Wind in the Wilderness

Chapter 12

Good Monday Morning to this week 13 of 2020

“I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. Ezekiel 34.25

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43.19

The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails. W. Arthur Ward

A few years ago I was standing on the outskirts of Ouagadougou, temperatures were in the 40tes. We got off the motorbike and stood in the scorching heat. A wind picked up, first came the relief along with a slight feeling of cooling, followed by red dust covering me with layers, resulting in, me, already a red-skinned into a red-skinned with many layers of Burkina’s wilderness dust.

But as hot as it was, as awkward as it was, the wind brought a change to the atmosphere. I wished for shade, water, but also for more wind. It felt as in the words of Isaiah;  something new was as happening, something springing forth.

Shortly after,  I rapidly moved to the next shade I could find  …

Wind in the wilderness, yes, but how does that lead us to the covenant of peace to dwell in security?

The wilderness often has an attitude of negativity, feelings of repulsion and hostility, places of horror with wild creatures.

The wilderness in the Bible is described as places and times of considerable significance where people are called to important tasks.

The wilderness is often a site of God’s grace expressing a place where God purifies and transforms, also revealing God’s nature.

A Covenant of peace?

Covenant a noun meaning “to select the best” coming from the root words “choice meat”
leading to the concept “cut a covenant”. A covenant was instituted by the two parties of the covenant who would take a fattened animal, the best of the flock or herd, and “cut” it into two pieces. Then the two parties of the covenant would pass through the pieces symbolizing their dedication to the covenant and by this action are saying, “If I do not hold to the agreements of this covenant, you can do to me what we did to this animal.”

Let’s wrap this up!

The wind blows with change through the wilderness. The change comes with a transformation happening after a covenant of peace is made. Isaiah speaks of a “pool of water” filling the wilderness with acceptable trees. In this fructification of the barren land, one can discern God’s creativity along with the promise and covenant of renewed fertility. With the transformation happening the full potential of the change can happen.
Ezekiel has a very profound vision, that to dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods or the newly restored land.

As we face this wilderness we are globally in, I pray for the wind of change, accompanied only with the covenant of peace until He the creator brings us to the restoration of fructified land with sustaining life!

Wishing you a healthy week.

Philemon

 

When we walk alone

Chapter 11

Good Monday Monday Morning to this week 12 of 2020

As we stick to the rules trying to “flatten the curve” of this pandemic we spend more time at home and are somewhat forced to change our habits. Through meeting fewer people for some,it’s really to “walk alone”. Shopping last Friday I saw many elderly going slower in the shop, they made best of the time to have a chat with a neighbor or a salesperson.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

It’s been a while since I took out the “Bible Blender”. Let’s do that again!
I put these following verses in the mixer and have a great blend of encouragement and verses talking about the fact that we do not walk alone, come out.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Abide in me and I in you. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. 

Even though I walk through 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. Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.

Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. 

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

You lead me beside still waters. 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me 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 though I walk through 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 prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

We will fear no evil. 

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Transformed by the renewal of mind.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

For nothing will be impossible with God. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

For the Lord did not forsake his people. 

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

Do not lean on your own understanding

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. And I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!

Wishing you a blessed and healthy week.

Philemon

 

 

 

They that be wise!

Chapter 10

Good Monday Morning to this week 11 of 2020

We start here with Daniel: 
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12.3

Daniel still in exile: 
The fundamental theme of the Book of Daniel is God’s control over history. Chapters 10, 11 and 12 in the Book of Daniel make up Daniel’s final vision, describing a series of conflicts between the unnamed “King of the North” and “King of the South” leading to the “time of the end”, when Israel will be vindicated and the dead raised to shame or glory.

Trouble and triumph:
Daniel received the words in the form of a vision. Daniel was about 85 years old at the time and had recently spent a night in the lions’ den for refusing to stop praying to the one true God. Even though many of his fellows Jews had returned to Israel to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, Daniel was still in Babylon. Daniel knew from the vision
there’s trouble, but also triumph ahead.

The Meta-narrative; a story about a story: 
There is so much going on in this last chapter. Trouble and triumph are in the midst of these are prophetic visions. A rather simple emotional tool installed in our soul, before we can let the big things gain momentum in our lives they are feed by a little four letter word called HOPE. Is hope fed by prophetic vision, the meta-narrative of that which is to come? Some of Daniel does sound like this … a story about a story, encompassing and explaining other “little stories”  that assemble the “little stories” into a whole! Do these litte stories of hope lead to other little stories of hope forming the bigger stories, leading to a form of perpetual hope?

Hope the refusal to accept reality: 
Hope, on one hand, is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts. Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion; and one does that only at great political and existential risk. On the other hand, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretension of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question.
Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

Again, they that be wise: 
And they that be wise – Those who are instructed in the works of Christ and live out of that grace, sharing that mystery of grace, are wise and shall shine – shall be distinguished by the purity of their creed.

The climax of the narrative of Daniel: 
The climax comes with the prophecy of the resurrection followed by  the coming “kingdom of heaven”. Daniel 10-12 does not say that history will end with the coming of the Jewish kingdom; rather, the “wise” will be brought back to life to lead Israel in the new kingdom of God.

And now to grace: 
And they that turn many to righteousness – They who, living out of the grace become bright luminaries of the Kingdom of Jesus. 

And now to the wise: 
So to be wise is to live out of grace!

Again to Grace:
For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.  Saint Augustine Of Hippo

That is the mystery of grace: it never comes too late.
Franois Mauriac

Be wise, live out grace, so the many little stories of the narrative of your life 
lead you to the Kingdom of Heaven! 

May the Grace of our Lord be with you!

Have a great start to this new week!
Philemon

 

Standing firm

Chapter 9

Good Monday Morning to this week 10 of 2020

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6.11

In a time that everyone is speaking of prevention and precaution in the context of the Coronavirus, let’s look at the relevance of spiritual prevention and precaution.

Paul wrote this letter while imprisoned in Rome,  to the churches in Ephesus and the surrounding region. He addressed three main themes:

1. Christ, reconciling all creation to himself and to God.
2. Christ uniting people from all nations to himself,  to one another and to His church.
3. Christians living as new people with a new culture.

The text is structured so that we hear:

1. First, a rationale for the task, to stand against the schemes of the devil.
2. Secondly, the needed armor as, truth, righteousness, peace and faith.
3. Thirdly,  spiritual orientation with prayer and faith in the Spirit.

This metaphor of the armory was written for a minority group of people, remembering that the armory is designed to help stand fast not just for aggressive action. Standing fast being armed does not require another person to get hurt in any way. Withstanding another description also has significance in this text, empowering believers to withstand the evils that surround and threaten them. The nature of the armor itself is profoundly defensive. The only equipment for an attack is the sword,  specifically a weapon, a spiritual sword. Followers of Jesus are girded in truth, faith, peace, with the sword of the Spirit through which in prayer and faith they stand firm for their defense.

Melinda Quivik writes in her commentary:

The churches and people of the renewed culture are called to maintain strength, wearing the “armor of God,” in order to pray that “the mystery of the gospel” will be proclaimed. The proclamation is not about something knowable in the way we know a fact or encounter, the proclamation is about something irrevocable, unbelievable, and imperative. (crucifixion, resurrection and true life)  The “whole armor of God” is needed for the war against the principalities and powers, also the forces of own sin, our own separation from God, our own desires for that what does not feed and nourish God’s creation. The enemy threatens from within and outside ourselves. To be set and stand firm in all daily challenges, knowing that much opposes God’s desire that “the mystery of the gospel” brings joy and transformation to this Earth,  is a key and central message here.

In the armory, we may immediately apply it to an individual context, yet it’s far more than that, we see it being used in reference more than for an individual, more for a family, a community a church and a for a whole people. We can wear these gifts together as we stand shoulder to shoulder as an impenetrable wall of strength.

A quick look at the tools with some of their many meanings:

The belt holds, fixes what is necessary in such a way that it enables us to work freely and flexibly,  to walk or run loosed from constrains trying to hold us down.

The breastplate covers the core, righteousness protects the heart and the vital organs so that the flow of life can always reach every part of the body.

Shoes stand for readiness to stand and speak peace.

The shield is a defense against flaming arrows aimed at people armed with faith, facing assaults from those who do not know about the gospel of peace.

The “helmet of salvation” reminds us of our transformation, our new rights with the new identity of grace, strength and confidence.

The sword of the Spirit, the word of God proclaims the mystery of the gospel, it both cuts and salves (soothes). It is law and gospel, trouble and grace, an offensive weapon, one for healing and peace, because, in Christian terms, the Spirit kills and brings to life.

Chained to a Roman soldier, Paul uses this allegory or imagery as his mind goes forth naturally to the subject of amour and warfare, yet it’s all about spiritual strength and courage greatly needed for his and our daily walk of faith. The aim is keeping on the whole armor with the principle of true grace, aiming at standing firm as we run our race, not against human enemies, but principalities and their forces, not letting them assault the things newly belonging to us, demonstrating and showing the heavenly image in our hearts.

With these impressive tools we can feel the armored impact and protection with the power of God’s word enabling us to move emboldened into the week ahead, called to standing firm in prayer and faith.

Be strong- because He goes before us.

Be strong- because He is with us.

Be strong- where you put your feet, I’ll give it to you.
A promise made to Joshua by Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)

Blessings
Philemon