Posts Tagged Faith

First steps

God said,

I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. . .

All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.

I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (NIV)

The promise of God is iron clad, comprehensive, reaching down through generations, and out to all the peoples of the earth.

Jacob responded,

“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house,

then the LORD will be my God and  this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (NIV)

Jacob’s build has a limited scope, reaching only to his immediate dilemma – this journey, and limited concerns – food, clothes and a safe return.   It also includes a payback.

You will be my God, I will establish this place as a house for you, and tithe ten percent.

God, in all his graciousness, accepts that first response.

As Robyn’s mother  says,

“If an infant can take five consecutive steps alone, they’re walking.”


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Esau was a Redneck

A hunter, and tough.

Jacob was a wuss, cooking lentil stuff.

One strutted. One connived. Forget sucking thumbs in utero.  These two practiced kick-boxing in the womb and never grew out of it.

The apparent perfection of Genesis 24 unravels quickly in Genesis 25.  This is the “chosen family.”  Why so messy?

It’s not so hard to weigh in against the Gaston, of Beauty and the Beast but what’s to root for in Jacob?

Paul writes of the twins:

. . .though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, Rebekah was told, “The elder will serve the younger.”
As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.
Does this help?
I keep butting up against God saying,  “I am God, you are not.”

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So untidy

Life, that is.

Libya for instance.  I read the news, and was horrified when Gaddafi troops poured fuel over their own and immolated soldiers unwilling to fire on protesters.  There were reports of patients killed in their hospital beds, their bodies taken away to remove the evidence. Clean-up crews scooping up corpses newly slain and sluicing away the blood to tidy the streets of Tripoli.

I prayed for justice, against the perpetration of evil.

The world at large, the powers that be, seemed hung in the stays.

Now I watch sleek needled fighter planes take off to make and enforce a no-fly zone  and part of me says, “These are the keepers of Guantanamo Bay, and Private Manning,” can I trust them either?

I remember Morris West’s haunting novel Harlequin.  In the fight against unquestioned evil Harlequin comes to the crunch,

But I couldn’t deceive Bogdanovich and he wouldn’t let me deceive myself. . . Came the day when a decision had to be made. I went to see him at the flower shop. He was playing with a tiny kitten, a stray that had wandered in from the street. He asked me to state exactly what I wanted.  I told him: my money back, and Yanko’s life for Julie’s. He didn’t argue the decision. He simply broke the kitten’s neck and laid it on the desk in front of me. Then he said, ‘That’s what it means, Mr. Harlequin. Can you do it?”

It has been a long time since I’ve read the book.  I no longer remember the plot.  But that paragraph has never left me.

I still pray to the righteous Judge of all the earth, because I believe that prayer is a critical element in the universal war against evil.  I pray that the Judge of all the earth will do right.

The tangles are so untidy that I can hardly follow the threads.

I hang on to the belief that, “He is God and I am not.”

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Gutsy Gal with Gumption Gets Guy

She’s a rich girl, a darling of her nanny, maids in waiting a-plenty, but she’s off to the spring herself with a jar to fill. She’s not above rolling up her sleeves to water a camel train worth of dusty guzzlers.  And she’s got the spunk to up and leave home, to choose a husband sight unseen, now, before second thoughts have a chance to intrude.

Worthy of a Munsch Princess, or what?

If I admire Rebecca, I really warm to Abraham’s elderly servitor even more.

He runs the whole household for Abraham and is his oldest servant. That’s a camp with three hundred home-raised fighters alone, so quite an establishment.

Loyal, and willing to swear.  Practical – thinking ahead, “And what if the woman won’t come back with me?”  Planning the logistics- Ten camels,  gifts calculated to impress, a detail of men. Prayerful – trusting God’s leading.

I love his approach to getting guidance.  He asks for a specific answer to a problem, and acts immediately when it comes.

He doesn’t abandon common sense in the process.  And he’s canny enough to get in and get out.

So often we ask God for advice.  Then we are tempted to dither, questioning if we’ve heard correctly, until we talk ourselves right out of action.

If you haven’t read Genesis 24 recently you should give it a re-run.

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Shining Faith

Indeed, there is something about the shining faith of another, of fire burning bright, to put heart into a person.

Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.  – Hugh Latimer

“Lord, open the king of England’s eyes” – William Tyndale

“…my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me. Amen.” -Martin Luther

“If it be so, Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God.” – Job
“For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  -Paul
“Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee,  since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him.  And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. -Jesus

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What about the fallout?

Being closer to sixty these days than I am to fifty I no longer see life extending on beyond me to the farthest horizon.

And so, as I pour over the verses of Genesis, I sometimes stop to wonder if it is a good use of time, resources, energy.  If this is what will define my life through the rest of my working days, is it worth it?

What is the significance of just having invested an entire day pouring over a mere page of ancient text that presents an apparently simple story.

No use whatsoever- unless it is more than that-unless it is somehow a key to life now.

Is there an eternal God who interacts with human beings on a personal level? Does he do today what he did then?

At the end of the day, I sit contemplating the story of Hagar and Ishmael, and Abraham.

If ever there was a command of God that seemed to cut across the demands of decency,  parental affection, and good common sense, it was the command to exile this young sixteen year old and his mother to the desert, with nothing but a bag of food and a goatskin of water.

No wonder it was a “very bad thing in the eyes of Abraham.”

“Obey me,” said God, “and I will take care of the fallout.”

And he did.

It’s still a principle worth grasping.

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I’m a lot more worried by Lot

The unbridled activities of the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, climaxed by their attempted homosexual gang rape of angels, and their subsequent fiery demise, has of course become a classic measuring stick of evil and divine judgment.

I find myself more continually disturbed by Lot.

Why?  Because I’m much more likely to also co-exist on easy street, to somewhat uneasily rub along in silent disapproval of moral rot, being inwardly disturbed, but basically inactive, than I am to go out and participate in overt orgies.

Lot left Haran and kith and kin to follow Uncle Abraham to the promised land. He entertained angels unaware and went to their defense. He lived amongst, but was not part of,  the society around him, so that his neighbours said, “He came as a stranger and does he think he can now judge us?” He was one of four, (six short of the negotiated ten necessary to save the city) snatched from Sodom’s sulphured end, because of his righteousness, by God’s mercy and through Abraham’s intercession.

And yet he leaves me with nothing but quease and questions.

What was Lot doing, actually living within the walls of Sodom? Where was his tent?  What happened to the flocks and herds and herdsmen, so numerous that he couldn’t find sufficient grazing space next to Abraham to feed them? Were there no righteous retainers in his household? Why wasn’t his capture by Chedorlaomer a wake up call?  Why is there no record of thankfulness to Abraham for his  rescue?  Why was he willing to throw his virgin daughters to the wolves? Why were they engaged to local pagans?  Why did Lot dither about leaving Sodom until the angels were forced to grab his hands and physically extract him? Why did his wife look back? Why did he negotiate to escape to little Zoar instead of obeying and hi-tailing it to the hills, where there was safety and again, Uncle Abraham?

How did he end up in a cave in the mountains, a pathetic victim to post-traumatic stress, fathering his own grand-children in a drunken stupor?

Such a sordid little story of the dangers of mediocre faith and quasi commitment.

I did not enjoy working on the translation.

I much preferred studying his great-great-great…. grand-daughter Ruth, who said to her mother-in-law,

“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you;

for where you go, I will go,

and where you lodge, I will lodge.

Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.

Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.”

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