Merciful limitations.

Good Monday Morning to this week 37 of 2019

Observing at a distance a fig tree full of leaves, he went up to it to see if he could find any fruit upon it. but when he came to it, he found it had nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for that sort of fig. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again”. And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:13+14

Last night I enjoyed an evening tour on the Bielersee with many sightings of the beautiful Church of Ligerz at a distance, far and near, in various shades of the evening light, reminding me of the importance it once and wondering about the relevance to this day.

The pilgrimage church of Ligerz was first mentioned in 1261. It was built in the vineyards above the village. It became a parish church of its own parish in 1434 but was still dependent until being rebuilt in 1526. Until the early 19th century there were no good roads into Ligerz, instead, goods and travelers came by boat. The church amidst the vineyards is visible from a long distance and is, therefore, the landmark to Ligerz and the region.

Back to the parable of the Fig tree being seen from far, covered in nice leaves:

Fig trees around Jerusalem normally begin to get leaves in March or April and do not produce figs until their leaves are all out in June. This tree was an exception that it was full of leaves early.

Jesus, approaches the tree in his hunger, with the expectation of finding fruit. But as he draws near, he realizes the fact that the tree, though full of leaf, is absolutely fruitless, he forgets his natural hunger. As he approached this fig tree full of leaf, but destitute of fruit, it stood before him as a striking or awful image of the Jewish nation, having indeed the leaves of a great profession, but yielding no fruit. The leaves of this fig tree deceived the passer-by, who, from seeing them, would naturally expect the fruit. And so the fig tree was cursed, not for being barren, but for being false.

A  church or community or individual whose religion runs to leaf is useless if it brings forth no fruit or furthermore being false. Do those around care about the ceremonials or the outward appearance, more than it bearing fruit?

These words of Jesus, in their application also have a merciful limitation – a limitation which lies in the original words rendered “forever,” which literally mean for the current age. “No man eat the fruit during the age until the times be fulfilled. A day will doubtless come when those concerned will say, “I am a dry tree,” I shall accept the words of Him and respond, “From me shall thy fruit be found,” and shall be clothed with the richest fruits of all trees.

Here the fig tree was growing by the road; it belonged to no one, and nothing had been done for its improvement;  it was destroyed when its uselessness was made manifest. It was fruitless, because the fruit season had not come, and no old fruit remained on the branches. The destruction of a senseless and worthless thing made known the power of God, the purpose not just to wither, but all the more to restore. To wither was within the power of anyone, but to wither by a word was a supernatural act only possible to one.

Jesus gives his answer or interpretation of the parable with these words:

“Have faith in God.”

In doing. The words “shall say unto this mountain,” are figurative. A magnificent promise! Not only such an act as the withering of the fig tree, but one comparable to the uprooting of the Mount of Olives on which it grew. It is spoken of moral and spiritual difficulties met, within fulfilling the great plan of God along with personal and individual spiritual growth.

In receiving the answer was not to be merely looked forward to a coming age, but of an age being imminent, already fulfilling itself in present experience. A secret of intense and successful devotion.

The story teaches us that the Master looks for fruit in the proper time for fruit. In the case of this tree, “the time was not yet.” Figs come before leaves on that kind of tree. So the appearance of leaves assumed the presence of fruit underneath them, but none was there. For some phenomenal reason, this fig tree was a hypocrite. Jesus caught it for a parable with which to teach His disciples, and warn them of mere profession without performance. God does not, in any case, come hurridly demanding fruit, as soon as trees are planted; He seems to respect the laws of growth and ripening. He never hurries any creature of His hand. But He gives help to the end He proposes. He certainly puts realities before shows; figs previous to leaves.

Not all is lost. When the disciples ask Jesus to explain what just happened, he turns the topic and talks about prayer. Why? Though they do not yet fully understand, they will be the new caretakers of God’s people. They will be instruments of transformation. And, as Jesus teaches here, they will do this by the power of faithful prayer. Thus the fig tree cursing is not just about historical Israel. It’s about us. It’s about all the people of God throughout time.

A challenging text this morning, yet full of promises. Knowing all too well about things withering, areas in our lives with no fruit, of times not being fulfilled. I draw from the thought that Jesus shared, as he turned to the concept of merciful limitation and the importance of prayer.

Wishing merciful limitations, along with transformation and restoration

of areas in your lives that have withered and no longer bring fruit.

Philemon

 

Kirche Ligerz, Bielersee, Saturday 07.09.2019, 19h30
Screenshot 2019-09-08 at 14.21.06

Prayer of Relinquishment

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Jeremiah 18:4

Good Monday Morning to this week 36 of 2019

There seems to lie in all people and times, a certain proportion to the strength of their understanding, a conviction that there is in all human things of real order and purpose, notwithstanding the chaos in which at times they seem to be involved.

Suffering scattered blindly, good and evil distributed with the most absolute disregard of moral merit or demerit, enormous crimes perpetrated with impunity, or vengeance when it comes falling not on the guilty, but the innocent. This phenomena present, generation after generation, the same perplexing and even maddening features; and without an illogical but none the less a positive certainty that things are not as they seem—that, in spite of appearance, there is justice at the heart of them, and that, in the working out of the vast drama, justice will assert somehow and somewhere its sovereign right and power, the better sort of persons would find existence altogether unendurable. This is what the Greeks meant by the Ἀνάγκη or destiny, which at the bottom is no other than moral Providence. Hasting

Back to Jeremiah, this implies the living presence of the Potter in this world which is being molded. It involves the constant, direct impact, if one may so speak, of the Divine fingers. The Israelites thought that God had selected them and wound them up like a clock so that they were to go on and on without further change forever. St. Paul says No. God has not taken His fingers from the work. He never bound Himself to have mercy on you and on no one else. “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.” And if you do not answer His purpose, He will change matters with you. And so, according to the picture before us, God is ever actively present,  the great Hand at work, touching every individual thing, allowing nothing, whether the law or anything else, to intervene between His living purpose and the world that is being molded by Him.

This week I was occupied with the task of disposal of materials as wood, steel, paper, aluminum.  In German, there is a nice word used as a verb and noun. (entsorgen, Entsorgung). Literally one could translate it as the opposite of worry. To rid of worry. It’s the same word we use to dispose of waste in the practical sense. To relinquish of one’s possession, to let go, to release, to renounce or surrender of even the right possession. I learned that plastic can be recycled 7-9 times, paper 4-6 times, while glass, steel and aluminum lose no quality during recycling and can be recycled endlessly! So translated to modern days Jeremiah might have used aluminum as his metaphor to explain how many times God can remake and mold us.

The potter does not fling away the marred vessel, but he breaks it and puts it on the wheel again and reshapes it. The potters’ skill is not to be baffled. He wants to give his ideal reality. And he will shape and break, shape and break again, till the clay has taken the form he wishes. Jeremiah saw what that meant for the Israelites as a nation. The prophet saw that God would still hold them, and by sterner discipline, by harder blows and hotter fires, would mold them to the use and form He wanted. That was the answer to Jeremiah’s question, What can God do with this nation? Break it and reshape it.

The patience and persistence of God with man is the truth which this sets forth. God will not easily let man go. He stands over mankind and over every individual soul with boundless patience. The gifts and calling of God, says St. Paul, are without repentance, without recall or change.

“So he made it again.”  He can remake us. God persists till His purpose is achieved.

Relinquishment is a kind of dying to self.  This is to trust that God will cause something better to develop from us ‘letting go’. Not that letting go is ever easy, but it does open us up to fresh ways God wants to shape us and mold us for his ways. We see ourselves no longer as the finished product, but rather as clay in the Potter’s Hand.

Thou, Thou art the Potter, and we are the Clay,
And morning and evening, and day after day,
Thou turnest Thy wheel, and our substance is wrought,
Into form of Thy will, into shape of Thy thought.

Wishing you a great week on His “wheel”!

Philemon

 


Spiritual Desires

Good Monday Morning to this week 35 of 2019

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4 

The interpretation of the Bible has its many options,  variations, questions and methods.
You might have heard many of  the arguments, here a few:

• The Bible should be understood literally whenever possible.
• The customs and culture of the biblical world must be understood.
• Knowledge of the structure of a passage can be valuable for interpretation.
• Identical things must be distinguished from similar things.
• The word “all” can be used in a universal or limited sense.
• The Bible is full of small words with big meanings.
• Time, and time words, are essential to proper interpretation.
• It is important to understand biblical prophecy.
• It is necessary to distinguish between a believer’s permanent spiritual standing before God and his “walk.”

For example Psalm 37:4 many only see the second part, and then mention the first. , “He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Only seeing this you miss a lot: if you follow the first part of the verse, and take delight in the Lord, those desires of your heart are going to change to what God desires for you. Many go to this verse when they’re already desiring something badly. They think that if they just take the minimum required delight in the Lord and wait a bit, then bam! What they desire is delivered to them. … not really! . This verse could be saying much more,  that the more you delight yourself in the Lord, the more your heart reflects His.

Interlinear
Of your heart the desires you, He shall give Yahwe in, and delight yourself.

New International Version
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

New Living Translation
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

King James Bible
Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Contemporary English Version
Do what the LORD wants, and he will give you your heart’s desire.

Good News Translation
Seek your happiness in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desire.

NET Bible
Then you will take delight in the LORD, and he will answer your prayers.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Hope in Lord Jehovah and he will give you the requests of your heart.

GOD’S WORD® Translation
Be happy with the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

JPS Tanakh 1917
So shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD, And He shall give thee the petitions of thy heart.

Brenton Septuagint Translation
Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall grant thee the requests of thine heart.

Webster’s Bible Translation
Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he will give thee the desires of thy heart.

Young’s Literal Translation
And delight thyself on Jehovah, and He giveth to thee the petitions of thy heart.

Or some Cross References

Isaiah 58:14
Then you will delight yourself in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Matthew 7:7
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Psalm 145:19
He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry and will save them.

John 15:7,16
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you…

Proclaiming the many deep truths, with the many angles of interpretations of this verse for your life and the week ahead!

A prayer:  “Lord, all my desire is before thee” (Ps 38.9); and I know You form the desires of my heart more like those of your heart! (Ps 37.4).

blessings
Philemon

 

Presence strengthens; absence sharpens

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

Good Monday Morning to week 34 of 2019

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

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

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

Presence strengthens!
Absence sharpens!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a good start to this new week.

Philemon 

Swifter than eagles!

Good Monday Morning to this week 33 of 2019

David and Jonathan 

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

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

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

Israel and Judah loved David as a successful leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan blessed David.

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

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

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

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

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

Here a few of mine: 

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

A personal takeaway:

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

Wishing you a very good week!

Philemon

The drama going on in our minds!

Good Monday Morning to this week 32 of 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you transformed thoughts this week.

Philemon

 

 

Much ado about Something

Good Monday Morning to this week 31 of 2019

Much ado about nothing. Shakespeare (1598 play)

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

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

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

Here a few of my favorite quotes so far:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philemon

 

 

Advance Payment

Good Monday Morning to this week 30 of 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings

Philemon

 

 

 

 

 

Found (not) wanting

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

Good Monday Morning to this week 29 of 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philemon

Follow your passion?

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

Good Monday morning to this week 28 of 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philemon