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ARE WE BAKING DOWN SIDE UP CAKES?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

22 SEPTEMBER 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Job 28:12-28
Isaiah 11:6-9
Matthew 6:10
James 2:19
        3:13-18

Preparation Verse: (Isaiah 11:6)

“And the wolf will dwell with the lamb.
And the leopard will lie down with the kid,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.”

In most peoples’ lives, there are times when they feel that everything has been turned upside down; times when they thought things were going so well, only to find that they have somehow gone wrong.

There could be situations in the world, or just in our community, or even in our own families, that we know are wrong; but we seem to be helpless to do anything about it.

But, it is during many of these times that we can turn things for the better – even better than they were before. The whole thing depends on our attitude.

You have probably heard the expression, "If you have been given a lemon, it might be best to consider making lemonade."

Any person who bakes knows that if you want to make a real sticky sweet fruit topped cake, you can't start by putting the fruit on the top; for during the baking process, the fruit will sink down and the dough won't rise very high.

So what do we do?

We do things the reverse of the way we want them to turn out.

We put the fruit in the baking pan first, and pour in the cake mixture, so that during the baking process the final down side is up, but afterwards the up side is down.

But when people look at what you have baked, they think that the up side is up, for the down side is down; for that’s the way you wanted the finished product to look.

And we can do the same thing with the situations in our lives that are upside down.

Job was one of those people in the Bible who made “lemonade out of lemons” and the best “down side up cakes” you have ever tasted.

God allows Job to be tested in his faith to almost the point of death; to the point that even Job desires his own death, or as he put it, that he never had been born.

But even though that is his desire, he never loses faith in the Lord.

Even when his friends accuse him of being responsible for the problems he has, he still gives the glory to God and holds fast to his faith.

Even when he becomes angry with God for allowing all this to happen to him, he still recognizes that the Lord is in control, and that he is at His mercy.

Job also recognizes that his understanding and wisdom is not equal to that of God.

God's recipe for the day is “upside-down cake.”

Let's listen in on Job's discourse on baking such a cake (28:12-28).

The fruit topping for this one is wisdom.

12. "But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?

This wisdom that Job mentions is from heaven, and is not made by man, as the pineapple is not made by us, but only grown by us.

But by properly using this pineapple, we can bake a very delicious upside-down cake.

Returning to Job and his discussion on wisdom, he says,

13. "Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.

– Or those who live in this lifetime.

14. "The deep says, 'It is not in me';
And the sea says, 'It is not with me.'

15. "Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it,
Nor can silver be weighed as its price.

16. "It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx, or sapphire.

17. "Gold or glass cannot equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold.

18. "Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned;
And the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls.

19. "The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.

Job recognizes that all things were made by the wisdom of God; thus, nothing of this world, no matter how valuable we consider it to be, or from what land it comes from, can purchase it; for these things don't even come close to equaling the value of God's wisdom.

Additionally, wisdom itself is invisible, unlike the gold, silver, and precious stones that can be seen.

Yet wisdom is more valuable.

Why?

Because the results of wisdom, which can be seen, are of more value.

Now remember that we are talking about Godly wisdom – a wisdom that is not known by the world.

Thus Job says:

20. "Where then does wisdom come from?
And where is the place of understanding?

21. "Thus it is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the sky.

22. "Abaddon and Death say,
'With our ears we have heard a report of it.'

And this is the reason that so many are heading for hell or are already there.

They have heard a report about true Godly wisdom.

They may even believe that it exists.

But if they haven't received it themselves, it will profit them nothing.

It is the same with our belief and faith in Jesus Christ.

The whole world has heard of Him, and perhaps most people believe that He existed; and a lesser number may even believe that He is alive today and is the Son of God.

But as James tells us in 2:19, even the demons believe this and shudder.

19. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

For like the wisdom of heaven, true faith in Jesus Christ has eluded them.

Just as we must come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way – not just knowing about Him, but knowing Him personally – so it is with wisdom.

Unless we are willing to conform our lives to the ways of God, and constantly seek to improve our walk with Him, His wisdom will not be in us.

We cannot find or acquire Godly wisdom by looking for it in this world.

We must look to the source of this wisdom, just as Job tells us:

23. "God understands its way;
And He knows its place.

24. "For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees everything under the heavens.

God created everything. He sees from the beginning to the end, and He sees the whole world in proper perspective. He knows the intent of our hearts and minds, unlike us who have very limited vision.

We may like to think that we are more than we really are, as does the rest of the world; but it is only when we die to our pride, and come to truly see ourselves as we really are, that we begin to approach wisdom.

It is only then we come to realize the extent of the wisdom of God, and what we ourselves lack, so that we can begin to acquire it.

25. "When He imparted weight to the wind,
And. meted out the waters by measure,

26. When He set a limit for the rain,
And a course for the thunderbolt,

27. Then he saw it and declared it;
He established it and also searched it out.

Do we really understand these things about God?

Have we really searched out His wisdom for ourselves?

If we have, it is fairly easy to tell if we have it within us, as the Lord Himself tells us:

28. "And to the man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
And to depart from evil is understanding.' "

When we weigh ourselves in this balance, we come a lot closer to realizing just how much wisdom we lack.

The harder we try to live by God's measure, and not by our own standards, the more of God's wisdom we acquire.

I believe most of you know that Mary and I are vegetarians, but not as many of you know why.

It's not because of anything in any Law, or that God said we cannot eat meat; for following the Flood, He gave us that concession.

It's not only that we don't eat meat or animal products of any kind, but that we do our best to avoid death and suffering of any kind, as well.

We even try to take insects outside instead of killing them, and to catch mice alive so that they too might live as full a life as God has given them.

And this compassion that we feel for these creatures is likewise extended to people.

It is our way of showing others that there is another way.

We are just showing you the “down side up cake” we have baked.

If we truly desire the ways of heaven to be here upon this earth, as we pray in the Lord's Prayer, then Mary and I believe that we must also do our best to live by those heavenly conditions.

Note what Isaiah tells us of these future heavenly conditions in 11:6-9.

6. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the kid,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.

7. Also the cow and the bear will graze;
Their young will lie down together;
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8. And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the vipers den.

9. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.

We truly believe that this is God’s will from the beginning, thus we truly try to live as we pray (Matthew 6:10), that:

Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

This is why we don't eat animal products, or kill, and are against war.

This is our way of trying to show others what we believe is God's intent, from eternity past to eternity future.

This is our way of showing that a wrong can still be made right.

This is our way of baking an upside-down cake.

But these things are the end result of the real problem: We, as a world society, don't truly love.

James, in 3:13-18, tells us another way of seeing and understanding about our love of God and others, and His wisdom:

13. Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

Doesn't this sound very much like the same attitude that Job and Isaiah spoke of?

The wisdom of understanding God's intent is always in the direction of a more loving and compassionate attitude toward all of our fellow creatures, human or otherwise.

Then James goes on to describe some of the things that the world considers wisdom:

14. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.

15. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.

16. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

Unfortunately, most people seem to think like this. They are only concerned about getting ahead, or acquiring what they don't have from someone who has it, and they don't care who suffers in their pursuit.

Thus we can very easily discern Godly wisdom from worldly wisdom.

The effect of Godly wisdom is as self-evident as worldly wisdom:

17. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

18. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

What is our own approach, and what is our attitude about the kind of wisdom shown by those we associate with?

Is it from God, or from Satan?

Most people really want Godly wisdom and the peace, love, and compassion it brings.

But they resort to worldly wisdom as a defense mechanism.

How much better to take the good things of God, that the world has turned upside down, and bake them with love until you can turn the down side up once again, as the Lord our God originally intended it to be.

Then we, too, will have the peace that we really want.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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