How great Thou art

Chapter 30

Good Monday Morning to this new week 30 of 2021

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1.20

This morning I read that in the last night a record amount of Lightning flashes (bolts) came down over the area of Switzerland, the amount of 25’000 bolted down.

The meteorological light shows that what we experience here on earth are one of God’s own ideas, and His Word mentions the phenomenon quite often – in historical accounts, in poetry, and as descriptive comparisons where no other thing was appropriate.

In fact, the Bible says that once man has seen the magnificence, the intricacies, and the beauties of what has been created, we then have no excuse for not knowing about God.

When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt. Moses

On the morning of the third day, there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Moses

See how he scatters his lightning about him, bathing the depths of the sea. Job

Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Job

Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’? Job

He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Psalms

When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Jeremiah

I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal Ezekiel

Then the Lord will appear over them; his arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet; he will march in the storms of the south. Zechariah

The Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. Luke

Seeing in the time of the scriptures, they trembled at the flashes of lighting and read much meaning into the dangerous light show in the heavens, over the day and night sky.
A few meanings … it was indicating the power of God, the power of God is shown in His command of the forces of nature, and He is the only one who knows the secrets of nature.

David sings figuratively and poetically of Yahweh: He sent …. lightning manifold, and discomfited them. He also used it to describe the speed and velocity of God: The chariots …. run like the lightning, His arrow shall go forth as the lightning. The living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. Luke described the coming of the kingdom as described by Jesus as the shining of the lightning from one part of heaven to another, even “from the east unto the west”. Daniel used the meaning of lightning with the use of the adverbs bright and shining. In his vision he saw a man and his face was as the appearance of lightning.

We look to God as we experience these many storms, floods and troubling times.

Wishing you His protection and care and great awareness as the lyrics of the hymn remind us. How Great Thou Art, by Carrie Unterwood and Swedisch poem written by Carl Boberg.

Oh Lord, my God
When I, in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
(with 9 more verses)

The inspiration for the poem came when Boberg was walking home from church near Kronobäck, Sweden, and listening to church bells.

Carl Boberg and some friends were returning home to Mönsterås from Kronobäck, where they had participated in an afternoon service. Presently a thundercloud appeared on the horizon, and soon lightning flashed across the sky. Strong winds swept over the meadows and billowing fields of grain. The thunder pealed in loud claps. Then rain came in cool fresh showers. In a little while the storm was over, and a rainbow appeared. When Boberg arrived home, he opened the window and saw the bay of Mönsterås like a mirror before him… From the woods on the other side of the bay, he heard the song of a thrush… the church bells were tolling in the quiet evening. It was this series of sights, sounds, and experiences that inspired the writing of the song.

Philemon

Solo gratia

Chapter 29

Good Monday Morning to this new week

A powerful and short quote with yet another awesome aspect to the topic of grace.

Grace is not something God creates to give you when needed. Grace is the very presence of God Himself. To ask to be granted grace, is to ask for Him who is grace itself to infuse you with a greater capacity to contain Him. M. Chironna

Wishing a week filled with His presence!

Philemon

Opportune

Chapter 28

Good Monday Morning to this new week.

If the snake bites before the charming, the snake charmer will not succeed. Eccl. 10:11

The last proverb of this little series shows the necessity of seizing the right opportunity. Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment. If one handles a serpent without due precaution or without knowing the secret of charming it, one will suffer for it. The taming and charming of poisonous snakes is still, as heretofore, practiced in Egypt and the East. What the secret of this power is has not been accurately determined; whether it belongs especially to persons of a certain idiosyncrasy, whether it is connected with certain words or intonations of the voice or musical sounds, we do not know. If a man is bitten before he has time to use his charm, it is no profit to him that he has the secret, it is too late to employ it when the mischief is done. The maxim enforces the warning against being too late; the greatest skill is useless unless applied at the right moment.

The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter. Paulo Coelho

Wishing you the right moment to use your skills this week!

blessings

Philemon

Deliverance

Chapter 27

Good Monday Morning to this week 27 of 2021

There on the mountains are the feet of a messenger who announces the good news: “All is well!” Celebrate your festivals, Judah! Keep your vows! This wickedness will never pass your way again. It will be completely removed. Nahum 1.15

When will this peace of Nahum come?

Nahum predicts a future time of peace, stating, “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! . . . No more will the wicked invade Judah.

To discover when this time of peace will occur, we must consider the larger context of Nahum. The book of Nahum was written to communicate the pending destruction of the city of Nineveh. Nahum then looks back and declares that the destruction of Nineveh by the Babylonians would be “good news”. Why?

Nineveh with the Assyrians was an enemy of Judah. We know from history that this destruction of Nineveh took place in 612 B.C. at the hands of the Medes causing that to that time, Judah was rid of one of its most dangerous enemies. The report of this news would have been considered the “good news” to everyone. This made Judah able to fulfil their vows to God at the temple in Jerusalem.

Peace in Hebrew is sometimes used in reference to deliverance or freedom from enemy attack. Paul in the New Testament also writes, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” He used this verse to connect the good news with the deliverance providing with by God’s salvation.

God is just, He is committed to justice and will not allow any arrogant, violent or evil nation to endure forever. However, while He defeats evil, He is also good and cares for the innocent. He will provide a refuge on the day of distress for anyone who humbles himself before God, believes in God’s justice and trusts that in His time He will bring down oppressors in every time and place.

Nahum is a powerful appearance of God’s glory. God the all-powerful creator is at work in history at every age and He won’t allow violent empires to stand forever, very similar to the message of Daniel. God’s judgement on evil is good news the central theme along with the beginning of Nahum with the reference to Moses. The Lord is slow to anger but great in power!

Let’s take this prophecy for our time and week!

Wishing peace and deliverance!

Philemon

Open Spaces

Chapter 26 

Good Monday Morning to this week 26 of 2021 


Last week we farewelled a few people out of our staff. In writing the cards for them I came across this passage in Genesis 26.22. The three leaving invested over ten years in our church and “dug many wells”. Now in their leaving my wish for them is that they get to the well called Rehoboth – “open spaces”! 

He moved from there and dug another, and they did not quarrel over it. He named it Open Spaces and said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land. Genesis 26.22

Having moved some distance away from the main population of Gerar, supposed to in Wady er-Ruheibeht about 20 miles south of Beersheba.  Isaac’s men have dug two wells so far. In both cases, they were challenged by the local herdsmen over the rights to the water. Isaac named both wells to represent the disputes that came from them. The first was called Esek, the second Sitnah, meaning “contention” and “quarrel,” respectively. This choice seems to reflect a passive attitude on the part of Isaac since he’s clearly powerful enough to keep those wells by force if he so chose.

The third well, however, brings no dispute from the locals. Perhaps they gave up challenging Isaac once they realized he would just keep digging wells. Or, perhaps Isaac’s family has moved far enough away that it’s just not worth a challenge from the locals anymore, we don’t know, but Isaac appears to be satisfied. He names this well Rehoboth, which means “broad places” or “room,” “open space”  and he gives credit to the Lord for providing it.
Specifically, Isaac notices that the Lord has made room for his enormous estate to settle in the region. Nothing would now stand in the way of the fruitful growth of all of his possessions.

This my wish for you all this week, that as you dig new wells, you can say, the Lord has made room – new open spaces – a place to be fruitful in the land you cultivate!

Philemon 

Sojourners

Chapter 25

Good Monday Morning to this week 25 of 2021

Middle Eastern cultures are famous for their hospitality. For example, Abraham invited the angelic visitors into his tent and provided a lavish meal for them.  Even so, strangers among the different tribal groups were looked at with suspicion, often conned or taken advantage of, and not treated well, especially if they were poor. God’s instructions were countercultural. Jesus follows the Old Testament pattern and takes it a step further by saying that how we treat strangers indicates whether we are his followers. We are to invite the stranger in if we are his disciples.

Maskoun was a privileged but average young man in Syria before the war broke out. His father owned an international jewellery business in Aleppo and his mother was a professor of Arabic. He’d already completed his engineering degree and his siblings seemed ready to follow in his footsteps. “I had everything that I needed,” Maskoun says in fluent English. “I had my education, I did my engineering, I had my car, my friends, the little house I thought I’d get married in one day.”

Then, suddenly, he didn’t. It was a clear choice: flee or be killed.

The Maskouns fled Syria and made their way across borders and nations, mercifully safe and eventually together to the outskirts of Paris. By being granted asylum in France, Maskoun had a chance to start a new life. But at first, it was hard to feel anything but lost, and lonely.“The refugee is a broken person when he arrives in a new country,” Maskoun says.

The foreigners residing among you must be treated as native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.—Leviticus 19:34

You won’t find the term “refugee” in the Bible but it has plenty to say about people called “strangers” and “sojourners” or “foreigners” referring to people who were from other ethnic groups and had chosen to live with the Jews in Israel.

For instance, Ruth the widow from the tribe of Moab who chooses to accompany her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Israel and live there with her. We see her ask Boaz, in whose field she is gleaning, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me — a foreigner?” She understands her status as being outside the tribe of Israel.

Right after Maskoun arrived in France he did receive much, but quite soon after he started to give. He made friends and invited them to his home to eat Syrian food. When he was recruited for an internship and later an enviable job as a project engineer, he always looked for ways to extend opportunities to former classmates. He paid his taxes, and got involved in political life. He taught math and physics to refugee kids for free.

“They call me refugee, but I consider myself a guest,” Maskoun says. “I start my lectures in French so they think I’m a French person,” he says. “Then I switch to Arabic, tell them my story, tell them I was in their place, didn’t speak French, got two masters, learned the language and inspire them. I quote Maskoun: “The main thing we try to work on is to empower refugees, and make them believe in themselves and that they can do it again, “They are here, they are alive. With some effort, they can do it again. We tell them their first responsibility is to the country that took them in. The second is to their own country, to gain skills to take back.”

Refugees, strangers, foreigners, sojourners should be viewed as people, not a crisis. With an effort on everyone’s part, they can be a value added to society. Maskoun feels at home now as he walks through the streets he feels that France is his country. But he has not forgotten Syria. And although he is as much a part of French society as the next monsieur, he reminds himself that he is still a guest. Because someday, he hopes, he will return to his homeland.

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.—Hebrews 13:1-2

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household. Ephesians 2.19

This verse lays out how we are also the “foreigners” and “strangers” a used metaphor for our condition before our new found faith. Now because of His grace we are now part of God’s community — strangers who have been welcomed in.

Praying for displaced persons, refugees, migrants, immigrants, asylum seekers, stateless persons and many more fitting one of these many categories.

Wishing a good start to this new week.
Philemon

That divine Darkness

Chapter 24

Good Monday Morning to this week 24 of 2021

God is his attributes in infinite measure. He is maximally alive; he could not be more alive than he is eternally. The church fathers liked to make this point by calling God pure act (actus purus). He cannot be more perfectly in act than he is, otherwise, he would be less than perfect, finite and in need of improvement.

Isaiah famously foretold prophecy was the Savior’s birth, the birth of Immanuel, and the works of Jehovah through him, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives. The book is full of symbolism and poetry making much of his teaching veiled, yet understandable with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah was the last of the major prophets to teach all of the twelve Israelite tribes before they were scattered to the north and east.

Hebrew poetry plays with repetition as an artistic device. Everywhere in the Psalms and prophets you can find two to four to six lines of “rhymed meaning”. Starting with two:

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth (Isaiah 1:1) 

Often more than a simple repetition. The mention of ear is more concrete than the first to hear.

The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib (Isaiah 1:3)

From a silhouette of a farmer to a definite picture of a donkey and crib.

They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 1:4)

To “despise” is not a more definite picture than “forsake,” but it says something more intense.

In the poetry it goes from a pair of successive lines to a succession of four lines that have alternate rhymes.

For you shall be ashamed of the oaks in which you delighted:

and you shall blush for the gardens which you have chosen.

For your shall be like an oak whose leaf withers,

and like a garden without water. (1; 29-30)

The first two lines with its oaks and gardens parallels are followed by the second with its oaks and gardens. Within each we find the familiar dynamic of concretization and intensification: the generic “be ashamed” becomes the more concrete “blush”; the more preliminary stage of “delight” becomes the further, hardened state of “choose”.

(ashamed becomes blush, from delight to choice)

Or even a more elaborate structure of text: / / Enter into the rock, \ and hide in the dust / from before the terror of the Lord, \ and from the glory of his majesty. / The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, \ and the pride of men shall be humbled; \ And the Lord alone will be exalted on that day.

Notice how Isaiah balances a single line against all three previous. “And the Lord alone will be exalted on that day.” This solitary line standing in contrasting parallel to all three before, it emphasizes with this one line, so much structural weight and emphasizes how exalted the Lord’s will will be done.

This is the effect poetry can have: you do not simply know about God’s majesty, but you feel that it is in front of you like a mountain or a tree. You feel that you could close your eyes and still know where God’s majesty is, the way you can locate furniture in a dark but familiar room. It is not a knowledge primarily of the mind, not knowledge of an object, but a kind of sympathy or connection by nature with the known, knowledge in the mode of a subject.

That divine Darkness is the unapproachable light in which God dwells. Into this Darkness, rendered invisible by its own excessive brilliance and unapproachable by the intensity of its transcendent flood of light, come to be all those who are worthy to know and to see God. We pray that we may come unto this Darkness which is beyond light, and without seeing and without knowing, to see and to know That which is above vision and above knowledge. Dionysius

Coming from the poetry of Isiah we landed at mystical contemplation with Him the God of all Darkness and Light who transcends all being and all knowledge.

Wishing a week with a deep sense of this God and creator being with us.

Philemon 

Convivencia

Chapter 23

Good Monday Morning to this week of 23 of 2021

Convivencia – Coexistence

The Mezquita–Cathedral of Córdoba is located in the Spanish region of Andalusia. Due to its status as a former Islamic mosque, it is also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba. According to traditional accounts, Christian Basilica of Saint Vincent of Saragossa, originally stood on the site of the current Mosque-Cathedral. The Great Mosque was constructed on the orders of Abd ar-Rahman I in 785. The mosque was converted to a cathedral in 1236 when Córdoba was captured by the Christian forces of Castile during the Reconquista. Starting in the 19th century, modern restorations have in turn led to the recovery and study of some of the building’s Islamic-era elements.Today, the building continues to serve as the city’s cathedral and Mass is celebrated therein daily. This amazing building leads me to some thoughts on coexistence.

Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgement on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:1-4

There is so much that divides us nowadays. This current pandemic has highlighted this in many more ways that we would have liked to be true. Its as if there was always something to disagree on right now.

A few years ago there were many attacks on Christians in Egypt. Many churches were vandalised and looted. During all of this an this image by and Jesuit writer is communicated, showing Muslim leaders backing up Christians. The picture shows several Islamic men standing in front of a large church, protecting congregants as they attend mass.

Located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is the Oasis of Peace (‘Neve Shalom, a Jewish-Arab community founded in 1970. The village is composed of about 50 families; half are Jewish, half are Arab, and the majority are secular. The Oasis of Peace serves as an example of the possibility of coexistence in Israel. The name “Neve shalom” is taken from a passage in Isaiah 32:18: “My people shall dwell in an oasis of peace.

I call for more coexistence, for the pursuit of peace, for seeking that with unites and not divides.

In Mark 4: 39, Jesus rose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Jesus commanded the wind and the waves to be at peace, and they had to obey him! He also wants us to be at peace. Many times in the scriptures, God instructs his children to be at peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is the source of peace. Jesus shared with his disciples of how he would arrange peace with Holy Spirit: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Wishing you a week of blessed coexistence with much peace !

Philemon

If the paradox is to be pondered.

Chapter 22

Good Monday Morning to this week 22 of 2021

This morning, one very long sentence, so full, so rich, so deep, so satisfying, so spiritual,
so deep and able to make one ponder for a whole morning or even six mornings, up until
the beginning of the next sabbath.

Here we go, and by the way, don’t worry, I needed it read it several times, will need to continue reading it, over and over again.

“If the paradox is to be pondered, as part of growing in understanding the nature of the life of faith, then there are surely implications for the kind of qualities,
communal and individual, that believers should over time acquire: such qualities as to dig deeper in trust, be less glib* in speech and prayer, to look beyond the immediate to the long term, and to offer more support to those currently in pain and perplexity.
For when the psalms are contextualized in prayer and worship, their language is not only expressive but also transformative, able to make a difference to those who use these ancient and enduring words.”

R.W.L. Moberly, Old Testament Theology

*fluent but insincere and shallow.

Wishing you a wonderful start to this new week.

Philemon

The mountains quake

Chapter 21

Good Monday Morning to this week 21 of 2021

A volcanic eruption in eastern Congo left a smoking trail of destruction half a mile wide on Sunday that buried hundreds of houses and left residents searching for missing loved ones, before halting just short of the city of Goma. Mount Nyiragongo, is one of the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes, erupted, turning the night sky an eerie red and sending a wall of orange lava downhill towards the lakeside city of about 1 million.

I grew up next to Mount Giluwe, 4367m one of highest peaks of Papua New Guinea. Though dormant, we learnt many of the signs of activity including smoke, or a warm water stream near our home. This volcano is part of my walk with God and finding him amidst fear of a new eruption.

The world’s largest volcanic eruption to happen in the past 100 years was on June 15, 1991, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines after being dormant for 600 years. The ash cloud turned day to night, many thought this was the end of life. The eruption was so fierce that that the ash caused global temperatures to be lower for two years. With Global Network I travelled there a few months after the eruption to do ministry and relief work in Zambales for the following 2 years.

 In the story of Moses, Sinai was enveloped in a cloud, it quaked and was filled with smoke, while lightning-flashes shot forth, and the roar of thunder mingled with the blasts of a trumpet; the account later adds that fire was seen burning at the summit of the mountain. In the biblical account, the fire and clouds are a direct consequence of the arrival of God upon the mountain. According to the biblical story, Moses departed to the mountain and stayed there for 40 days and nights in to receive the Ten Commandments.

There are many more references in the writings of the Old Testament in regard to volcanos.

Deuteronomy 4:11, 5.23 And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. Or in Judges; The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel. Or in Psalms, The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke. Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. Or another prophet Isaiah. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence. As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.

 In these writings of volcanos and in the experience of living close to a volcano, it represents anger, vengeance, revenge, emotions, hidden emotions, destruction and unpredictable situations of life. On the positive side, lava and ash deposited during an eruption breaks down to provide valuable nutrients for the soil, this creates very fertile soil which is good for agriculture.

There has been a lot written about the connection between volcanos and creation or even the creator God. In the current time man feels himself isolated from the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature or has lost the emotional participation to natural events and their symbolic meaning. Thunder is no longer the voice of God, no river contains a spirit as no tree means a persons life, no snake the embodiment of wisdom, no mountain bears or carries the great daemon.

Herein maybe lies one of troubles with humankind. The great umbilical cord that once existed between human beings and the natural world has been severed. That which was once part of the natural human understanding has become hidden or is not longer existent.

We could take the stance on the volcano and call it a living thing with it’s own stories and behaviours, eccentricities with all it’s activity and unpredictability, a rock of the earth in the most living and changeable form, tremendous and powerful.

The volcano with it’s active living spirit of magna, gas, steam and rock not to mention the beauty and terror has inspired many through it’s natural activity. Before the 19th century the medieval Christian mind portrays volcanos as the portals of the abyss of hell. Yet, the the very word volcano is derived from the Latin vulcanus, the Roman god of fire. Christian symbolism emphasis in on the dualities, a need for wholeness, good and evil yet coming from the same as portrayed in nature with the volcano. This raises the question if there is a possibility that these two powers can live alongside one another and coexist? Rather than seeing volcanos as portals to the abyss another metaphor would be to see them as centers of the cosmos where formlessness, movement and response exist and bring them to the center of creating the new.

Back to Goma, I pray for the people, those who have lost loved one, kids that have lost their parents and those who lost house, home, land and much more. God have mercy.

For us, i see this devotional as a call to remember the creator, calling on him to use the power of formlessness to create movement and response in the many difficult situations of our lives.

Wishing you a blessed Monday and good start to this week.

Philemon