No matter how far you venture in,
You will never pass over to the other side
Of the river of God’s love
Thought for the Day- God’s River
No matter how far you venture in,
3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: 5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.
It had been twenty years since Jacob had seen his brother. Twenty years is a lot of time for people to change. Certainly, Jacob was not returning as the same man as when he first left his father’s home.
Even so, Jacob had not forgotten the hostility that Esau held towards him when he left, and he thought it wise to send servants ahead with a flattering and humble message. Note that in his statement Jacob calls himself Esau’s servant, refers to Esau as “my lord,” and states that his desire is simply to find grace in his brother’s sight. When Jacob had stolen his father’s blessing Isaac had specifically promised that Esau’s descendants would serve Jacob’s, thus it was particularly prudent for Jacob to show that he did not consider himself as above his brother here and now.
Jacob also included in his message a description of the many animals and people in his entourage. Perhaps this was to alert Esau to the fact that there were many innocents who did not deserve to die for Jacob’s past transgressions, or perhaps to let Esau know that Jacob was independently wealthy, and thus wasn’t coming to take Esau’s living from him.
And now Jacob has only to wait and see what answer is brought back to him. He has knocked on the door of his own home, but he does not know if it is a sword or an embrace that waits upon the other side.
Discussing Spiritual Differences- Matthew 10:16-17, 22-23; 1 Samuel 8:7
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
They will deliver you up to the councils, and ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another
Jesus did not mince words when he told his disciples what to expect when carrying his message into the world. And one of the points that he stressed in particular was that they were going to be rejected…a lot. Though the disciples would work miracles, though they would speak with power, though they would dedicate their lives to this work, though they would convince many of the truth, there would always remain those who would not accept their message.
Recall that even the master orator Paul, after he had borne a masterful testimony to King Agrippa, was only able to elicit a response of “almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
For they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me
But is it any wonder that the disciples would be rejected when their master was as well? Jesus was turned away from cities, disputed against in the synagogues, and given up to death by his own people. Was it just because he didn’t know the right words to say, because he fumbled in his delivery, because he wasn’t skilled enough in the preaching his own message.
No, of course not. He and his disciples faced rejection for the simple reason that people have their freedom of choice, and some just choose to reject the gospel message and that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t have to be that the one proselyting did anything wrong. They might have said exactly what they needed to, but the person hearing the message just didn’t want to receive it.
And that is an important truth for us to remember whenever we try to champion the right. I have known those who believe that if they can just find the right, magical words they will be able to unlock anybody’s heart and that simply isn’t true. No one has to accept what you to say. Anyone is able to turn you down, no matter how perfect your reasoning is. If you feel that you spoke with the words that were given you, that the point was made, that the truth was evident to any who would see, then you have done your part. Anything after that, acceptance or rejection, is out of your control. Whatever the outcome is, you must just accept it and move along.
Discussing Spiritual Differences- Missionary Work
Ten years ago I served a mission, seeking to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to any who would hear. Some people were genuinely relieved to have us turn up on their doorstep. Some of them were disinterested, but turned us away kindly. Some of them quickly shut off the television and pretended that no one was home. Some, however, felt deeply offended that we had come calling at their house, and before we could say a thing shouted at us until we left.
And, to be fair, I get why people don’t like to talk to missionaries. First there is the matter of repetition. Many religious sects will frequently change the missionaries that they have in an area. Thus you can tell the first set “no, thank you,” but then a next pair arrives and they don’t know that you’ve already expressed your disinterest. You keep having to say “no, thank you” over and over, and eventually the “thank you” gets replaced with stronger verbiage.
Another reason is that some missionaries are simply insufferable. Obviously every one of them should be driven by a genuine love for those they teach. Their great, motivating desire should be to help all people however they can. But I have been a missionary, and I can attest that this is not true for all of them. Many of them truly do have sincere and good intentions, but there are also those that you can practically feel the holier-than-thou dripping off of.
And the last reason that comes to mind is that each of us have areas of life that we know we can improve on. We feel guilty, but many of us are in denial of that guilt. In this case even a heartfelt, loving invitation to a better life might feel like a judgment of how sinful we are right now. A salesman might come and point out dirt on our house and try to sell us a cleaning solution. We might be disinterested in the product, but not offended. But a missionary reminding us of the dirt in our soul? That is a much more touchy matter.
Thus I see work to be done on both sides so that proselyting efforts can be given with care and can be received with the same spirit by which it was given. In a perfect world missionaries would all establish a caring relationship first, then seek to share their light as a friend instead of a stranger. And in a perfect world each of us would be honest to ourselves about our own guilt and would be open to those who can help us become the sons and daughters we were born to be.
That They Might Have Joy- Personal Example #2
One of the motivations for this study was that I have been feeling an increase of joy over the past year and wanted to examine the reasons why. As I’ve considered the matter I have identified three basic reasons. Today I’ll discuss the second.
I’ve always been fascinated by the act of writing. I wrote stories all through my teenage years, I loved crafting essays in college, and even in my careers as a software development I do a form of writing every day. Surprisingly, though, I never thought of myself as “called” to write until a year-and-a-half ago.
March of 2018 I was attending a spiritual retreat up in the mountains where I had a lot of pondering and prayer. God spoke to my heart with many sacred messages, and one of them was an invitation to take my old hobby and make it a spiritual vocation.
I distinctly felt that God took pleasure in my writing. The thought occurred to me that He is a supremely creative being, and my own desire for creativity is a sign of my being His son. It was time to start taking that gift seriously.
As a result I began a blog where I examine the principles of storytelling and publish short stories. I also began working in earnest on a novel, one which communicates the deepest feelings of my heart. And last of all I began this second spiritual blog six months ago.
My skills still have a long way to go, but the fact is I am already so much more fulfilled by doing that which I feel was I was born to do. If what I write is good for anyone else, that is delightful. But already it is enough that what I write is good for me.