, same book (10:12), “let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall”.

One of the best ways to see our own insight in action is to observe people, faults and all (knowing we ourselves are the same—again, Galatians 6:1), and consciously make a decision to see past our old, own insight and see them as God does. Forgive them. Love them. Believe the best of them. “Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person.” (1 Corinthians 13:7 AMP)

God bless you!

The Center of Gravity (Proverbs 3:5-6 part 1)

Our world revolves around Jesus. He’s the one that we’re living towards—the one “with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 5:14)—and He’s really the only one who cares about the minutest detail of our life. Moreso than do we.

How does this look when lived out? Surely you’ve heard of the way the sunflower lives? They track the sun with their heads, following its course as it crosses the sky. Consequently, they hang their heads at night. This is cool, sure. But I’m a human being. A living spirit in a body with thoughts, perceptions and impulses. And each one is a gift to experience. Any one of these, when not brought into subjection—dealt with God’s way—will lead me astray. That might sound blunt but it’s true. A little more complex than a sunflower.

Isn’t it strange that when you look at the stars in the night sky, there are galaxies that seem brighter in your peripheral vision than when you look at them directly? Whole galaxies vying for your attention. Don’t let yourself get distracted. Keep your face to the sun.

One of my favorite passages—a hand-me-down from my dad—is the fifth and sixth verse of the third Proverb. Let’s look at the first part of verse 5 today:

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.”

What is trust? Who is God? What is my heart and how do I bring it in its entirety to God? The answer: one moment, one thought at a time.

Relax. Each moment we live is a gift from God. If you need to slow down to realize this, by all means do so. God’s not going anywhere (at least nowhere that He’s not taking you), so ask Him to help you slow down and realize this. Any instance of interaction with God creates trust. You talk to God—and you trust that He’ll respond. You pray—and trust that He’ll answer. This is mountain shattering, world changing faith—lived out moment by moment, ladies and gentlemen. The more we do this from a motive of love and gratitude, the more of our heart (read: life) will be brought to trust God.