Still small voice

Chapter 34

Good Monday Morning to this week 33 of 2020

In the last weeks, I’ve been getting tired or even annoyed by hearing all the loud voices. So many people get online or elsewhere and act like they knew it all, had all the answers and set up all kinds of theories on all kinds of things.

1. Kings 19.12
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake, and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

There is only one place in Scripture where God is said to speak in a “still small voice,” and it was to Elijah after his dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal. Elijah ran into the wilderness and collapsed in exhaustion. God sent an angel with food and water to strengthen him, told him to rest, and then sent him to Horeb. In a cave there, Elijah voices his complaint that all of God’s prophets had been killed by Jezebel and he alone had survived. God instructed him to stand on the mountain in His presence. Then the Lord sent a mighty wind which broke the rocks in pieces; then He sent an earthquake and a fire, but His voice was in none of them. After all that, the Lord spoke to Elijah in the still small voice, or “gentle whisper.”

A few thoughts to the still voice of God.

a. God showed Elijah that the work of God need not always be accompanied by dramatic revelation or manifestations.
b. Divine silence does not necessarily mean divine inactivity.
c. God’s work is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” meaning that overt displays of power are not necessary for God to work.
d. God is not confined to a single manner of communicating with His people. Elsewhere in Scripture, He is said to communicate through a whirlwind to announce His presence by an earthquake, and to speak in a voice that sounds like thunder. In Psalm 77:18 His voice is compared to both thunder and a whirlwind. And in Revelation 4:5, we’re told that lightning and thunder proceed from the throne in heaven.

A possible interpretation:

The difference between God speaking through the thunder and the whirlwind, then through the still, small voice, can be also considered as showing the difference between the two dispensations of law and grace. The law is a voice of terrible words and was given amidst a tempest of wind, thunder, and lightning, attended by an earthquake, but the gospel is a gentle voice of love, grace, and mercy, of peace, pardon, righteousness, and the free gift of salvation through Christ. The law breaks the rocky hearts of men in pieces, shakes their consciences, and fills their minds with a sense of God’s fiery wrath and the punishment they deserve, and then the gospel speaks gently to them of the peace and pardon available in Christ.

Wishing that you hear His still small voice speaking to you this week!

Wishing you a great start today!

Philemon

 

Rightly Identified

Chapter 33

Good Monday Morning to this week 32 of 2020

On this day August 3rd, 1667 Jeremy Taylor came down with Fever.
Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667) was a cleric in the Church of England. He is sometimes known as the “Shakespeare of Divines” for his poetic style of expression. By 1655 he had written his enduring works. His devotional handbooks of spiritual insight were very popular with all denominations, however, and their influence extended to the 18th-century Methodist John Wesley.

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Cor.3.16

He looked at Jesus’s life, from narrative, to discursive, to affective.

Bishop Jeremy Taylor writes:
“Jesus would need be baptized by his servant John, and though he was of purity sufficient to do it, and did actually by his baptism purify the purifier, and sanctify that and all other streams to an holy ministery and effect, yet he went in, bowing his head like a sinner, unclothing himself like an imperfect person, and craving to be washed, as if he had been crusted with an impure leprousie, thereby teaching us to submit ourselves to all those rites which he would institute.”

Jesus’s baptism is not an obvious type for our baptisms, because he was sinless –  nor was it then a common analogy as it is now.  So Taylor marks Jesus’s perfection as a reason for our obedience, and allows us into the experience of baptism. A change happens, an act of recognition –  once we’ve made it we cannot stop there.

The interaction points to a theological truth at the heart of the Bible: that part of what it means to be human is to be made for relationship with God. We humans are those creatures whose fulfillment consists in being recognized by God. In the absence of this recognition, in the absence of the affirmation of our self-understanding in God’s address, we are destined to be incomplete.

At the heart Jesus lies the this promised concord between divine identification and human self-understanding. The Gospel narrative is framed by God’s identification of Jesus, and Jesus’s acceptance of this identity. At two prominent moments – Jesus’s baptism and on the mountain of transfiguration – we are told that God speaks, identifying Jesus: “You are my Son, whom I love”; “This is my Son, whom I love” (Mark 1:11; 9:7).

Just as God’s naming of Israel was also an invitation to accept this identity, so God’s naming of Jesus is an invitation to him to embrace His identity. This is why it is tested. When the devil tempts Jesus, we are told, he does so by casting doubt on his identity: “If you are the Son of God …” (Luke 4:3). Then, throughout the ministry of Jesus, and climactically at his trial, the question of his identity is front and centre. “If you are the Messiah, tell us!

This, however, is not a simple matter; because there remains, even for Christian believers, a deep disconnect between our sense of ourselves and the way we have been newly identified. Were this not so, then there would be no need for the urging of the apostles to see and to embrace the new name that has been given. In fact, however, we struggle to believe that this is really true.

Our lives are lived as a contest of identifications. We are named by others, and we struggle to name ourselves. Some names seem to fit; others do not, and others still we aspire and yearn to fit. It is therefore a great gift to name each other rightly because it is a way of giving one another a glimpse of this peace.

For the voice we truly need to hear is the voice of God, and the identification we long to hear is nothing less than the one given to Jesus: “You are my son, my daughter whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” That is an address we may one day hear just as we long to. For now, however, we may hear it only as a promise and must continue to live our lives amidst the contest of names, seeking to believe that we are, truly, who we have been told we are in Christ.

Wishing you a blessed week, called by the right name!

Philemon

 

 

 

27.7

Chapter 32

Good Monday Morning to this week 31 of 2020

Psalms 27:7
Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.

Wherever he is, he can find a way to the throne of grace by prayer.
He humbly bespeaks, because he firmly believes he shall have, a gracious audience: “Hear, O Lord, when I cry, not only with my heart but, as one in earnest, with my voice too.’’ He bespeaks also an answer of peace, which he expects, not from his own merit, but God’s goodness: Have mercy upon me, and answer me,

David takes hold of the kind invitation God had given him to this duty,
It is a presumption for us to come into the presence of the King of kings uncalled.

My heart said unto thee (so it begins in the original) or of thee, Seek you my face; he first revolved that and preached that over again to himself.

Thou saidst (so it may be supplied), Seek you my face; and then he returns what he had so meditated upon, in this pious resolution, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

The true nature of religious worship; it is seeking the face of God. This it is in God’s precept: Seek you my face; he would have us seek him for himself, and make his favour our chief good; and this it is in the saint’s purpose and desire: “Thy face, Lord, will I seek, and nothing less will I take up with.’’

The opening of his hand will satisfy the desire of other living things, but it is only the shining of his face that will satisfy the desire of a living soul.

The kind of invitation of a gracious God to this duty: Thou saidst, Seek you my face; it is not only permission but a precept, and his commanding us to seek implies a promise of finding.

He calls us, by the whispers of his Spirit to and with our spirits, to seek his face; he calls us by his word, by the stated returns of opportunities for his worship, and by special providences, merciful and afflictive.

The call is immediately returned: My heart answered, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. The call was general; “Seek you my face;’’ but, like David, we must apply it to ourselves, “I will seek it.’’

The call was, Seek you my face; the answer is express, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

A gracious heart readily echoes to the call of a gracious God, being made willing in the day of his power.

He is very particular in his requests. For the favor of God, that he might not be shut out from that “Thy face, Lord, will I seek, in obedience to thy command; therefore hide not thy face from me; let me never want the reviving sense of the favor; love me, and let me know that thou lovest me.

Psalm 27.7 in various translations:

Hear me as I pray, O LORD. Be merciful and answer me!
Hear, O Jehovah, when I cry with my voice: Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
Listen, ADONAI, to my voice when I cry; show favor to me; and answer me.

Hear, Jehovah; with my voice do I call; be gracious unto me, and answer me.

Wishing you a week of God’s favor!

Philemon

Lever yourself up

Chapter 31

Good Monday Morning to this week 30 of 2020

Ecclesiastes 4:10
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out!
Walter Winchell

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too?
I thought I was the only one.” C.S. Lewis

He who has a why to live can bear almost anyhow.
Friedrich Nietzsche

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with.
Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.
Thomas J. Watson

We all know Nietzsche the philosopher. Little do we know of the great
influence the theologian Franz Overbeck had through this friendship with Nietzsche.

Overbeck dissected the theology of the past and that of his professional contemporaries in a way that to this day has remained unparalleled in its acuity and range.

A few months after Nietzsche had settled in Basel, Franz Overbeck arrived from Jena to take up the chair of ‘critical theology’. Overbeck, who was born in 1837 and was thus seven years Nietzsche’s senior, became the one permanent friend Nietzsche had whose friendship was founded on a purely personal, instinctive basis. Although he became for a while a keen Wagnerian under Nietzsche’s influence, he was for most of his life quite at variance with Nietzsche in his opinions…But his closest friend for most of his life was Nietzsche. His account of his friendship is an unqualified expression of thanks for the experience. ‘Our friendship was without any shadows,’ he writes. At the same time, he is not sparing in his criticism, which he had certainly voiced while Nietzsche was still able to understand it; but in this instance, criticism did not constitute a ‘shadow’. As the years passed, Overbeck moved away from Nietzsche philosophically, and with Nietzsche’s last works he was quite unable to agree; at the same time, however, he moved closer as a friend, so that in the last years he and his wife were, apart from Gast, Nietzsche’s only real intimates.” (Hollingdale, page 53)

Franz Overbeck was the perfect complement to Fritz’s personality. He was an intellectual of high regard, appreciative of the arts – particularly music, broad-minded, honest, caring, reliable, genteel, and reserved yet steadfast in his opinions. Of him Nietzsche wrote: ‘Overbeck is the most serious, candid, personally lovable, and least complicated person and researcher one could have wished for in a friend. At the same time, he has this radicality I need to have in all people with whom I associate.’ Many years later he would confess to Overbeck that Overbeck’s loyalty and friendship had, in fact, saved his life: ‘In the midst of life I was ‘surrounded’ by my good Overbeck.

One can easily imagine the two discussing their respective works in progress over evening meals. It is not too conjectural to assume their mutual interest in the “zeitgeist” and the way their respective works were viewed by their shared friends was a fundamental basis for the solidification of their closeness.

Their relationship was often mundane and entirely ordinary. Therefore, surprisingly little evidence of the course of their daily associations exists. But Overbeck’s friendship affected Nietzsche as evidenced when Nietzsche surveyed the first ten years of their friendship in a letter to Overbeck in 1880: “You will be deep in your work, dear friend, but a few words from me will not disturb you. It always does me good to think of you at your work; it is as if a healthy natural force were blindly working through you, and yet it is a force of reason which operates in the subtlest and most tricky material, and which we have to tolerate whenever it behaves impatiently and doubtfully for letting me watch the spectacle of your life from so close at hand – indeed.

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. Albert Schweitzer

Wishing you good friendships even to people you wouldn’t expect to be friends with as
we learned from this extraordinary example of a theologian and philosopher.

Philemon

 

And I will dwell!

Chapter 30

Good Monday Morning to this week 29 of 2020

I’m still reading the book “When bad things happen to good people”  Here a few quotes:

“To believe in God is not to affirm His existence. To believe in God means to trust God, to rely on God to be there for you when you are afflicted by despair, to light your path when you are uncertain as to what to do.” Harold S. Kushner

I find God, not in the tests that life imposes on us, but in the ability of ordinary people to rise to the challenge, to find within themselves qualities of soul, qualities of courage they did not know they had until the day they needed them. God does not send the problem, the illness, the accident, the hurricane, and God does not take them away when we find the right words and rituals with which to beseech Him. Rather, God sends us strength and determination of which we did not believe ourselves capable so that we can deal with, or live with, problems that no one can make go away.

It isn’t God’s job to make sick people healthy. That’s the doctors’ job? God’s job is to make sick people brave, and in my experience, that’s something God does really well. Prayer, as I understand it, is not a matter of begging or bargaining. It is the act of inviting God into our lives so that, with God’s help, we will be strong enough to resist temptation and resilient enough not to be destroyed by life’s unfairness.”

The idea that God gives people what they deserve, that our misdeeds cause our misfortune, is a neat and attractive solution to the problem of evil at several levels, but it has a number of serious limitations. As we have seen, it teaches people to blame themselves. It creates guilt even where there is no basis for guilt. It makes people hate God, even as it makes them hate themselves. And most disturbing of all, it does not even fit the facts.

God is the light shining in the midst of darkness, not to deny that there is darkness in the world but to reassure us that we do not have to be afraid of the darkness because darkness will always yield to light. As theologian David Griffin puts in, God is all-powerful, His power enables people to deal with events beyond their control and He gives us the strength to do those things because He is with us

Or to Psalm 23 he writes:

The central theme is that the experience of going through the valley of the shadow teaches the psalmist what God is really about, and he wants to share that with us. He changes from an almost paternalistic understanding of God, almost a parent-child relationship, to a genuine relationship with God.

I never appreciated the last line of the psalm until I had to write a chapter about it. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God is inviting him into a permanent relationship–it’s much deeper and richly textured than just shepherd and sheep. In Judaism, the mitzvoth [commandments] are a way of retaining a relationship with God, so that everything you do–the way you eat, the way you use words, and the way you treat other people–is a way of spelling out your relationship with God. The sense that you are living every moment of your day in God’s presence–that’s what it means to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even as I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Wishing you a good start to this week.
Philemon

 

 

Endurance

Chapter 29

Good Monday Morning to this week 28 of 2020

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy. Colossians 1.11

It’s already mid-year and all this Corona trouble that started earlier this year just doesn’t
seem to pass or go away, so it’s a bit without hesitation that I think of endurance this morning.

Endurance:
More then toleration or just bearing, or patient suffering, more than the acceptance after resignation, a large portion of resoluteness and tenacity, accompanied by perseverance and filled with determination. We also develop resilience, continuity, longevity with the strength, force, and muscle to continue. In all, you will find the bouncebackability but often not just due to motivation, but to the backbone of life, a faith to carry, hold on and press forward.

Abundant the verses,  as many Biblical authors knew the concept, spoke of all the trials and the rewards.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12.12

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1.12

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12. 1-3

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16.33

Another favorite that has accompanied me since the very early days of my life:
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isiah 40.31

Endurance, a willingness to stick with things. J. Peterson

Paul takes another angle at endurance and calls it the fruit of trial and the works of faith, therefore resulting in steadfastness and patience.

According to Colossians, God tells us, that since He has chosen us to be His children that He loves, we have a responsibility to clothe ourselves in tenderhearted mercy and kindness.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

I summarize to the following statement:

Endurance of faith is what carries us through!

Wishing you a blessed week.
Philemon

 

The filling of the reservoir

Chapter 28

Good Monday Morning to this week 27 of 2020 

The Nile River, the longest river in the world, called the father of African rivers. It rises south of the Equator and flows northward through northeastern Africa to drain into the Mediterranean Sea. It has a length of about 6,650km.  Its most distant source is the Kagera River in Burundi. The fact that the Nile, unlike other great rivers known to them flowed from the south northward and was in flood at the warmest time of the year was an unsolved mystery to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

Now comes an immensely bold but also problematic project to change history.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia that has been under construction since 2011, about 15 km east of the border with Sudan. The dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed. The filling of the reservoir is scheduled to begin in July 2020. Once completed, the reservoir could take anywhere between 5 and 15 years to fill with water. A decade of arduous talks involving the two downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, and upstream Ethiopia have reached a deadlock with Egypt,  which is almost entirely dependent on the Nile for its freshwater supplies. So now each country have built their own dam trying to control the river, be it the Assuan of Egypt, the Merowe dam of Sudan, and now the GERD of Ethiopia.

Speaking of the Nile:

The life of Moses had a very moving start in connection with the Nile:
Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it.

or later:
Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood.

or even later
And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.

then came the lamentations from Isaiah 19.5-8
And the waters of the sea will be dried up, and the river will be dry and parched, and its canals will become foul, and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up, reeds and rushes will rot away. There will be bare places by the Nile, on the brink of the Nile, and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched, will be driven away, and will be no more. The fishermen will mourn and lament, all who cast a hook in the Nile; and they will languish who spread nets on the water.

or Jeremiah 46.7
Who is this, rising like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge?

Of course all over the region, there is endless history to the Nile!
The Nile begins in minuteness but ends in magnificence. C.C. Colton

Egypt! from whose tombs arose forgotten Pharaohs While the dark shades of forty ages stood like startled giants by Nile’s famous flood. L Byron

Back to the famous vers of Jeremiah used as a promise over so many lives  might just have the same relevance then as today:

He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

Taken for this week, this “water-mass” or “river of light”,  “river that will shine”,  speaks of a creator that is here to stay in the long run. He planned and created something unbelievable and incredibly enduring and outlasting wars, famines, kings, rulers, and even all the attempts to control the waters.

This creator is in control over your life, your situation.

Wishing you a blessed week!
Philemon

 

 

A door of hope

Chapter 27

Good Monday Morning to this week 26 of 2020

And I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. Hosea 2.15

Maclaren writes in the commentary:
The Prophet Hosea is remarkable for the frequent use which he makes of events in the former history of his people. Their past seems to him a mirror in which they may read their future. Hosea foretells ….

– God speaking in the wilderness to the heart of Israel.
– Barrenness shall be changed to fruitfulness.
– Sorrows will become sources of refreshment.
– Gloomy gorge of the valley of Achor will be a door of hope.

In one of the discussion groups I frequent, I  read the following text.
Don’t the writers’ feelings, A Garner, echo to some of the things we read and see right now?

To be honest, I often have doubts and get discouraged, because this world does not feel in any way like we’re living a Kingdom currently. Where is our king? Has he abandoned us? And why won’t he communicate outside of texts written thousands of years ago in languages that the vast majority of people on this planet will never understand? I know all about the Kingdom concept of “already/not yet”, but it’s not entirely satisfactory. Is this the best we can do? Christianity has never been more fractured. There are tens of thousands of brands of Christians interpreting the Bible in tens of thousands of ways, but God Himself is silent. Churches that focus on futurism are booming, while churches that focus on inaugurated kingdom theology shrink.

Sounds a bit like Hosea actually.

The narrow gorge stretches before us, with its dark overhanging cliffs that almost shut out the sky; the path is rough and set with sharp pebbles; it is narrow, winding, steep; often it seems to be barred by some huge rock that juts across it, and there is barely room for the broken ledge yielding slippery footing between the beetling crag above and the steep slope beneath that dips so quickly to the black torrent below. All is gloomy, damp, hard; and if we look upwards the glen becomes more savage as it rises, and armed foes hold the very throat of the pass.

But, however long, however barren, however rugged, however black, however trackless, we may see if we will, a bright form descending the rocky way with radiant eyes and calm lips, God’s messenger, Hope; and the rough rocks are like the doorway through which she comes near to us in our weary struggle.

For us all, dear friends, it is true. In all our difficulties,  great or small; in all our perplexities; in the losses that rob our homes of their light; in the petty annoyances that diffuse their irritation through so much of our days; it is within these opportunities to turn them for a firmer grasp of God, and so to make them openings by which a happier hope may flow into our souls.

These vineyards and valleys would be the first installments of God’s promise, and a prelude to the possession of the whole so that the door of hopeful expectation and of joyful anticipation would be thrown wide open to them.

From between their narrowest gorge, if you will, the guide whom God has sent you, and that Angel of Hope will light up all the darkness, and will only fade away when she is lost in the brightness of that upper land, where our ‘God Himself is Sun and Moon.

Achor, trouble, a valley near Jericho, in consequence of the trouble which the sin of Achan caused Israel. The expression “valley of Achor” probably became proverbial for that which caused trouble, and when Isaiah refers to it he uses it in this sense: “The valley of Achor, a place for herds to lie down in;” i.e., that which had been a source of calamity would become a source of blessing. Hosea also uses the expression in the same sense: “The valley of Achor for a door of hope;” i.e., trouble would be turned into joy, despair into hope.

The valley of Achor a large, fruitful, and pleasant valley near Jericho, and on the very entrance into the land of Canaan, where after forty years’ travels and sorrows Israel first set foot on a country such as they expected.

The valley former a valley of trouble, of consequences,  became the door of hope to Israel. A valley of humiliation, of trouble and defeat, shall become the initial point of a next journey through the door of hope.  This hope does not disappoint because it is appointed by God Himself. It opens up for you new opportunities; for much which was lost shall be restored. A sign of God’s tender mercy towards you as He walks ahead of you.

Wishing you a great start to this week!

Philemon

 

 

When bad things happen to good people

Chapter 26

Good Monday Morning to this week 25 of 2020

For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 2 Corinthians 13:9

This weekend I discovered a great book, though it has been out there for quite a while. I really like the way Rabbi Kushner puts difficult theological thoughts in word and application. Here a few highlights …

“There is an old tale about the woman whose only son had died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, ‘What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?’ Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, ‘Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.’ The woman set off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door and said, ‘I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.’ They told her ‘You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,’ and began to describe all the tragic things that had recently befallen them. The woman said to herself, ‘Who is better able to help these poor unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?’ She stayed to comfort them, then went on in her search for a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, hovels and in palaces, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. Ultimately, she became so involved in ministering to other people’s grief that she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, drive the sorrow out of her life.” Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People

God is the light shining in the midst of darkness, not to deny that there is darkness in the world but to reassure us that we do not have to be afraid of the darkness because darkness will always yield to light. As theologian David Griffin puts in, God is all-powerful, His power enables people to deal with events beyond their control and He gives us the strength to do those things because He is with us.”
Harold S. Kushner, Overcoming Life’s Disappointments

People who pray for miracles usually don’t get miracles, any more than children who pray for bicycles or good grades, get them as a result of praying. But people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very often find their prayer answered. Harold S. Kushner

I wish you a good week as you wrestle with life’s contradictions and difficulties, yet in all that receiving the strength and grace to bear the unbearable.

Philemon

Hope amidst trials

Chapter 25

Good Monday Morning to this week 24 of 2020

Revelation 1:7 “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”

Revelation announces that God is still in control and that he will conclude this stage of history the way he has promised. Craig S. Keener

“If we must “feel” God’s presence before we believe he is with us, we again reduce God to our ability to grasp him, making him an idol instead of acknowledging him as God.”
Craig S. Keener

There can be no true peace, where there is not true grace; and where grace goeth before, peace will follow. Matthew Henry

“God alone is God, and he alone merits first place—beyond every other love, every other anxiety, every other fear that consumes us.”

The Book of Revelation speaks to many things – it enriches our understanding of the God as the beginning and end who reveals the meaning of human history, it provides a vision of heaven as a great wedding, it ensures us that our prayers rise to God, and it also depicts the heavenly liturgy as the climax of history.

The overarching message of John’s visions, however, is one of hope amidst tribulation. This is a message we need to hear today.

After the trials, plagues and ruin of human history have run their appointed course, after the beasts and kings who fight against the King of Kings are defeated, comes the judgment of each person according to his conduct. John then saw a new holy city where there is no more pain or death and he heard God say, “Behold, I make all things new To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.

Throughout the suffering of the human condition, we rejoice in this hope, this promise of God. The definitive coming of the Lord is invoked with the prayer: ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’

This is our prayer too. We live with an expectation, confidence and joy, active and vigilant in anticipation, “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” as we continue to build up His Kingdom coming to be among us.

Wishing you a blessed week.

Philemon