The Greek word (oikonomia) so translated signifies primarily, a stewardship, the management or disposition of affairs entrusted to one. Thus 1 Corinthians 9:17, the King James Version “A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me,” the Revised Version (British and American) “I have stewardship entrusted to me.” The idea is similar in Ephesians 3:2 parallel Colossians 1:25 (the Revised Version, margin “stewardship”). In Ephesians 1:10 God’s own working is spoken of as “dispensation.”
The Greek word ‘oikonomia’ is pretty easy to remember because we have a similar word in English…Economy. Dispensation is God’s economy entrusted to us, hence it’s translation as management or stewardship.
As I was thinking about God’s economy the first thing that came to mind is the multiplication rules of His Kingdom, they are very counter-intuitive to what we expect from our human experience. We can see the unique nature of God’s math throughout the Bible; God multiplies resources in supernatural ways for those who serve him.
Not surprisingly, my favorite stories of resource multiplication are related to food. We can find those in Old Testament (ex. the story of Elijah and the Widow in 1st Kings 17), and New Testament accounts (ex. the feeding of the 5000 in Mark 6). What strikes me about those two stories is that God used unlikely people (a widow and a young man) who had very little to offer from the perspective of ‘human economy’ and multiplied the little they had not only to fulfill a need, but create a surplus (a.k.a called abundantly provide).
Those stories exemplify the dispensation of God in a very practical way; God works in us and through us as we trust Jesus and follow his word. Our human limitations are not an obstacle, but a tool that God uses to showcase his love, power, and presence in the lives of those around us. All we have to do is bring what we have and put it in his service.
After starting the trip at the doctor, and having to take antibiotics for the next couple of days, I was not feeling very optimistic about this trip…but then there came this word…DISPENSATION…and it changed everything in light of God’s word.
Recently, I had an encounter at work that left me perplexed….during a team meeting someone made a comment regarding a project I was managing and called it “the wild west”. The comment caught me off-guard, as I believed I had communicated the process and the development with key stakeholders at every stage…and it highlighted clearly that -at least for one person- this hadn’t been the case.
I focused on asking what about the project was not clear…and the answer was as vague as the initial description…”wild west”.
Later that day, someone else who was at the meeting came to ask me if I was ok…interestingly, up to that point, I hadn’t put too much stock on the event other than the facts; someone felt out of the loop…and they needed to feel informed. However, after realising how others had interpreted the event, I started feeling that the comment was an attack on my work and ultimately on me.
Interestingly, at that point, my strategy changed. Instead of just focusing on how to better communicate the stages in the project to this particular person, I realised I needed to emphasise the fact that there had been a process in place all along…and that I couldn’t let the “wild west” comment remain uncontested…as it was not really a fair evaluation.
I felt pretty good about my strategy…and yet there was something else I did not feel good about…my feelings. At the point when I was asked if I was ‘ok’, I started feeling attacked…because others had perceived the comment as an attack.
The narrative of our circumstances is – to a great extent – determines how we feel about them. Interestingly, in my case…switching the narrative from “someone is out of the loop” to “someone is attacking my work” triggered a different narrative in my mind, and I started thinking of the event in a whole different light…and getting mad about it.
What I noticed in my own experience is that both interpretations of the “wild west” comment were valid and applicable to the circumstances. The person who made the comment felt out of the loop…and as a member of the team, it is important for this person to be informed and feel included. Nonetheless…the fact that one person doesn’t have the full picture of the project at each stage does not constitute enough grounds to question the body of work as a whole and to use unfair/inaccurate characterisations in an antagonising manner…which also needed to be addressed.
On my part, I realised that the reason for my initial inclination towards focusing on the initial ‘narrative’ of the event (i.e. the other person feels out of the loop) instead of the unfair characterisation of my work is that I did not want to engage in a narrative of antagonism…where I am placed in a situation of either victim or attacker…I don’t want to feel negativity towards my co-worker or act reactively in a manner commensurate to this type of behaviour.
When someone attacks you, it is a natural response to react in a defensive way. I did not want to act from that place…because it is a place of powerlessness and fear, and more often than not it creates a flight or fight response. Operating from this mode has few good outcomes; it comes from a primitive form of cognition that was useful in a hunter-gatherer existence, a wild-west type of society and NOT in a complex organisational setting. This made me wonder;
Is there a way to engage with ‘unfairness’ without participating in the narrative of powerlessness and fear that comes from being a victim? Conversely, is there a way to maintain my position without engaging in the narrative of antagonism when someone is clearly on the offensive?
As I was reading the bible…I came across the passage in Genesis 48 to 50 that looks at the reunion between Jacob and his son Joseph.
The story shows how Jacob was especially close to Joseph…more so than any of his other children. Joseph, on the other hand, always strove to be a good son…and this enraged his brothers, who sold him out to slave drivers and told Jacob, their father, that Joseph had been killed.
I can’t imagine the world of emotional pain and psychological hurt caused by this unfair and abrupt separation between father and son, aggravated by the injustices Joseph faced in Egypt and the fact that his own siblings had been the instigators of all this pain. After years of separation…when Joseph gets to see Jacob again, he is old and frail, and passes away shortly thereafter.
As I read some of the dialogue between Jacob and Joseph…it is clear to see the depth of emotion caused by the separation.
Jacob says to Joseph in his death bed “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” (Genesis 48:11)
After he passes away, the bible says that “Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him.” (Genesis 50:1)
After Jacob’s death, Joseph’s brothers become afraid of Joseph’s reaction…they think that if they have been spared up to that point, it had been for Jacob’s benefit…but now, there is nothing to hold Joseph back from re-paying their evil in kind. Full of reservations, they approach Joseph to beg for mercy…Joseph response is detailed in Genesis 50:19-21
“But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
It is clear that Joseph is not sugarcoating the intentions of his brothers…they clearly wanted to do him wrong, BUT…and this is the caveat that changes everything…BUT GOD…God intended it for good.
As Christian, part of living out my faith means that the narrative that permeates my worldview is my faith in Christ, and my understanding of his instructions through the Bible. There are people in this world who clearly mean to harm others…it is not productive to engage in a narrative of victim or attacker neither emotionally nor with actions. It is also not a good strategy to ignore their intent…the clear way from the biblical perspective is to focus on God’s power to move his purposes in spite of people’s intent.
This is not always easy…actually, it is hard most of the time…but it is the only way to productively engage in these instances.
In his deathbed, Jacob pronounced a blessing over Joseph, that in my mind, encompasses the dynamic of Joseph’s life and how he dealt with the opposition; he never drew his emotions or actions from the circumstances around him, but from God and his purposes.
22 “Joseph is like a wild donkey,
like a young donkey by a spring,
like colts grazing in a pasture.[e] 23 People attacked him and made life hard for him.
Men with arrows became his enemies. 24 But he won the fight
with his mighty bow and his skillful arms.
He gets power from the Mighty One of Jacob,
from the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, 25 the God of your father who helps you.
May God All-Powerful bless you
and give you blessings
from the sky above and from the deep below.
May he give you blessings
from breast and womb. 26 My parents had many good things happen to them.
And I, your father, was blessed even more.
Your brothers left you with nothing.
But now I pile all my blessings on you,
as high as a mountain.
I am one of the many people who enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell, he is undoubtedly one of the most influential authors in the last few decades. His poignant arguments and narrative genius make him an exceptional writer, or should we say ‘an outlier’ in his field. *pun intended*
His books are reactionary as much as they are rational. He tends to explain away pre-conceived notions and common held beliefs like nobody else. One of my favorite examples is his book ‘Outliers’. In it, he highlights how much of the popular success literature tends to emphasize the ‘individual achievement’ aspect of public figures without taking into consideration the contextual aspects that contributed to that individual’s success.
The author dissects various examples where the main propellant of those ‘famous’ exceptional success stories that deviate from the norm (hence the name of the book) was not necessarily an isolated, individual quality…but a combination of favorable factors in an individual’s environment which provided a clear advantage, and created the conditions for those individuals to stand out from the pack.
An Outlier clearly stands out from the pack
A few lessons that I learnt from the book include
Do not be quick to praise individual achievement (there are a lot of factors going on in the background that you did not see)
Do not hold yourself to a higher standard than you should (by comparing your real life with an idealized version of success)
Do treat yo’ self every once in a while…(that last one is more Parks and Rec).
NO, really, treat yo self!
Treat yo self to wisdom…
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in the book of proverbs chapter 9…where wisdom is personified as a woman who’s preparing a banquet and inviting everyone to join in this ‘soiree’;
” Wisdom has built her house; she has carved its seven columns. 2 She has prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table. 3 She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come. She calls out from the heights overlooking the city. 4 “Come in with me,” she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says, 5 “Come, eat my food, and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways behind, and begin to live; learn to use good judgment.”…
According to the book of proverbs, having wisdom brings many other benefits with it;
Improved Quality of Life Proverbs 8:18-20
I have riches and honor, as well as enduring wealth and justice. 19 My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold, my wages better than sterling silver! 20 I walk in righteousness, in paths of justice. 21 Those who love me inherit wealth. I will fill their treasuries…joyful are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home!
2 Blessings from God Proverbs 8:35
35 For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.
3. Longer Life Proverbs 9:11
“Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life.”
Interestingly, one of the most incredible ‘outlier’ stories is the author of the book of Proverbs…King Solomon was an expert among experts…in pretty much every field and discipline of knowledge;
1 Kings 4:29-34 New International Version (NIV)
29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, …32 He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34 From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.
He was clearly the outlier of his time…and he made Israel an ‘outlier’ nation…going from a conflicted and divided socio-political place to one of the most prosperous in its time.
The interesting part is that when I look at Solomon’s life…I do not identify any early contextual advantages like the ones described in Malcolm Gladwell’s stories. He was not given any early access to any type of technology or training, his mother was probably the least ‘worthy’ of all the wives of David…and he was neither the oldest or most charismatic among his David’s children (see 2nd Samuel 14:25).
Solomon is an outlier among outliers, because his context clearly did not provide any type of springboard…what provided the springboard was his wisdom…which was something he asked of God…
1 Kings 3 says;
5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
6 Solomon replied, ….9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!
The best part is that the same asset that God gave Solomon is freely available to everyone …the bible says in James 1:5;
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
So when we think about it, the banquet that wisdom prepares…which is a freely given gift from God…the one we’re invited to, is a banquet fit for a King…so why not treat yo self?
For today’s readings, we look at John the baptist as he baptised Jesus. From the passage we see John felt inadequate for the task at hand, this is not unlike many of us…we sometimes struggle with feelings of inadequacy. The beautiful thing when we respond to Jesus’ calling is that he shows up for us in ways that exceed our expectations, like we see happen for John in this passage.
Dreams and Flashbacks are interesting narrative techniques…they are used in literature and film to provide insight into a character’s past, to open a window into their psychology and sometimes even to foreshadow events in their future. When a book or a movie utilize these techniques, I am all in…bonus points if they come right at the beginning of the story.
A couple of my favorite examples in film and literature are the following:
G.G Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude (Flashback Ch 1): “MANY YEARS LATER as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.”
D. DuMaurier’s Rebecca (Dream Ch 1): “Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me that I was passing through the iron gates that led to the driveway. The drive was just a narrow track now, its stony surface covered with grass and weeds. Sometimes, when I thought I had lost it, it would appear again, beneath a fallen tree or beyond a muddy pool formed by the winter rains. The trees had thrown out new low branches which stretched across my way. I came to the house suddenly, and stood there with my heart beating fast and tears filling my eyes.”
F. W. Murnau’s Der Letzte Mann (Dream/Flashback Sequence) – also called a “psychological dream” – a mix between a dream and a flashback…where we see the main character reminiscing and idealizing his past abilities and role as a hotel portier (Credit to Ted Sakowsky’s youtube channel).
Personally, I always like to listen to dreams…they are fun, creative, symbolic, and meaningful.
Recently the business insider published the excerpt of a book that detailed common themes in people’s dreams; among the most frequent dreams reported by people are 1. flying, 2.trying to find a bathroom, 3. having teeth fall of, and 4. being late, or unprepared for an exam.
In the bible, there are several occasions in which God uses dreams to speak to people.
1. In the book of Genesis we see how God uses dreams to show Joseph, the son of Jacob a glimpse of his future role as the leader of his family. Later this gifting propels him to becoming one of the most powerful men in Egypt and through his leadership God saved the nation of Egypt, the nation of Israel, and Joseph’s brothers and father from famine.
2. During the period of Babylonian occupation of Israel, God gave Daniel – a young man who had been brought to serve in the Babylonian court – the ability to tell the king what he dreamed about and the interpretation of that dream. This made the Babylonian king take notice of Daniel’s wisdom and understand that God was with Daniel in a special way.
3. In the New Testament God speaks to Joseph through a dream to let him know that Mary’s baby was truly conceived through the Holy Spirit..and later after Jesus was born God uses a dream to warn the three wise men about Herod’s intentions to towards Jesus (not to worship but to harm him).
I could go on an on about how God uses dreams in the lives of his children; Jacob, Paul, Solomon…
Common themes of how God uses dreams in the Bible
Just like authors have identified common themes in people’s dreams in everyday life, in the bible, we also see common themes in how God uses dreams: he uses dreams to warn people about future events, encourage and reassure people in times of uncertainty, and he also uses them to help his people understand and pursue the calling that he has for them.
An interesting example is shown in Gideon’s story (Judges 7:12-14)
Now the Midianites and Amalekites, all the people of the East, were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude. And when Gideon had come, there was a man telling a dream to his companion. He said, “I have had a dream: To my surprise, a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian; it came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned, and the tent collapsed.” Then his companion answered and said, “This is nothing else but the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into his hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp.”
This bible passage narrates how two men Gideon and his servant Purah had sneaked into the camp of the enemy army that they were at war with.. the night before the big battle…and when they arrived at the encampment of the enemy army, they overheard a conversation between two other men..soldiers in the enemy army. Of the soldiers told another one a weird dream that he had. He said that in his dream…he saw a loaf of barley bread come downhill into the camp…and overturned a tent…and it collapsed.
In this story…even though Gideon was not the one who had the dream, nor was he the one who interpreted the dream, God used this dream to affirm Gideon in his calling to lead the army of Israel into victory against the Midianites…because it so happened that the dream came true; the next day Gideon and 300 Israelites came against the army of Midian and defeated them.
But before we move from this point to the future, I would like to go back in time and look at the initial information that the bible provides about Gideon’s background, because that will help us see the significance of the dream in full context…and the bible provides this information in Judges 6:2-6:
Flashback on Gideon’s life
Gideon was born during a time in which the people of Israel were experiencing opposition from other tribes in the region, namely the Midianites, and their allies the Amalekites. The Amalekites were more numerous and their strategy was to sabotage and block every activity that the Israelites did in order to sustain themselves. The insidious tactics of the midianites brought Israel to a state of poverty and despair in which they felt that they had been collectively rejected by God…(see Judges 6)
Not only was Gideon part of this group that felt rejected…he was a reject among the them…And in the midst of this, he experiences God’s calling…which is not compatible at all with how Gideon identifies as an individual, in his family, in his community and in the larger context. Nowadays the feeling of rejection both at the societal and individual level is as prevalent as it was for Guideon and Israel during the time of Midianite occupation. This rejection is covertly or overtly exercised by denying access to a sense of adequacy and/or belonging to an individual or a group.
Gideon is a person who has experienced rejection at multiple levels and in multiple stages of his life, and many of us are no strangers to this feeling.
From the passage, it is clear that as Gideon was brought up, there was a message that was communicated to him by his family that he was the least among them… By his community, that his family/clan was the least in the community and the bible states clearly that the Amalekites and Midianites were bullying Israel…
So when Gideon is confronted with God’s calling, there is a conflict between what he has heard about himself all his life and who he and who God is calling him to be…and this gap/chasm is expressed in feelings of inadequacy and hesitation to believe what God says about him.
People deal with rejection differently, however we can a common threads in how rejection operates in our lives: Rejection occurs in two dimensions: externally and internally and it shapes our narrative of who we are…however, when we hear God’s calling, there is an underlying narrative of acceptance, love and support that empowers us to live our life differently.
The Process of overcoming rejection and accepting God’s narrative for our life seems to highlight key stages;
1. The Sign of the Fleece (Judges 7:36-40)
36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said,37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.”38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.”40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew. The sign of the fleece represents an initial ‘awakening’ into a new understanding of ourselves and our circumstances. It has three characteristics: 1. Private 2. Gradual 3. Involving a Lamb (Jesus in the bible is referred as the Lamb of God)
2. The sign of the right inner circle – Gideon’s Three Hundred Men (Judges 8)
7 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. 4 And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.”5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.”6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water.7 And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”8 So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.
The sign of the inner circle represents an initial evidence of who we are by those who are around us and have known us through our previous circumstances. It has three characteristics: 1. Small Scale 2. Grass Roots 3. Involving a new confidence – not a false self-confidence but genuine confidence the calling that we have and God’s faithfulness to see us through
3. The sign of those who are outside of our ‘inner circle’ – Gideon defeats Midian (Judges 8:15)
15 As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand.”16 And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars.17 And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do.18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”
19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands.20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled.22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. The sign of those outside our inner circle represents an external confirmation of how our life has moved from the past rejection to living out the narrative of God’s love in our life. It has three characteristics: 1. Likely occurs in a new context for us 2. Moves past the grass roots to a less immediate circle 3. Affirms our new identity and removes us from our past experience of rejection
As we flashback to 2016, may we tune our ears to listen to God’s dreams for our lives, and start 2017 moving past those experiences that hold us back and continuously reaching out for God’s narrative of love and acceptance in this new year.
One thing I love about the Bible is how God can speak to you over and over again using the same passage and yet showing you how it applies to your life in a new way. Psalm 37 is a favorite psalm of mine…..I find myself coming to it whenever I seek encouragement because it speaks of the things we see on a daily basis that make us wonder; What the heck?????
It seems to me that lately, there’s a lot going on that merits that question…to make a point, let’s sample the headlines for today’s NYTimes;
I see 3 back-to-back WTH headlines…and there’s a lot of reason for hopelessness and frustration.
My initial thought when I see the absurdity of some things that take place in this planet is to try to do whatever I can to make this existence a little bit better for myself and for anyone I encounter…I feel this is my calling, as a Christian and frankly, as a thinking and feeling human being. I feel a sense of urgency about this…and there’s a tendency to accompany that sense of urgency with action.
I have a busy day and was not planning to start my day with Psalm 37…but I’m glad I took the time to meditate before my day got started. For some reason the saying “too busy not to pray” came to mind when I thought of my long to do list and the looming deadlines…and I took the time to read the bible and pray.
I came across Psalm 37 and as I was reading through it for the nth time…the following bible verses stood out to me:
Psalm 37:18 which says; “The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever”.
Psalm 37:23-24 which say; The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;though he may stumble, he will not fall,for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
For some reason, the image of the “hand of God” stood out to me…I did some research and saw that the word for hand in this passage in the original Hebrew is a noun used to describe direction, authority, and power. This brought a new light into the verse because it moved the meaning of the sentence from an abstract figure of speech to a concrete directive of how God intervenes for his children..to think that God will uphold us by providing us his direction, with his power and authority…I would liken it to the ultimate TED talk; inspiring, enlightening, encouraging and empowering…inspiring us to continue to try to make a difference, to take risks, to be bold.
The image of “inheritance” also stood out to me…that is the subject of dreams and novels; the long lost relative who leaves behind a sizable estate that propels the heir into new heights of wealth and status (and puts them on equal footing with their former nemesis who can no longer take advantage of them)….but I digress. What does inheritance mean in this context? There are two very powerful applications for this noun in Hebrew; the first one denotes the promised land…the second one denotes God Himself -as He called himself the inheritance for the priests in Israel. This idea of inheritance being access to God and his promises brought to mind Paul’s words about Jesus and the setbacks that we encounter in life in Romans 8:
37 …in all these things [in previous passages Paul refers to opposition encountered and the pains of this world] we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God has given himself as an inheritance and we have the promise of his enduring love through Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, even with our best efforts…things can still devolve into chaos..and then again we go to the good ole question: WTH???? However, the love, acceptance, empowering guidance from God makes all the difference when WTH happens.
I am amazed at how new aspects of God’s word come to light, and how their application is hope-inducing, energizing and faith-building.
My faith in humanity might not be restored…but my faith in the calling of God empowering people to make a difference for good is.
A story that been navigating the web this week; it is the story of a fifteen year old girl named Hannah Jordan, from North Carolina in the U.S.
Like many other girls her age, Hanna is a high-schooler who has a Facebook account. One day, Hannah got really upset with her parents…and she decided to vent her frustrations by writing a letter about it and posting it on Facebook.
She made sure however that she blocked her parents on Facebook so that they could not read what she said about them.
Hannah’s father however, is very tech-savvy…and he was upgrading her daughter’s computer software when he saw the letter she had written, which he was not supposed to see…
To my parents,
I’m not your “lowly” slave. It’s not my responsibility to clean up your “stuff”. We have a cleaning lady for a reason. Her name is Linda, not Hannah.
If you want coffee, get off your “butt” and get it yourself. If you want a garden, shovel the fertilizer yourself, don’t sit back on your “butt” and watch me do it. If you walk in the house and get mud all over the floor that I just cleaned, be my guest, but clean it up after you are done getting “dirt” everywhere.
I’m tired of picking up after you. You tell me at least once a day that I need to get a job.You could just pay me for all the “stuff” that I do around the house. Every day when I get home from school, I have to do dishes, clean the counter tops, all the floors, make all the beds, do the laundry and get the trash. I’m not even going to mention all the work I do around your clinic.And if I don’t do all that every day, I get grounded. Do you know how hard it is to keep up with chores and schoolwork? It’s freaking crazy.
I go to sleep at 10 o’clock every night because I am too tired to stay up any longer and do anything else. I have to get up at five in the morning, to get ready for school. On the weekends, I have to sleep with my door locked so my little brother won’t come get me up at six. This is all true.And I’m tired – I’m tired of this “nonsense” Next time I have to pour a cup of coffee, I’m going to flip “…” I have no idea how I have a life. I’m going to hate to see the day when you get too old to “care for yourselves” and you call me, asking for help. I won’t be there.
Your “angry” Kid,
(OBVIOUSLY I HAVE CENSORED SOME OF THE EXPRESSIONS IN THIS LETTER)
After Hannah’s father read this letter, he was really angry – to say the least – and he decided to respond to this letter in a youtube video, and to post the video on his daughters wall on Facebook.
In this video, he reads the letter that Hannah wrote, and tells his side of the story (basically Hannah had exaggerated a lot about her housework duties)…and then after he sets the record straight, he informs his daughter hannah, that she is GROUNDED
until COLLEGE, and proceeds to SHOOT her computer 10 times!!!
This video has been the source of much debate and discussion…also it has been the source of a lot of funny spoofs on youtube (which I have personally enjoyed).
People criticize the father –whose name is Tommy – for being too drastic, other people commend him on his resolve not to put up with her daughter’s rebellious behavior.
I personally was sad to see the computer get shot, what a waste!!!! But one thing that I think everyone would agree with, is that it would have been better if Hannah would have not written the letter…some things should not be said…and Hannah crossed the line.
Words for Christian Living
As Christians, everything we say comes before God, and like Hannah –who was unable to hide her letter from her father – we are unable to say things without God hearing/knowing about them. God wishes us to be careful with our speech; he encourages to use our words wisely…the bible says:
NIV: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Easy to Read When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you.
New Living Translation: Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
From this passage, we can see that GOD cares about what we say, and he has specific expectations regarding our speech; he says that we need to ABSTAIN from unwholesome talk, from saying bad things, or using abusive language. Also, God encourages us to say things that are uplifting to people around us. This is a very clear directive of what we ought to do…and what we shouldn’t do.
Why do you think god cares so much about what we say? Simply because words are powerful. They can destroy/hurt people, or they can heal…
NIV: The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Easy to Read: Speak without thinking, and your words can cut like a knife. Be wise, and your words can heal.
New Living Translation: Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.
Think about the last time you were really, really sick…mine was Beijing 2009.
Sick in Beijing
Two years ago, Tim and I went to Beijing. It was December, and we were really excited to go see the great wall. We were staying in a really nice hotel, that had a huge bed with an amazing T.V. in front of it…we were in HEAVEN.
So the first night when we arrived we watched tv, ordered room service and went to bed. I was asleep, and then suddenly I woke up, I felt sick…really sick. I got up and had to throw up…and I never stopped throwing up.
At seven in the morning, we decided it was time to go to the hospital…and I couldn’t get there fast enough! Once we arrived at the hospital, the doctor gave me an i.v. to get me re-hydrated, and also he gave me medication to stop the vomiting. He recommended that I should try to rest and to stay for half a day in the hospital.
Half an hour after I got the medication, I was able to fall asleep…it was the best sleep ever!!! The hospital bed felt like a cloud…even better than the hotel bed!!! What was the difference??? That I had received MEDICATION…and the medications had changed my circumstances drastically, I was getting healthy.
Similarly, God wants that the words we say work like that medicine in the lives of those who hear them; that those words help change people’s circumstances for the better in a tangible way.
What are some obstacles to us speaking the right words?
1 1. The wrong thoughts
2. The wrong motives
3. Lack of confidence
Matthew 12:35-37 outlines how that which comes out of our mouth, basically reflects the thoughts, motives, and self-image that we have inside us.
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
This passage says, that we need to give account for every word that we say…so we should weigh our words.
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” –Psalm 19:12-14
David understood the importance of words. Do we?
– May this Psalm, also be our prayer, and may our words be like medicine for those who hear them.