Presence strengthens; absence sharpens

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
Psalm 139.7

Good Monday Morning to week 34 of 2019

Absence = “Ruach of God”
The wind to the fire; it puts out the little and kindles the great!

Presence = “Ruach of God”  is the mighty wind, the breath of God, the Spirit of God, the Burning Bush of Moses, the pillar of fire leading the Israelites, the eternal flame lit in the tabernacle, the incense, and the individual tongues of flame at Pentecost.

Every time you take a matchbox into your hand to take out a match, you hold it in your hand before you open it. What do you see? You see three sides of the box. Of course, you know it has six sides, even though you only see three.

Presence strengthens!
Absence sharpens!

Where shall I go from your spirit? – Where shall I go where your spirit is not; that is, where you are not; where is there no God?

Where shall I flee from thy presence?
Where shall I flee from your face?

A fearful thought, for those who fear or hate God.
A deep comforting word, for those that love God.

What do you see? Some examples in the Old Testament: 

Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times.

Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days you would not believe if you were told.

Son of man, see with your eyes, hear with your ears, and give attention to all that I am going to show you; for you have been brought here in order to show it to you!

What do you see, Jeremiah? And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree.”

What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.”

Jesus: What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed, shaken by the wind?

Then again Jesus laid His hands on his eyes, and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.

If we go back to the metaphor of the matchbox and apply it to Psalm 139.7;
God’s presence is always real, the other three sides of the matchbox may be felt like absence, yet we know very well, the matchbox is complete and the other three sides are there and continue to make the whole box complete.

The Psalmist knew these thoughts only too well:
Psalm 139. 8 and following:

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
For darkness is as light to you.

Wishing you a good start to this new week.

Philemon 

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Swifter than eagles!

Good Monday Morning to this week 33 of 2019

David and Jonathan 

Jonathan and David become friends and loved each other as themselves.
Jonathan swore eternal friendship David and gave him his robe.

David became successful pleasing Saul, killing even Goliath in battle.
David became the peoples favorite, making Saul jealous and suspicious. 
David committed to the friendship also his musical gifting on the harp.

Saul put the life of David in danger, not dealing with his demons.
Saul was afraid of David after his two attempts to kill him.
Saul, not David felt abandoned by God.

Israel and Judah loved David as a successful leader

Saul tries his trick David and promises his oldest daughter.
David had a good idea of timing and didn’t want to be joined to the King yet, nor did he take the bait given by Saul.
(With David having 7 wives, 19 sons, and one daughter in the time of his life,  there is more than timing at play here I assume.)

David changed his mind, fell in love with Michal,
this time delighted to become the kings’ son in law. 

The greater the love between David and Michael , David and Jonathan, grew,
the more afraid Saul became of David.

Jonathan told David of his fathers plans to kill him.
Jonathan stood to the friendship and commitment to David.
Jonathan intervened even to speak to his father in favor of David.
Saul still wasn’t rid of his demons and tried to kill David again.

Again David fled, Saul, followed close behind, Michal warned David and
him and let him down a window to escape.

Michal also stood to David and tricked her father, this time with goats hair on a pillow.
Groups of Prophets were gripped by God’s spirit when Sauls’ men came they too were gripped by God’s spirit and began dancing and shouting. The same thing happened to the messengers three times, then finally even when Saul went,
the Spirit of God took control of him in Samuels presence.
David fled again and went to Jonathan for advice and friendship.

Jonathan negotiates a plan, while David hid.
Saul threw his spear at Jonathan in rage.
Jonathan sent the arrow to warn David to hurry out.
Jonathan and David were filled with grief as they farewelled.

Jonathan blessed David.

The friendship of David and Jonathan:
They were swifter than eagles
They were stronger than lions.
The weapons of war couldn’t withstand their friendship.

Jonathan’s gifts to David; a robe, his armor, a sword, his bow, and a belt.
Were these a token of their ancestral friendship? When Jonathan makes “a covenant of love and brotherhood with David does he invest with his garments and weapons? By giving him his clothes, Jonathan gives to David, a personal pledge of love, by David’s accepting them, he accepted Jonathan’s invitation to become his dearest friend yet more also expression of “loyalty, service and obedience” as Jonathan pledges his allegiance to David, recognizing him as the next king of Israel.

J.P. Fokkelman (1986) proposed a three-fold meaning here: By giving David his arms, Jonathan “is transferring the title of a champion of Israel to David,” as the national hero and great liberator in the name of the Lord. By giving David his cloak, the crown prince hands over to him “his rights and claims to the throne.”

There is so much purpose, intention, symbolism, signs, methods, truths, and learnings in this short story of the Bible.

From Sunday school or early childhood memories we probably already have our interpretation and “takeaways” from this story.

Here a few of mine: 

– God values relationships and friendships far beyond our imagination.
– God has a plan and will reach his goal whatever detour he takes with his people.
– It’s good to deal with demons before they guide our lives and try to take all from us.
– God is the only who has the “big picture” in mind, every move he makes!
– The battles we win, are won in deep friendship with Him, our almighty Guide!
– Some secrets and hidden things stay hidden to then later reveal God’s intentions.

A personal takeaway:

A deep personal intimate relationship with God our Maker, Father and divine King,  enables us to be, swifter than eagles, stronger than lions, therefore the opposition formed against us can’t stand!

Wishing you a very good week!

Philemon

The drama going on in our minds!

Good Monday Morning to this week 32 of 2019

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

There is a compelling drama going on in our minds, sometimes like a plot of various players or characters;  impulsive, thoughtful, automatic, systematic, spiritual, deliberate or even calculated. Sometimes they playoff against each other and determine judgments, decisions and leading to actions we take. 

There are also responses coming from “within us” like things we do to survive, but then there are many responses out of deliberate focus, attention, trained self-control and behavior.

A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.- more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Let’s do the math!

For many, the first intuitive answer is $0.10. The correct answer is $0.05!

One way of thinking was quicker, tricked the other with the faster answer and in this case leading to an incorrect answer for some.

Colossians 3:2
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Isaiah 11:3-4
He will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness, he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

Matthew 22:37
Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

James 3:13
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

What comes to your mind when you see the word “So_p”
Now those who were thinking of eating or saw the word eat in advance will probably think the word should be “Soup”. While those who were thinking or reading of washing or cleaning probably thought the word should be “Soap”.

Our individual thoughts are primed so easily, how much more to prime them with truths of love, of depth and coming from the creator of all wisdom!

Traumas, illness, culture, training, health, family and much more, of course, influence our thinking in a far greater context, yet that is a topic in need of much more detail.

Everytime the people of God thought less of themselves, something went wrong in the story. K. Adams (preaching the sermon: What The Enemy Wishes You Didn’t Know)

If you’re interested, there is a version on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sS_XzBYGir8

Ending the sermon she summarises with words of empowerment, the thinking and thoughts from above that influence and drives our thinking through our new “life” we have,  with a reformed mind for thinking our of the thoughts that God has for and over us.

Psalm 23:6
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Wishing you transformed thoughts this week.

Philemon

 

 

Much ado about Something

Good Monday Morning to this week 31 of 2019

Much ado about nothing. Shakespeare (1598 play)

Taken in once sense, the title implies that a great fuss “much ado” is made of something which is insignificant “nothing

Taken literally  “much ado” is made of something this is significant!

In the past two weeks I’ve been reading slowly through: Doing Spirituality of Alexadner Venter.

Here a few of my favorite quotes so far:

Grace does not automatically change us; It requires response for us to benefit from it. It motivates participation. A. Venter

Just as the thought of fire does not warm the body, so faith without love does not actualize the light of spiritual knowledge in the soul. Maximus the Confessor

In all our actions, God considers the intention: whether we act for Him or for some other motive. Maximus the Confessor

You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.  Martin Luther

Just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in our minds and wills. Most of thee unnumbered seeds are lost because we are not prepared to receive them. Thomas Merton

We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real…and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists. Thomas Merton

Suppose our failures occur, not in spite of what we are doing, but precisely because of it. Dallas Willard

The truly powerful ideas are precisely the ones that never have to justify themselves.”
Dallas Willard

The offspring of virtue is perseverance. The fruit and offspring of perseverance is habit and child of habit is character. St. John Climacus

We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder. Kallistos Ware

What drew the attention of Moses to the bush was not the bush but that it did not burn up. Only when God saw Moses stop to consider and approach, did he reveal himself.
A. Venter

With these few quotes, I wish you a thoughtful and successful week!

Philemon

 

 

Advance Payment

Good Monday Morning to this week 30 of 2019

This week I “stumbled” over the Greek word and masculine noun arrabón (ar-hrab-ohn).

Interlinear Hebrew for 1. Cor. 1:22 :
The (One) also having sealed us and having given the pledge (arrabón) of the Spirit(Pneumatos) in the hearts of us.

An earnest, earnest-money, a pledge,  a large part of the payment, given in advance as a security that the whole will be paid afterwards.

An installment; a deposit, down-payment,  which guarantees the balance the full purchase-price.

This phrase is twice used by Paul in another Epistle (2 Cor 1:22, 5:5). The metaphor is taken from bargains, in which, when a pledge has been given and accepted, the whole is confirmed, and no room is left for a change of mind. Calvin

The Spirit living in us governing us to the extent that we yield control. Paul uses the arrabón, the deposit, down-payment of what is to come. God’s seal of ownership over us, the already depostit that guarantees the full reality in the not yet of what is still to come.
A. Venter

The ‘earnest,’ is a small portion of purchase-money, or wages, or contract-money, which is given at the making of a bargain, as an assurance that the whole amount will be paid in due time. And, says the Apostle, this seal is also an earnest. It not only makes certain God’s ownership and guarantees the security of those on whom it is impressed, but it also points onwards to the future, and at once guarantees that, and to a large extent reveals the nature of it. MacLaren

This divine seal is the earnest (a token of what is to come – a pledge), inasmuch as itself is part of the whole. You have but to take the faith, the love, the obedience, the communion of the highest moments of the Christian life on earth, and free them from all their limitations, subtract from them all their imperfections, multiply them to their superlative possibility, and endow them with a continual power of growth, and stretch them out to absolute eternity, and you get heaven. The earnest is of a piece with the inheritance. M. Poole

Here is a gift offered for us all, a gift which our feebleness sorely needs, a gift for every timid nature, for every weak will, for every man, woman, and child. An offer of a reinforcement as real, so you and I may have in our hearts the Spirit of God, the spirit of strength, the spirit of love and of a sound mind, the spirit of adoption, the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, to enlighten our darkness, to bind our hearts to Him, to quicken and energise our souls, to make the weakest among us strong. Matthew Henry

If God having once given this earnest, should not also give the rest of the inheritance! Leigh

A seal was used for different purposes: to mark a person’s property, to secure his treasures, or to authenticate a deed. In the first sense, the Spirit distinguishes believers as the peculiar people of God; in the second, he guards them as his precious jewels; in the third, he confirms or ratifies their title to salvation.  An earnest is a part given as a security for the future possession of the whole. The Holy Spirit is the earnest of the heavenly inheritance, because he begins that holiness in the soul which will be perfected in heaven, and imparts those joys which are foretastes of its blessedness.  Calvin

All the results of the sealing of the soul are manifestly incomplete and tend towards completeness. Is this imperfect Christianity of ours, our little faith so soon shattered, our little love so quickly disproved, our faltering resolutions, our lame performances, our earthward connectedness, these things all that Jesus agony was for. Manifestly, here is but a segment of the circle, in heaven is the perfect round; and the imperfections, so far as life is concerned, cry aloud for a region where it’s possible for us to be made as He has wanted, complete again. MacLaren

He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. 1. Cor. 1:22

Wishing a blessed week as you live in the “now”, often the “not-yet” yet draw from His Spirit grounded in the assurance of this “arrabón”,  deposit, down-payment, earnest and guarantee already given as gift for us!

Blessings

Philemon

 

 

 

 

 

Found (not) wanting

In the popular film, A Knight’s Tale, Adhemar says to William:  “You have been weighed; you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.” This is a paraphrase from the Old Testament of the Bible (Daniel 5:27), which reads, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”

Good Monday Morning to this week 29 of 2019

The last two days I’ve been walking around with a 2-meter wooden folding ruler, not just thinking about measurements but also about sizes and perspectives and other matters.

To measure something is to determine a certain set of its properties in reference to a standard. At its simplest, it is a form of counting. Properties can include size, weight, duration, quality, or merely amount. Measurements are so important to our daily life that we often communicate in measurement terms without thinking about it.

Our God also measures. There are several well-known passages in the Bible that refer to measuring that give us some insight into God’s nature.

Proverbs 11:1 says “the Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him. Two more times in Proverbs, the same sentiment is given, even mentioning not only weights but differing measures that are detestable. Proverbs 16:11 further states that “honest scales and balances belong to the Lord.” In the spirit of James 1:17 (every good and perfect gift is from the Father above), combined with the well-known Christian principle that “all truth is God’s truth,” it can be directly inferred that accurate measurements are godly measurements, regardless of the application.

It seems like God is pleased with those who make an attempt to measure accurately and devise systems for accurate measurements. God’s concern for accurate measurements is not isolated to proverbial statements; they are embedded in the Mosaic Law. In Leviticus, the Israelites are commanded to “…not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. The same sentiment is reiterated in Deuteronomy where Moses restates to the people: Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. He calls to have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

When Daniel is finally called on to interpret the mysterious writing on the wall, he finds three phrases directly related to God’s measuring of the King:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Upharsin: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Or in creationGenesis lays out the creation story then another passage in Isaiah relates to God’s sovereignty over creation as one who does so using measurements: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?

Another interesting passage that speaks of measurements is in John 6 where Jesus feeds the crowd, about five thousand men were there,  with a boy’s grocery basket. Philip’s estimate of how much it will cost to “buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” or half a year’s wages, literally 200 denarii. The amount of food remaining: “they…filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves leftover…”. It is important to the storyteller that they measured the number of baskets.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of applying an understanding of measurements in the Bible is to make it personal for example with spiritual measurements.  When one reads with measuring in mind – not just physically, in terms of amounts of things or passage, but spiritually – a new perspective can be gained. Two areas include references to faith and love specifically, followed by spiritual growth in general.

Then Jesus said to her, Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted. And her daughter was healed at that moment.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.
For I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
These trials have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Christ is revealed. Paul expressed a measure of love: The superlative when in the list of spiritual characteristics: “the greatest of these is love!

We see a pattern of measurements like a schedule, looks like God really expects spiritual growth. This is something one should be interested in measuring. Paul offers us an example of prayer that we should pray for others and seek the answer to the prayer to be filled full of Christ’s love. Paul tells us that God is using the circumstances of our lives to make us more into the image of Jesus.

The Bible is full of measurements as: A handbreadth, reed, day’s journey, talent, Drachma, sunrise, sunset, ninth hour or the third watch, all examples of precise measurements.

Insights can be gathered based on the emphasis that God seems to place on certain lengths of time or timing of events, numbers or amounts of things, and the value of certain items. Special notice should be taken when God gives someone a measuring assignment.  Even more interesting may be the intangible matters related to Christian living that give expectations of measurement. Jesus speaks often of faith as something that can be measured – He cites people as having little,  or much faith. Paul talks about faith growing as if one should be able to measure it – perhaps relative to our trials requiring a certain amount of faith. Peter offers his readers grace in abundance and expects them to “grow in the grace…of Jesus”, as if grace is something that can be measured. Jesus even states how one can measure the greatest love. Similarly, hope, joy, and knowledge are all referred to as something measurable in the life of the believer.

Tangible and intangible objects of measurements in the Bible offer us many associated implications as believers.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 17-19

Wishing you a great week and with the ever new perspective of God saying:

You have been weighed,
You have been measured,
And you had been found, not wanting!

Philemon

Follow your passion?

Have you also received this very questionable advice: “Follow Your Passion”?

Good Monday morning to this week 28 of 2019

A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion is unwholesomeness to the bones.
Proverbs 14.30

Research suggests that telling people to “find their passion” isn’t just ineffective advice; it can actually be harmful. In a paper published last year in the journal Psychological Science, the authors compared the “fixed” theory of passion — the notion that passion lives within us, already fully formed and waiting to be discovered — to the idea of “destined” purpose.

Similarly, the authors found that believing in the idea of a singular and innate theory of passion led people to move on too quickly from paths they found interesting but challenging: “Urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket,” the researchers wrote, “but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry.”

On the other hand, those with a “growth” perspective on passion are more likely to see it as a malleable quality that can be cultivated, which makes them both more open and more resilient. This thinking, the authors wrote, “leads people to express greater interest in new areas, to anticipate that pursuing interests will sometimes be challenging, and to maintain greater interest when challenges arise.” A. Beau

Believing you’re only cut out to do one thing makes it easy to get stuck in a rut. But to grow, by definition, means getting unstuck. It means opening yourself up to new ideas and new interests and allowing yourself to be steered by them.

And the best part is? With the thoughts of Intelligent Design and Open Theism, we know there is not only one perfect plan but the perfect plan to all possibilities prepared out there for us.

The Hellenistic philosophers greatly shaped the thinking of the time and influenced much theology and theory of fixed passion living in us. Plato argued that we see not by light entering our eyes (as we now know is the case) but by light proceeding out of our eyes (Timaeus 45b). For Plato, seeing is an active, not a passive, process. Since knowledge was considered to be a kind of seeing, Plato also construed knowing as acting on something rather than being acted upon (Sophist 248-49). Much of this view of seeing and knowing is picked up and defended even to this day.

Once we abandon the ancient view of seeing and knowing as active processes, it becomes clear that God’s knowledge is perfect if, and only if, it perfectly conforms to the nature of what is known. So if possibilities are real, then God’s knowledge is perfect if, and only if, God knows them as possibilities. God always knows everything perfectly. Leading is us to this wonderful God of possibilities,  even as we believe that a partly open future is exactly fitting to the God of all knowledge, leading us to being  part of what God perfectly knows.

Acting and following on the Godly passions, these lead to compassion, and therefore to a much better place then,  acting on or following our own passion coming from within!

I wish you a wonderful week as God forms the ways before you in possibilities you couldn’t have imagined.

Philemon

 

Loyalty is returned

Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved. Martin Luther

Loyalty is about people that stay true to you, behind your back.

Respect is earned, honesty is appreciated, trust is gained, loyalty is returned.

A woman’s loyalty is tested when her man has nothing …  A man’s loyalty is tested when he has everything …

For the eyes of the LORD are looking and seeking throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are loyal and fully committed to him.
2 Chronicles 16:9

Good Monday Morning to this week 27 of 2019

Was thinking about loyalty last week ….

Loyalty, in general use, is a devotion and faithfulness to a nation, cause, philosophy, country, group, or person. Philosophers disagree on what can be an object of loyalty, as some argue that loyalty is strictly interpersonal and only another human being can be the object of loyalty.

The willing and practical and thoroughgoing devotion of a person to a cause”. Loyalty is thoroughgoing in that it is not merely a casual interest but a wholehearted commitment to a cause. Josiah Royse

In the Gospel of Matthew 6:24, Jesus states, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”. This relates to the authority of a master over his servants, who, according to Biblical law, owe undivided loyalty to their master.

On the other hand, the “Render unto Caesar” of the synoptic gospels acknowledges the possibility of distinct loyalties (secular and religious) without conflict, but if loyalty to man conflicts with loyalty to God, the latter takes precedence.

Loyalty in the personal realm, which comes out of love, devotion, dedication and commitment to the well being of another, is healthy.

Loyalty in marriage; Being loyal means being respectful of your partners’ weaknesses and discretely helping them compensate for those weaknesses.

Being loyal means keeping confidences, without fail.

Being loyal means reassuring your partner that you will be there emotionally and physically, whenever you are needed and following through with this promise.

Being loyal means keeping your word, being truthful and reliable in keeping your promises.

A young man was traveling first class on a flight out of India. The friendly cabin crew kept coming past to offer him alcoholic drinks. After refusing many drinks they asked if he wasn’t happy with the inflight service and how they could help him to feel more comfortable. The young man answered. I will drink alcohol on one condition. Can you offer the pilot the same drink first, only then will I accept this offer of yours.

The crew member looked at him with surprise and hesitation and replied: Sir, he is on duty and if he drinks there is a great chance we will crash. Upon this the young man replied; This is interesting, I too am on duty, in the same way, I have to save my faith and stay loyal, not risking crashing my principles for a complimentary drink.

Loyalty is the pledge of truth to oneself and others. Ada Velez-Boardley

Loyalty is what makes us trust. Trust is what makes us stay. Staying is what makes us love, and love is what gives us hope.  Glenn van Dekken

Loyalty means I am down with you whether you are wrong or right, but I will tell you when you are wrong and help you get it right!

We’re just scratching the surface of this topic …. it’s vast, deep, huge, wide and a life long discovery!

Wishing a great week!

Philemon

Dear God

Good Monday Morning to this week 26 of 2019

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. – Psalm 5:3

Thinking about money matters last week, I stumbled upon this little story:

A poor man decides to write a letter to God, asking for some money…

In the letter, he writes that he works very hard but can never make enough. He pleads to God that even $100 would make him extremely happy.

The next day he goes to the post office, hands in his letter, and leaves with high hopes. The person sorting all the mail notices the envelope addressed to God. Confused, he stamps the letter to be returned to the poor man’s house.

Later that week, as the mailman comes to the poor man’s house to deliver his mail, he also notices the letter addressed to God. The mailman reads the letter and feels bad for the poor man, so he decides to get $50 out of his wallet and put it in the envelope. He puts the envelope in the poor man’s mailbox and continues on with his day, feeling great for helping a man in need.

The next week, when the mailman reaches the poor man’s house again, he notices yet another letter from the poor man to God. He opens the envelope and reads the letter:

Dear God,
“Thank you so much for the money you sent me last week, but you should know that my thieving mailman stole half of what you had sent me!”

Let’s look at the four characters of this story?

Poor Man

He is hardworking, tries to pay his bills and says the “dear God prayer” asking for heavenly provisions for 100$.

God

He hears the prayers and answers part of the prayer through the Mailman.
Or, God doesn’t hear the prayer because 2 humans try to solve it on their own.
Or, He wants to answer through the Mailman, but this man isn’t completely obedient and only gives half.
Or He wants both involved to give 50$
Or His intention is that both give 100$ so the Poor man is blessed abundantly.
Or, He wants to answer it through the Sorting Mailman, to return the letter and challenge the Poor man to speak directly to God and his community.

Mailman

Crosses his competence, opens a letter, let’s his heart get moved and shares his money. He gets the “good feeling” after helping the man in need with 50$.
Later finds himself accused of being a thief because he only answered half the request. But maybe the 50$ were all he had left, maybe also was poor,  would this change the story?

Sorting Mailman

Is this the real villain? He doesn’t send the letter to God, returns it without letting his heart be moved,  returning it back to the Poor Man?

Yes, such a little story raises some good questions. Could the Mailman really be seen as a thief, robbing God, robbing the Poor Man? Or did he give all he had, and did the problem rest with the Poor Man who didn’t have faith and started accusing people of his own being in need?

A few years ago the following book was very popular amongst people I work with:

When Helping Hurts,  alleviating poverty without hurting the poor and yourself, written by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.

In bringing change the writers take the following approach. Asset-based community development, a methodology for the sustainable development of communities based on their strengths and potentials. It involves assessing the resources, skills, and experience available in a community; organizing the community around issues that move its members into action; and then determining and taking appropriate action.
This method uses the community’s own assets and resources as the basis for development; it empowers the people of the community by encouraging them to utilize what they already possess.

Let me re-write the story from this viewpoint:

The Poor Man

Is in need and prayers for 100$. He also shares a copy of his letter to God to the community he lives in. He specifies to God and in this letter that the roof of his house is leaking, as well as his feeling of always being in need.

God 

God has heard the prayers directly, hears the second prayer, then hears the prayer of the community as well.
God starts stirring the hearts of the people in the community, preparing them for action.

Sorting Mailman

He says a prayer and sends the letter a local building company known to be very professional, built on good values and with an excellent reputation.

Mailman

He hears of the letter being sent to God. When he goes to the house of the Poor Man,
he sits down for tea and listens to the worries of the Poor Man, buys him some food, and pays him a bus ticket to the company the mailman sent the letter to.

This story could end with the local building company repairing the roof of the Poor Man’s house with the Mail Man and the Sorting Man sharing the costs.

It could end with the roof being fixed without cost, just a few hours of labor of person coming from the local building company to fix it.

WWJD? What would Jesus do? Would he preach the Sermon on the Mount and challenge his hearers to sell their earthly goods and give to the poor, and so provide themselves with “a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”

What would Bill Gates do?
What would your parents do?
What would your pastor do?
What would you do if you were the mailman, or the guy sorting the mail?

Let’s end by what the  boy in the story with Jesus did:

And the boy offered Jesus his meager lunch. He only had a few loaves and fishes, and Jesus had 5,000 mouths to feed. Gifts in God’s hands can be and often are divinely multiplied to meet the demands of greater works.

What are your “loaves and fish” to give this week?

Wishing you His provisions!

Philemon

 

Independence or Dependence

Good Monday Morning to this week 25 of 2019

Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’:  I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

Looking at this prayer in verses 9-12. It may be imagination, but I think Jacob is trying to manipulate God in his prayer. In verse 9 he is claiming God’s promise that He would bless Jacob. In verse 10 he gives God the credit for his prosperity and then he again claims God’s promise to bless him in verses 11-12. It seems to me that Jacob was almost saying to God, “Come through for me God. You promised me. You owe me!”

I find his story of Jacob particularly intriguing because we get to see his whole family and how they interact. In modern language, Jacob came from a really dysfunctional family, and we will see the influence bad parents can have on their children.

Jacob’s messed up family life helped shape him into being a manipulative person. Jacob’s style of relating was one of manipulating others. He tried to control life and depended on himself, not God. God had to break Jacob of this bad pattern of relating. How it is that God finally got through to him?

All this weakness in Isaac let Rebekah take over. It was her natural tendency. Isaac’s natural tendency was to be passive, so she took over the family and Jacob’s life. Rebekkah had problems. When her twins are born, she shows partiality to Jacob, the non-hairy weaker looking one. Gen 25:27 says Jacob spent most of his time at home. So Rebekah takes over his life and arranges everything for him. She teaches him how to cook. She arranges for him to get the blessing, she arranges for his deliverance from Esau by sending him to her brother Laban, telling him everything will work out fine.

So I think we can see that Jacob came from a fairly typical family. His mother had a tendency to want to take control. The father let her. His brother was just a natural man concerned with the things of this world.

I do think we can assume that Jacob knew that he was supposed to end up with the birthright eventually. I’m sure his mother told him what the Lord had told her. (The older will serve the younger). What this event shows us is that Jacob was not willing to wait on the Lord.

It is ironic but that Jacob left the promised land which was part of his blessing. It ought to be obvious to Jacob that there is something wrong with this picture. It ought to indicate that the way Jacob got the blessing was not what God would have planned.

However, we see that in spite of Jacob’s deceitful way of obtaining the blessing, God is going to honor it.

But that night God, who is still trying to get through to Jacob, meets with Jacob in a wrestling match!  Verse 24 says, “Jacob was left alone.” It is such a little phrase, but I think it is very, very important. He had run out of resources. Jacob has finally been broken. Jacob is at the end of his rope. His life is a mess. He is all alone, he has exhausted his own resources and has to face Esau alone. I think Jacob is finally broken to the point where he will now trust in God.

As soon as we see that Jacob is alone, it says that “a man wrestled with him.” That man is God. We know that because Jacob is given a new name, “Israel” which means “he fights with God.”

What did God do to Jacob when He wanted to get hold of Jacob’s life?

He revealed Himself to him.

God says “let me go”!  But Jacob wouldn’t let go. He says, “I won’t let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob has finally come to the point where he would rather die than live without God’s blessing.

Jacob’s name was changed to Israel when he finally began to trust in God. Israel was God’s covenant name for the new nation. The name “Jacob” represents independence from God and “Israel” represents dependence on God. It is not a hard and fast rule, but it seems to me that there are certain places in the OT where God calls the nation, “Jacob,” instead of, “Israel,” and it is because they are acting independently.

Incidentally, after he meets with God, we see that although he left the people divided into two groups, instead of hiding behind them, he now goes out in front of them to face Esau alone. He now is depending on God and not his own resources. Esau receives him openly and it seems that there are no hard feelings, forgiveness and reconciliation happens. God has paved the way for Jacob to return to the promised land.

Jacob’s problem? He wanted to control his life, so he manipulated people. Jacob thought he could make it on his own without God, yet only with his “new name” did reconciliation happen and he was able to return to the “terrain” of blessing.

Reflecting on our lives – yes this is a problem, a challenge, a promise and blessing as we go from independence to dependency on God.

Wishing a blessed week!

Philemon