When the well is empty.

You think of water when the well is empty. Ethiopia

Good Monday Morning to this week 47 of 2019

Drink water from your own cistern and freshwater from your own well. Proverbs 5:15

Cape Town is a city of more than 3 million,  suffered from drought for three successive years, which led to extensive water shortage. In February 2018 they got the shocking news of a possible “day zero” due in April 2018,  if the people did not implement water-saving actions, with a maximum use of 50 liters of water per capita per day. In European countries, the estimated water usage is between 130-160 liters per capita per day.

Environmental psychology is a relatively new, however a growing branch of psychology. Many of the questions that arise here can be explored and understood within popular and valid frameworks, from social, cognitive or biological models. The term ‘coping’  indicates the psychological and physiological condition where an organism or person is expected to master and adapt to a stress-inducing/evoking challenge. Coping can be understood as a positive expectation of a situation. Two possible consequences of not coping are – hopelessness and helplessness.

Not just our environmental well runs dry, often also our physical or spiritual wells
“My soul is greatly troubled. But You O Lord – how long? says David in Psalm 6:3.

In the frailty of our souls, even prayer is hard at such times.  We can’t just replace the dryness of our souls with prayer as good as it is!  One of the difficulties in prayer is that it doesn’t stem from what we do, but from what God does.

In our spiritual life, with intense soulsearching and prayer, there are times that even then God seems to take a step back from us. Why do our prayers find no answers? We hear no whispering of his voice or indication that He is close or within reach. We are left feeling alone, isolated, confused and perhaps angry. Of course from good teaching we know that God is within us – never to depart. He will never leave us or forsake us! We’ve got that part of theology engraved, yet the distance, the absence may only be a perception, while the struggle is genuine even if the distance is not.

For some of us, there are clear responses to these situations. Pray more, pray harder, examine our inner life, look for personal mistakes and failures, learn new prayers, try new spiritual exercises, keep looking for hidden distance in us that concludes that we are being punished by God. With more and more religious effort, the distance doesn’t change but we ask more questions and even put God’s love and care into question.

Did you ever ask God for unshakable faith and then he started to shake your faith?
Back to David in the Psalms, “How long O Lord?!” Could the silence and stillness of God, be pathways on which our faith grows? Doesn’t our spirituality grow and increase by faith, is fueled by faith, so that these times of distance also become times of God’s mercy,  strengthening a very part of us, in need of the fuel called; Faith?!

Could the first part of filling the well, not be the rain, but the gentle soft precipitation of faith? As we physically wait for the first snow to fall this November in Switzerland, we go from a long month of heavy rain to the gentle reception of the precipitation of snow. Be it snow, drizzle, rain, the atmosphere becomes saturated with water vapor, so that the water condenses and precipitates. Isn’t it so with faith, we saturate the spiritual atmosphere with faith? On the other hand, fog and mist are suspensions to precipitation, because the water vapor doesn’t condense sufficiently. Fog and mist could be mistrust, incertitude or confusion in regard to our spirituals lives.

Back to lack of rain or the drought, Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification that has been experimented for quite a while. It changes the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds by dispersing substances into the air which changes the microphysical process within the cloud. Evidentially cloud seeding was attempted during the 2008 Summer Olympics n Beijing to coax rain showers out of clouds before they reached the Olympic city in order to prevent rain during the opening and closing ceremonies. Do we also attempt spiritual cloud seeding, trying to force an outcome, especially in times when the well runs dry?

What do we do to fill our well with? Do we try religious attempts to force it, like the physical attempt of cloud seeding? There are so many books, Internet sites, recommendations explaining what you need to do to fill that void, water your dry well with, sometimes even in “7 steps”. No, I won’t fall to the urge to do the same and give you these steps like with a quick fix.

Let’s take another approach:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought, it is not anxious and it does not cease to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17.7-8

My child, pay attention to what I say, listen carefully to my words.
Don’t lose sight of them let them penetrate deep into your heart,
for they bring life to those who find them and healing to their whole body.
Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4: 20-23

Have you never heard? Have you understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength, they will soar high on wings like eagles they will run and not grow weary they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40: 28-31

It’s a time for faith, His well has not run dry, He is there!

Wishing you a blessed week as you think of the water while the well is not empty or as you wait in faith for a new filling of your well.

Philemon

 

 

 

 

Belonging

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten
that we belong to each other Mother Teresa

Good Monday Morning to this week 46 of 2019

Belonging;

The best of community does give one a deep sense of belonging and well-being; in that sense, community takes away loneliness. Henri Nouwen

Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.
Brené Brown

Belonging; 

The affinity for a place or situation, acceptance, association, attachment, inclusion, kinship, loyalty, rapport, relationship.

“It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together.” Keegan

Having a sense of belonging is a common experience. Belonging means acceptance as a member or part. Such a simple word for huge concept. A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with the intensity of daily life.

So many churches or groups of people claim that first, you have to behave right, and then you can believe the Gospel, and then once you have gotten that right, we will let you belong and become a member of our church or group. I believe it has to be the other way around. When it comes to church, I think the formula in a sense should be;

belong, believe, behave.

Jesus first let these individuals know that they belonged—that He loved them regardless of their behavior. One of the most powerful verses is in Mark 10 where it says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him,  in the encounter with the rich young ruler who chose money over following Jesus. Or another of his answers “whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me”. People around Jesus didn’t have to believe in Jesus before they were shown His love and compassion. Rather, they believed because of it. And only after the belonging and the believing comes the third step—behaving. Because I belonged, it led me to believe. Because I believed, it causes me to change my act, challenging that within me that wasn’t is according to the belonging one you now believe in.

The House of Belonging
Awake to a new morning.

Thinking for a moment
it was one day like any other.

But, the veil had gone
A new feel of heart.
I thought; as I utter the place of exile
the dimensionality of being out there,
to then have my face turned towards a place,
immediately start to walk in that direction
of a new way, a new being part of partaking,
spelling the word;  be, be-longing to belonging.

Was it the quiet and stillness of
God Shekhinah, as HIs manifestation, descended to
dwell among humanity?

Another prayer returned through
the voice of He with the
triune nature calling forth the real sense
of belonging?

And I thought,
this is a good day!

This is the day
I realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between the world of exile
to the one to belonging
coming as you are and yet in the same
breath,  extending this acceptance to
others as they come as they are.

And
I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light, away from
separateness to togetherness
with the unique gem of being a partaker.

For we have become partakers of Christ,
For we have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews

This is the bright home
in which I live, this is where
I ask my friends to come,

This is the temple
of my new home
having made His home
as I belong to something greater
where I belong.

I belong, I  present my authentic, imperfect self,
I accept who I am, I embrace who is He is,
He that is greater within me.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

Warapunga
Inspired by Yahwe,  D.Whyte, B. Brown

Wishing you this same belonging!

Philemon

 

 

 

 

The Mask You do’n(o)t Live In?

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Good Monday Morning to this week 45 of 2019

Recently I was made aware of the fact that I am a “white male”… . For most of my life
I’ve been “culturally-color-blind” and was trying to understand what the explicit mentioning of this title meant.  Where does this idea come from, is this an attempt to unveil or an attempt to cover over with a mask? I am quite sure you’ve had similar experiences due to an ethnic, gender or social peer group you’ve spent time in. Of course, I am aware of the privileges I’ve had growing up in a country (PNG) with few in this category. I do ask myself this morning, is this the right season to walk this line? Of course, I am a white male, not that it matters;  with slightly red hair and red skin (smile), not out of the middle class and spent most of my life caring for marginalized, so this mask feels estranged and hostile to say it mildly. Yes, I won’t put on this mask, not saying that those masks aren’t there or don’t continue causing so much harm, hurt and discrimination to many all over the world.

Galatians 3:28, represents a new construct of reality, opposing the dominating construct of Hellenistic-Roman society. Although Christians still had to live in this Hellenistic-Roman culture, they had a new mental context in their minds, which became the social context when they gathered for worship. Scholars pose the question as to whether Galatians 3:28 is indeed the great egalitarian text that it is often assumed to be.
It does as well address the issue of inheritance of Abraham’s promise, and against this background, one should indeed accept that no worldly distinctions have any bearing on the inheritance of the promise. Douglas A. Campbell distinguishes important aspects: He points out that the heart of the matter is “the uncompromising eschatological logic of Paul’s reconciling gospel and that this has universal abolitionistic consequences. Secondly, he argues that the binaries typical of Hellenistic social ideology could be detached from the Christological claims and may indeed be abolished itself.

Paul’s Christology thus underpins a (controversial) model of community in which Jew and Gentile enjoy unbounded table-fellowship, sharing one bread and one cup, demonstrating in concrete social interaction that they are “one body in Christ”.
Paul did not have the abolishment of human categories in mind. However, he wanted the relationship between people of different status to change – a claim that is best understood in terms of the metaphor of the building of family.

Alio Cissé Niang puts it nicely:
Paul the counterculturalist, acting with liberating passion for all people, emphasizing that all are God’s children, in spite of ethnicity, social status or gender, as Galatians 3:28 indicates. Paul viewed believers as a new ethnic group that had been created through participation in Christ, with all other norms being relativized. A theology of inclusiveness. The Church as a unique culture, while at the same time respecting the peculiarities and particularities of ethnic and cultural specificities with the emphasis on both unity and diversity.

Galatians 3:28 could indeed be an “open text”, interpreted in diverse ways, these approaches emphasizing the immense depth of this verse with the importance and implication of these momentous words. Could this verse be
The Magna Carta of Humanity?

Mary McLeod Bethune writes with impressive implication to her life:

With these words, the scales fell from my eyes and the light came flooding in. My sense of inferiority, my fear of handicaps, dropped away: “Whosoever”, it said. No Jew nor Gentile, no Catholic nor Protestant, no black nor white; just “whosoever”. It meant that I, a humble Negro girl, had just as much chance as anybody in the sight and love of God …

Wishing you a wonderful week as you keep embracing this verse unmasked, revealing the wonderful implications of this inclusiveness and knowing of new belonging.

Philemon

 

Mistakes I’ve made, when reading the Bible.

Two situations lead me to this text today:
The more important first, a talk with my young adults about the relevance of the Bible in today’s world and culture and secondly a rather simple article, nevertheless catching my attention with the title:  “Seven mistakes I made in my twenties”.

Here a few of the mistakes I’ve made reading the Bible.

Good Monday Morning to this week 44 of 2019

1. Looking for insight rather than a personal application.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. – Matthew 18:20
A great verse for all small group leaders, pastors and gatherers of people!

Although God is always with us when believers gather together, it doesn’t mean that He is not with us when we are alone because God is omnipresent meaning He is always with us no matter the circumstance.

2. Failing to research the context.
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” (Mark 9:43)
The Broadman Bible Commentary nicely writes: “… if what you desire to do, or the places you long to frequent, or the things you are greedy to possess… would entice you into a path departing from the way of life, whatever sacrifice is necessary must be made to return to the path of life!

3. Sticking to only one translation. (this now comes so much easier now with so many translations available on the internet)
When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David. (NIV) 1 Sam. 18:28
But when Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that all Israel loved him. (RSV)
Quite a difference here!

4. Thinking the only way to read the Bible is by looking at the words on a page.
And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die … meaning: “Don’t tear your clothes”, if you only read the words on the page it leads to a strange interpretation.
It’s good to be sensitive to distinctions between Israel and the Church and Old Covenant and New Covenant eras/requirements.

5. Not using the Bible to help interpret itself!
Interpretation, based on the author’s intention of meaning and not the reader.
Get into the author’s context, historically, grammatically, culturally and the literary forms and conventions the author was working in. Interpretation in the context of the passage. Interpreting of Bible not only literally, allowing for normal use of figurative language.  For example, Isaiah 55:12 states the trees of the field will clap their hands. Since trees do not have hands or clap this must be a figure of speech.
Interpretations come to life, once in the context of the passage, as with the trees of the fields clapping their hands!

5. Not forming your own interpretation. Some questions to ask as you form your  interpretation in prayer and in the company of the Holy Spirit:

What do I learn about God in this passage?
What do I learn about people?
What do I learn about relating to God?
What do I learn about relating to people?

How would I say this verse in my own words?
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. Proverbs 11.3

Formed in my own words: Be an honest person of integrity, this will keep you on track, all else will destroy you.

6. Sometimes I look for verses that “only” fit the topic or theme I have in mind:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

This is a verse where an infinite, all-powerful God meets very finite, not-so-powerful human beings. Sure, the possibilities are endless with God. The spiritual gifts, holy callings and life journeys available to the Jesus follower can be endless. The keyword is simply can. Do you see the words should or will? Isn’t the emphasis on the infinite God and not on us here?

I’ll conclude with Deuteronomy 31.6 (NIV the interpretation that I grew up with!)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Moses sharing this with Joshua at the age of 120, knowing he won’t continue to the promised land as a consequence of his own sin, yet knowing a God that has lead him faithfully in all his ways, he now lays this promise on Joshua.  Moses animates the people to the perseverance of hope when God declares that He will be their helper even to the end. Faith corresponds with God’s promises, and is, in harmony with them, it, therefore, extends itself to our whole life, even beyond death itself; for God removes all doubt as to the future by these words, “I will not leave thee nor forsake thee.”

Wishing you a blessed week!
Philemon 

Lost in reality

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again. In his joy, he goes away and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Good Monday Morning to this week 43 of 2019

The opposite of being lost could be: found, located, situated, here, present
in, owned, retained, there, adequate, enough, sufficient, accounted for, at hand
in attendance.

Last week we looked at secrets hidden in scripture and discovered the chiasms found in many texts. Lost and found are concepts and words also very often mentioned. The world “found” is quite popular in the KJV, with it being mentioned 470 times.

In this parable, we could speak of the “being lost” or the “being found”.

There is a man, and there is a field, these two things are immediately recognizable. Where could this lead us? The man in these parables  … Jesus himself. And the field, the world of humanity, the human race, all of society. With these clues, a key to this first parable is opened. Jesus came,  found a treasure hidden in humanity. Something was hidden, lost in the human race, but to then be uncovered it. And then he did an amazing thing and covered it up again, buried it again. Then he went and gave all that he had and bought that field of humanity. The purpose is not lost, the treasure is not lost. It was found, unveiled and hidden again. God emptied himself, being equal with God, he didn’t keep the treasure but gave all he had as he walked the mystery of darkness before being found again. A treasure was uncovered for a brief time the secret revealed but then hid again. And then he went and gave all that he had and bought the field in which it is hidden. Here we see the narrative to the story unfolding. The owner of the land now becomes the owner of the veiled or hidden treasure. The owner is now in control. He bought the field in order that someday he might use that treasure. This treasure is now hidden or “Lost in reality”, hidden in the now, in today.

Later Jesus drives this point home with his statement in John:  “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one”. Hidden yet revealed, the perspective of the interrelationship between, this age, our reality, the coming age and the interplay of the various elements in our lives.

To find love you must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God. Thomas Merton.

Wishing you a wonderful week, being present, located in the field of the hidden treasure, with the field already in the hands of the eternal owner.

Philemon

 

 

 

Secrets of God

Good Monday Morning to this week 42 of 2019

He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. Ephesians 1.9

Jesus answered them, “To you, it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been granted. Matthew 13:11

In this passage of Matthew 13, Jesus answers in terms of the elect, God’s chosen people, defined by those who have genuine faith in God in contrast to those with rebellion, spiritual dullness and unbelief.

Jesus answers with a well-structured chiasm. (Two ideas are interwoven in one narrative.)

“Chiasmus, the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism”

Jesus said:

While seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘you will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes,

otherwise

They would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and he would heal them. Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men
desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The literary beauty of the chiasm is apparent.

Another example of an ABCB’A’ chiasm in John 4.

A – But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth:
B – For the Father seeketh such to worship him.
C – God is a Spirit:
B – And they that worship him
A – And must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Chiasmus is not a secret Bible code, although it is often hidden by translations which may obscure the occurrence of repetitions of keywords and phrases, and sometimes it is hidden by numeric verse and chapter divisions.

Jesus himself taught in chiastic structures. Take the parable of the workers recruited for a penny a day recorded in Matthew 20. The parable is bounded by the classic chiasm.

“The first shall be last, and the last first” which is repeated at the end of this parable but in reverse – “the last shall be first, and the first last”!

In between, the parable is a dramatized chiasm – the first laborers are called up last, and vice versa. This clearly demonstrates that chiasm is a conscious technique in the mind of Jesus for teaching disciples.

One more meaningful Chisam.

No one can serve two masters;
for either, he will hate the one
and love the other,
or he will be devoted to one
and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matt 6:24 NASB)

Chiasms are usually arranged in the same top-to-bottom form as they appear in the text:

A – No one can serve two masters;
B – for either he will hate the one
C – and love the other,
C – or he will be devoted to one
B – and despise the other.
A – You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matt 6:24)

In Western cultures, we are trained to look for the emphasis at the beginning and/or the end of the text. Therefore, we naturally believe that this verse is about serving either God or money.

Looking deeper at this chiasm, you see two places of emphasis: the center point focuses on loving the right master and the first/last elements focus on serving that master.

While serving God is good and proper, love and devotion to Him should be our driving force.

Wishing you deep insights this week as you look at the mysteries or secrets of God and discover beauty, right in the depth of the living Word.

Have a blessed week

Philemon

(21+3) Quotes of faith and more

Good Monday Morning to this week 41 of 2019

It’s always good to learn from the past. Since I like reading quotes, I looked through the centuries (sounds amazing I can do that nowadays) and found one I liked to each period. Between the 10th and 12th, it was harder to find any. It seems like they were too busy preparing the crusades, with Pope Leo, Gregory and Urban completely occupied with another separation within the church.

Listed are 21 quotes of Christian Theologians. At the end, I then added three odd quotes in completion.  I wish you much inspiration as you read and discover!

1st Apostle James
For the one who does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.

2nd Tertullain
Hope is patience with the lamp lit.

3rd Marcus Minucius Felix
The poor man is he who, having much, craves for more.

4th Basil of Caesarea
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

5th Augustine of Hippo
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

6th Gregory the Great
The spiritual director should not reduce his attention to the internal life because of external occupations, nor should he relinquish his care for external matters because of his anxiety for the internal life.

7th Isaac of Nineveh
There is love like a small lamp, which goes out when the oil is consumed; or like a stream which dries up when it doesn’t rain. But there is a love that is like a mighty spring gushing up out of the earth; it keeps flowing forever, and is inexhaustible.

8th John of Damascus
He who longs alway after God, he seeth Him: for God is in all things. Existing things are dependent on that which is, and nothing can be unless it is in that which is. God then is mingled with everything, maintaining their nature: and in His holy flesh the God-Word is made one in subsistence and is mixed with our nature, yet without confusion.

9th Johannes Scotus Eriugena
Christ wears “two shoes” in the world: Scripture and nature. Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God.

10th Anselm of Canterbury
God does not delay to hear our prayers because He has no mind to give; but that, by enlarging our desires, He may give us the more largely.

11th Peter Abelard
The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.

12th Hildegard of Bingen
You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.

13th Thomas Aquinas
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.
To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

14th William of Ockham
Keep things simple.

15th Catherine of Siena
Speak the truth in a million voices. It is silence that kills.

16th Ulrich Zwingli
Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary, it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good.

17th John Owen
The growth of trees and plants takes place so slowly that it is not easily seen. Daily we notice little change. But, in course of time, we see that a great change has taken place. So it is with Grace. Sanctification is a progressive, lifelong work. It is an amazing work of God’s grace and it is a work to be prayed for.

18th George Whitefield
Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you. Fight the good fight of faith, and God will give you spiritual mercies.

19th Charles Spurgeon
A dark cloud is no sign that the sun has lost his light, and dark black convictions are no arguments that God has laid aside His mercy.

20th Reinhold Niebuhr
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

21st Eugene Peterson
I’m bankrupt without love. Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.

2nd Martin Luther King, Jr.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

23rd Dallas Willard
We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.

24th and the last quote of this series by Miroslav Volf
Faith is the way we as receivers relate appropriately to God as the giver.
It is, empty hands held open for God to fill.

Wishing you a wonderful and inspired week.
Philemon

 

The voice of Jacob, hands of Esau!

I’m back again with the story of Jacob … probably some catching up time for me with stories I thought I understood having heard them already in Sunday School, yet continuing to finding new meaning in them.

Good Monday Morning to this week 40 of 2019

The voice of Jacob and the hands of Esau! Isaac takes a both/and approach.
Let’s have a look at it:

One verse in particular is fascinating. In Genesis 27, Jacob takes food and bread from Rebekah to his aged, blind father. “I am Esau your firstborn”, he says, as he hands Isaac the meal, asking for his patriarchal blessing, an act more assuredly political and symbolic than personal and intimate. At first, Isaac is surprised at how quickly the hunter had succeeded at his task and, perhaps because he is a bit suspicious, he asks his son to come close so that he can feel him, to determine whether or not he is really Esau. Then comes the crucial verse 22: “So Jacob drew close to his father, Isaac, who felt him and wondered, ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, yet the hands are the hands of Esau.'”

Is the assumption right that Isaac does not realize that it is Jacob standing before him, and so Isaac blesses him? Yet what does this peculiar remark “The voice is the voice of Jacob, yet the hands are the hands of Esau” mean?

Here is one obvious possibility: Isaac uses his other senses to compensate for his blindness. When Jacob speaks to him, Jacob says that he is Esau. But Isaac is incredulous because the voice sounds like Jacob’s. So he feels his son’s arms and neck, which Rebekah had covered with the skins of kids, and they feel like Esau’s. Now Isaac is confused, and he utters the above statement expressing his puzzlement: Who stands before me? Who has brought me my favorite meal? Who seeks my parental blessing? The text says: “Isaac did not recognize him” but gives him the blessing nonetheless. Why? Does Isaac weigh the evidence? Does he choose to credit his sense of touch more than his hearing and his memory? Or does he decide to trust what his son has told him, namely, that he is Esau? We do not know. Isaac blesses even though he is confused: The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.

Who is this before me? Do I trust myself, my senses? Or do I trust my son? How about vocalizing the conflict: The voice, listen to the voice, its tone, and timbre; but the hands are the hands of Esau-this is what they tell me, indeed this is what he says to me. But I am his father. Would he lie to me?

What went through Jacobs mind;  … as I decked out in these skins to fool my old, blind father, hungry for his blessing, his power. A minute ago, I knew he was suspicious, but now, I think that I have persuaded him. He has stroked my arms and felt my neck; he is fooled.  He cannot trust his grasp of who I really am but must trust how I seem to be. My deception has worked. He blesses me because I deserve to receive his blessing.

To the storyteller; are the stakes greater, neither personal, nor familial, nor even political, but rather mythic? Here are two dimensions of human existence, culture and nature, speech and violence. Which shall receive the blessing of the future? Which shall flourish and rule? Which shall be the master and govern the ways of human life and the ways of nations? Or might it be that there is no alternative, no either/or? Isaac blessed the one who stood before him. He was worried but resolute. The decision would not be wholly rational and cultivated nor wholly violent and driven by passion. It would be both, for the voice is the voice of Jacob, and the hands are the hands of Esau.

Jacob may have thought that Isaac was fooled, yet this was not the same for Isaak. Feeling Jacob’s arms and neck did not resolve Isaac’s suspicions but deepened them. As verse 23 says, because of those hairy arms, Isaac “did not recognize him.” Why? Because the sons he had known were either/or, while the man who stood before him was both/and. Isaac was surprised by what it was going to be because his senses were confined to the past. But he did bless this man. Why? Because he accepted the past for what it was and the future for what it would be: All of his offspring would have the voice of Jacob and the hands of Esau.

Is it possible that this approach both/and, was an alternative version of the story that eventually found its way into the text. If so, Isaac did not ask the question once again, looking for confirmation but in doing so accepted their verdict. Rather, Isaac never recognized the man as either Esau or Jacob because he was both-a symbol of human existence as a struggle between culture and nature. He blessed him nonetheless, with the words ringing in his ears and ours: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” This passage was inpired by texts of M. L. Morgan.

The God of the Old was not invisible or an abstraction. He appeared to people – often when not expected or sought out and sometimes he was not recognized. Many of these moments often perceived as confusion in which an encounter, a special encounter was first mistaken as the confusion of ordinary people, was much more an encounter with God, purposely orchestrated by God! God was always there, but standing just behind the curtain of ordinary reality!

I wish you a blessed week as you keep discovering an awesome God, even in parts your mundane, ordinary life!

Philemon

Endless or Eternal Meetings

Good Monday Morning to this week 39/2019

When were you last in some meetings that seemed endless or tiring? As much as you know you want or need to be there, you just want to run out, grab a coffee, go for a walk, read the news, just find any reason to get out of it? Yes, I know it …

Jesus held meetings: A meeting with four – yes that’s a good number! 

While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple complex, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately. Mark 13.4

Well, this was an important meeting, they were talking about “Signs of the End of the Age”. Yes, those meetings go deep and are very serious stuff!

David held meetings: “The God and me kind”.

Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 2 Samuel 7:18

David was forced to meetings: Joab threated to kill all his men before nightfall if he didn’t. 

So the king arose and sat in the gate. When they told all the people, saying, “Behold, the king is sitting in the gate,” then all the people came before the king Now Israel had fled, each to his tent. 2. Samuel 19.8

Martha had a “One to One” meeting with Jesus: Yes these are the kind I like!

Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Jesus said to her, your brother will rise again. Later she answered, yes Lord, I believe …

Here is the ultimate reason to have meetings where two or three gather in His name!
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Mathew 18:20. This was right after it was written that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by the Father in heaven.

Let check out John C. Maxwell 

“Effective teams have teammates who are constantly talking to one another.”

“What’s true for a teammate is also true for the leader: If you don’t grow, you gotta go.”

“Individuals play the game, but teams win championships.”

Here some other great quotes on meetings: 

Meetings don’t have to be endless to be eternal. James E. Faust

The world is run by those willing to sit until the end of meetings.
Hugh Park (really?)

Meetings move at the speed of the slowest mind in the room. Dale Dauton (aha!!)

Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.
Peter Drucker (that’s a bit rough?!)

Life is a series of meetings and separations.  Santosh Kalwar (oh yes, you’re at something here!)

You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide on the question. Bill Gates (yes, I’ve been at this kind of meeting!)

A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted. James T. Kirk (nice word game going on here)

Meeting new people is just remembering faces of God we’ve forgotten. Harry Whitewolf
(beautiful – nicely put)

The longer the meeting, the less is accomplished. Tim Cook (good you at Apple have the cool watch to help you with that now!)

Okay, I resume and sum up what I’ve learned:

Good meetings: 

– up to four people.
– meetings with God.
– meetings with Jesus.
– meetings with friends.
– meetings in a discipleship process.
– short meetings for eternity.
– meetings as a team with a practical goal
– meetings where decisions are made
– meetings with food, like fish and bread (Jesus was good at that)
– meetings that save the lives of others

In conclusion, the Bible has a really great one on meeting for worship, prayer and spirituality! 

Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning. Hebrews 10:24-25  (TPT)

Wishing you a great week with a “healthy bunch” of good meetings!

Philemon

 

 

 

 

 

The Pastures of the Wilderness

Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Psalm 85:6

Good Monday Morning to this week 38 of 2019

Spring 1859

Faith grew. Hope brightened. The power of prayer began to be known, felt and seen. A contemporary account describes the Year of Grace in this way; The winter was passed; the time of the singing of birds had come. Humble, grateful, loving, joyous converts multiplied the great concerns of eternity were realized as they had never been before. Many walked about in deep anxiety about the one thing needful; while others rejoiced in the experience of a present peace and a complete salvation. The community was altogether changed in its outward aspects, and a pervading seriousness prevailed a total transformation has been affected in the hearts and lives of those who were the subjects of the change, and throughout all the neighborhood was heard thanksgiving and the voice of melody. The 1859 Revival in Ireland edited by William E. Allen

Fruit of Revival 1859

Full sanctuaries, full Sabbath schools, full prayer meetings, brotherly love, increased generosity and additions by the hundreds to the communion of the churches. These are the fruits that remain to the summer Revival of 1859 in Coleraine.

Wilderness

Shortly before the “Year of Grace” they had  Joel 1: 19 ringing in their ears:

O LORD, to you will I cry: for the fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame has burned all the trees of the field.

The sorrow of the people is turned into repentance and humiliation before God. With all the marks of sorrow and shame, sin must be confessed and bewailed. A day is to be appointed for this purpose; a day in which people must be kept from their common daily in’s and out’s.

The School in Coleraine in Summer 1859 

One boy after another silently slipped out of the classroom and after a while the schoolteacher looked out to see boys on their knees throughout the playground, each one in earnest prayer. He turned to the two boys and asked them; Do you think you can go and pray with these boys? They did so and kneeling down with one after another, they began to implore the Lord to forgive their sins for the sake of Him who had borne them all upon the Cross. Silent grief soon turned into bitter cries.

As these cries reached the girls’ school, they too fell upon their knees and wept in grief over their sins. The cries of the boys and girls at school reached passers-by in the adjoining streets and conviction of sin came upon them and they fell on their knees in the streets pleading to the Lord for mercy.  Pastors and men of prayer were sought and they spent the rest of the day in counseling and praying with these mourners. The sweetest of all toils, when to intercede for those who are brokenhearted by the sight of their sins,  dinner was forgotten, tea was forgotten, and it was not until 11pm at night that the school premises were freed from their unexpected guests.

The Pastures of the Wilderness 

Words translated as “wilderness” occur nearly 300 times in the Bible. A formative Hebrew memory is the years of “wandering in the wilderness,” mixing experiences of wild landscape, of searching for a promised land, and of encounters with God. The  wandering takes place in the, uninhabited land where humans are nomads. This common Hebrew word refers often to a wild field where domestic animals may be grazed and wild animals live, in contrast to cultivated land, sometimes “the pastures of the wilderness” (Joel 1:19–20). “The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice” (Isaiah 35:1).

The wilderness is a “given” for intense experiences, of stark need for food and water (manna and quails), of isolation (Elijah and the still small voice), of danger and divine deliverance (Hagar and Ishmael), of renewal, of encounters with God (Moses, the burning bush, the revelation of the divine name, Mount Sinai). There is a psychology as well as a geography of wilderness, a theology gained in the wilderness. R. Homes

Turning to the New Testament,  the word most often translated as “wilderness” is “eremos” an isolated place. The wilderness figures at critical junctures in the life of Jesus. Jesus is baptized by John and then is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days. The Devil is there, but so is the Spirit. “A great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed”. This records a search for solitude, for self-discovery, for divine presence, but this process, crucially, seems to require the ambiance of the natural environment.

They drop on the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. Psalm 65.12

In those wastes, however, there would be valleys or places watered by springs and streams that would afford pastures for flocks and herds. Such are the “pastures of the wilderness” referred to here. God’s passing along those valleys would seem to “drop,” or distill, fertility and beauty, causing grass and flowers to spring up in abundance, and clothing them with luxuriance. The freshness and beauty of plant life, which suddenly, as by a miracle, clothes the hill-sides, resembles a fair mantle thrown around their shoulders, as if to deck them for some festival.

In conclusion, I summarize: 

Our dwelling place: The wilderness.

Our spiritual provision: Pastures.

Our heavenly refreshment: Thy drop.

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Wishing you a very good start to this week

Philemon