Friday, 14 January 2011

Too Easily Pleased?

Does this t-shirt sum up my life?
Genesis 32-33 As Jacob approaches the land of his fathers, he is increasingly preoccupied with wondering how his older brother will receive him. Seeing the size of the gift that he sets aside for Esau shows that he had become extremely wealthy!!  Jacob knows that if anything will press all the right buttons for Esau, this will.

As he comes to the boarder of the land he wrestles with God. Whilst we're not given a definitive time frame, it would appear that it was a long old struggle and it ends with Jacob subduing God (if that were possible) only letting him go on the condition of further blessing, which God grants as signified in the change of name.

Of course, like a father wrestling with his 3yr old son, this is not a true wrestling match. This is not the Almighty being defeated by a mere man. It is God graciously engaging with man to see if he will lay hold of him (literally!) and to train and strengthen him in the way of salvation.

Our greatest need in all matters as we stand on the boarder of the Kingdom of God, (Joshua did the same) is to lay hold of God in prayer. If a Christian or a church is weak and unfruitful, it is not because the enemy is too strong, but because of a failure to lay hold of God (together) in prayer. (Beware of using the old sovereignty excuse - it got Joshua no sympathy). If the land the church is living in is filling with darkness, it's not because Satan is powerful, it is due to a failure to lay hold of God together in prayer.

Prayer and fasting are not formulae, but we can't get away from the fact that they are the keys Christ has given to the church with which spiritual forces are bound and loosed upon the earth, (something our scientific view of the world finds difficult to accommodate). Our view of God's grace must not feel at odds with this kind of dynamic, wrestling persistence. If it does, it is soft and defective.

This encounter would leave Jacob with a wound for the rest of his life, but he had fought the right battle and prevailed. In this life, he might look defeated as he limped about, but he would reap eternal benefits. What limps do you or I have from wrestlings with God?

Once, Jacob has met with God, his meeting with Esau is a relative mop up operation for God is truly with him. Quite why Jacob says that he will follow Esau to Seir and then doesn't I don't know. Maybe it was impolite to refuse an invitation, and whilst never admitting it verbally, the body language of both men said it all? Whatever the reason, light could have no fellowship with darkness. Just as Abraham steered clear of Sodom, so too, Jacob would steer clear of any compromising fellowship with his godless older brother et al.

Psalm 14 The fool says in his heart there is no God, and so sets his hope of glory on everything in this world.

Matthew 6:1-15 There may have been some kind of ceremony where some people announced their financial giving with trumpets, but short of doing further research, I think it more likely that Jesus is using humour to make a point and gently ribbing the lack of judgement exercised by those who do this stuff to be seen by their fellow men.

The point is not that you should never be caught being godly, rather it's that being seen by others to do good deeds, should be the last thing on our minds. Those who only enjoy the affirmation of men for their good deeds are far too easily satisfied. For the Christian, the congratulation of others should never be the goal (it may be part of the journey though). Like Jesus, a true Christian will only be satisfied when they have found the face, favour, approval and delight of their Heavenly Father. Fail to get His approval, and all is a worthless pursuit of vanity. But be encouraged, he is not slow to see and respond.

Acts 8:26-40
Philip obeys the promptings of the Spirit, even if it makes him look like a bit of a weirdo, with some amazing results. He could have settled for mediocrity, refused to listen to God's promptings and have been left with the gnawing guilt of a missed opportunity, but he didn't and God does amazingly more than he might ever have expected. Where might the Spirit lead you today, if you open yourself up to listen for him?

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