God Rules – Not By Choice

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…this conjures an image of a sole deity who in His great will, decided to become a Creator.

He did not consult anyone. Yet, if He did, none could dare oppose or obstruct Him. For all things were made by Him and for Him.

The God of the Old Testament was a monarch. He ruled with equity and justice but His rule was unquestionable.

Once there was a being who thought that he could remove the Ruler of Heaven by a Referendum, perhaps if he got the signatures of majority of the angels, God would be deposed.

Alas, the plot failed. He only obtained one third of the angelic votes. Since Heaven was not a democracy, his dissent was punished with an expulsion and forced descent to earth.

Israel, the nation of God made the same mistake. For centuries after they settled in the Promised Land, they had been led by prophets. God was the King and his earthly governors were prophets. His Word was law and He had no term limits.

In the days of prophet Samuel, Israel acquired a taste for a manmade, modern and flamboyant monarchy.

Opinion polls suggested that prophet Samuel was unpopular. The people wanted a young and brave king who would lead them into wars.

Samuel was aghast. He was personally pained by their rejection. Yet God told him to allow popular opinion to prevail.

Though in rebellion, they got the king of their dreams, he was handsome, tall and courageous. He was a prestigious choice. Yet his reign was a disaster of disobedience. Israel had made a wrong choice in opting for regime change for the mere sake of pomp and pageantry.

In the new testament, Christ the King still proved that He rules and chooses as He pleases.

After the betrayal of Judas, the twelve disciples became the eleven. Peter realizing that twelve was a significant number (Jesus did not choose that number by chance), canvassed that a replacement be selected.

Matthias emerged from that process. He was chosen to be of the twelve in the place of Judas. He was a good and noble man. He was a devout follower of the Lord. Yet after that ‘promotion’ we do not hear anything of him.

God, sovereign in His design, choose Paul instead to be the apostle to the Gentiles and the ‘de facto’ number twelve. See how much he accomplished to make Gentiles obedient to the gospel! Once again divine design trumped popular will.

The New Jerusalem which we seek is not a haven of democracy. It cannot be. For it is not subject to the whims of human nature or the caprices of popular opinion. There, God’s Word is law. It is the place for unanimity and unity. A unity centred on Christ – Who is the Word.

But there is a period of acclimatization before we reach those holy heights. Now we must accept the Divine design, the straitjacket of the Word, and not the yin-yang of conventional wisdom. Only those who acclimatize on earth will be admitted to that Paradise. Let’s do it.

Just Ask The Rock

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While Israel sojourned in the dreary wilderness
They lacked water as they marched through dry land
They asked and received – God of the faithful band
Filled the thirsty throats from a flinty Rock
This Rock was ever present through the journey
Ever merciful, ever bountiful and always on cue
Paul tells us this ambulatory Rock was Christ
Smitten in type in the wilderness, He gushed to bless
A Fountain that saved millions of souls in distress
There He was struck that we be not dumbstruck
There He was smitten that we may never be beaten
He has since been crucified and then glorified
Speaking is the only way of accessing the Fount now
Say your need and make requests on any matter
Be not silent in the weary mode of a wary doubter
Speak to The Rock and He will bring forth His water

A Joe Cole Metaphor

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This post will be best understood by football fans of a certain vintage….but the lessons are universal.

Joe Cole was a footballer who plied his trade for West Ham, Chelsea and Liverpool before he fell off the radar of the elite clubs.

When he broke into the West Ham first team he was clearly a precocious and amazing talent. The English media, notorious for their fawning adulation, loved him. He was supposed to the next footballing genius in the English football firmament and he was not going to stop there. Certainly his star would also burn brightly in the galaxy of world football.

He could do almost everything in the modern game. He could run, he could pass, he could dribble, he could shoot, he was genuinely two-footed, making him a difficult customer when he runs at defenders; he could go either side of his would-be maker.

He could play behind the striker, he was a good fit for the number ‘ten’ role. He could play in wide positions too, either wide left or wide right. He could sit deeper and dictate the play from the number ‘eight’ position. He was the epitome of the modern attacking midfielder. He could play right across midfield.

Yet his career did not bring the laurels that his talents promised. He won trophies at Chelsea but was displaced by more muscular and energetic midfielders who were considerably more prolific goal scorers and had a better ‘engine’ to cover every blade of grass in both boxes. They could work hard both offensively and defensively. Graft was edging out talent.

Or was it? Perhaps it was the case of the sharpened dagger becoming more useful than the Swiss Army Knife.

His output was inconsistent, his influence on games was not all pervasive. Surely a midfielder of his calibre should be dominating games?

A wag once opined that Joe Cole’s problem was his excess and multi-faceted ability. Because he could dribble, run, or pass with either feet, he was often confused by the array of options when he got the ball. Consequently, he frequently lost it. While he dawdled, he was tackled.

While that may be a simple characterization, there is an element of truth in the observation.

When you have too many skills/opportunities, when you have too many credible and viable options, you can easily lose the cutting edge. Simply put, the individual will suffer the confusion of profusion.

This is the confusion that results from having plenty to choose from. While you juggle your choices, the more nimble and focused are ruthlessly pulling ahead.

The player/person with a singular dominant skill has a Hobson’s choice. Just one option. He is forced to knuckle down, work hard and hone that attribute to perfection. That is all he/she has.

He is saved from the confusion of profusion or the paralysis of endless analysis. He/she is thus able to specialize and become the best in that niche.

While Joe Cole offered the fans a tantalizing future that never was, the clearly less multidimensional Frank Lampard soon took centre stage. He focused on becoming the most effective goalscoring midfielder in the league. Not for him the finesse of gliding past players, except with pace and power.

It is certain that time is finite. It is equally certain that finite time when spent on polishing five raw diamonds will achieve less lustre than if the time was spent on one.

What then is the Joe Cole metaphor? It is being the Jack of many trades while being the second best at all. It is for those who derive pleasure from breadth rather than depth. It also speaks of those for whom craft outshines graft.

Or indeed for those whose speed of execution is reduced by analysis paralysis. Or those for whom the gain of plenty brings the pain of procrastination.

To return to the game, we can think of the two footed player who never becomes a specialist set-piece taker on either foot.

In defence of the Joe Coles of this world;
Who needs the deep dregs of deliberation
You can have varied sips of adumbration
If the only thing you lose
For having too much to choose
Is the fate of being first-rate!

Eve & The Greatest Salesman

Selling to the unwilling is a difficult thing. You have to move the prospect from the valley of indifference to the plains of acceptance and finally to the summit of the buying decision.

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And so it is remarkable that a woman was tempted out of the comfort of Eden by a Salesman who was peddling what turned out to be a lemon.

He preyed on her curiosity and exploited her hesitancy. He, like all good salesmen, moved her through the gears – Attention…Interest….Desire…Action. The last step was the fateful decision to ‘purchase’ and use the damnable product.

A tested and proven four step method…

Attention:

Genesis 3:1 “And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”

A rhetorical question that gets you thinking is a good way to attract your attention. It made Eve pause and think.

It was a rhetorical question because the Serpent knew the answer to it. The answer was obvious to both the questioner and questioned.

The way it was asked though, left Eve thinking that they could be a different answer. Her curiosity thus piqued, she was now ready for Satan’s next hook.

Interest:

Genesis 3:4
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die”

The serpent now had Eve’s attention. But mere attention in itself is noncommittal. It only guarantees listening. He had to do more.

And the above grand statement was it. In one fell swoop, he described the product in a way that addressed the root of Eve’s deepest fears. She would not die! Death was supposed to be the sad consequence of disobedience to God’s command. And it would no longer happen! Suddenly Eve’s pulse quickened. She was excited. This proposition was now interesting.

Satan had her literally where he wanted her to be. It was now time for the next hook.

Desire:

Genesis 3:5-6 “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise…”

Now that he had gotten the attention of the customer and had earned her trust, he swiftly took advantage of it. He showcased the benefits of the product. He appealed to her sense of sight for the fruit was pleasant to the eyes. He appealed to her sense of taste and sensual pleasure. He made it clear that the ‘fruit was good for food’. He appealed to her need for intellectual affirmation, for it was a ‘tree to be desired to make one wise’.

Marketers know that you pitch the benefits of a product and not the physical or technical features. Otherwise the presentation would be a dry one lacking in emotional appeal.

Satan, being a wily old salesman, focused on the benefits and not the features too. Eve never realized until it was too late, the actual specifications of the product she was desiring. Or how difficult it would be to return or dispose of it. That would come later. For now, all the talk was about benefits!

Action:

Genesis 3:6 “…she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”

After moving her up the ladder – from the rung of Attention to Interest and from Interest to Desire, there was one thing left to do; to go for it.

She was convinced about the product, it ticked all her boxes. Then she reached with aroused anticipation and took the fruit and ate it. There was no immediate post-purchase anxiety. None. She even flaunted the benefits to Adam. He ate of the fruit as well.

The World’s greatest salesman had done a good job. He was so persuasive that his convert became an influencer for the cause. Word-of-mouth/viral marketing was in full swing.

This virus had an unmentioned feature. It would enter the bloodstream and doom all of Adam & Eve’s descendants to be perpetual addicts to the product. The delighted Eve did not know that yet.

This great salesman is still wooing customers today. His tactics have not changed. He is slick and cunning. His campaign focuses on creating a buzz, arousing desire and talking exclusively about benefits not features. He appeals to the senses, and is an astute judge of human emotions.

Beware of him. Do not be deceived as Eve was. Stay with the Word. To get back to the Eden of God, you must withstand the wiles and charms of the greatest salesman.

Spiritual Osmosis

Osmosis, they say is the movement of substances from a region of lower concentration to a region of higher concentration through a semipermeable membrane. Let us forget about the membrane for a minute.

For the nonscientific layman (me), I’d say it is the movement of resources, talents, gifts etc, from regions of scarcity to regions of plenty.

Spiritual gifts, by definition are the resources freely given by the Spirit of God. The Word of God in this regard is a foundational resource. The Revelation of the Word is also one of the most important spiritual blessings, the one that matters more than the others which may be flashier and have greater impact like tongues, prophecies and miracles.

Spiritual osmosis occurs when the true knowledge of the Word would diminishes among the unbelievers but increases among those walking in the Light. Instead of a diffusion (lightening the dark hearts) of the Gospel Light, you have instead, areas of blazing light and regions of gross (intense) darkness.

How can this be? Is this at all possible? It certainly is. It is a strange phenomenon that occurs at the end of an epoch, just before judgement strikes.

Lot sees and flees

At the time when God was determined to punish Sodom for her misdeeds, He went angels to her. These angels went to house of honest Lot. He was a righteous man, but found it difficult to pull away from Sodom’s society and the benefits it brought. Lot, to his credit, saw the angels and understood their message. Being forewarned, he fled with his family to the relative safety of the plains of Zoar.

So the warning angels appeared to the man who was almost ready!

While Sodom is blinded…

On the other hand, the people of Sodom were in dire need of help. The thunderclouds of sulphur and brimstone were forming above their heads. If they were spiritual, perhaps they smelt the whiff of the coming burning. They did not. They had multiple layers of ignorance.

1. They did not realize what they were doing was wrong
2. They did see the oncoming fiery judgement
3.They did not see the messengers who were sent execute the Divine sentence.

Surely a people this ignorant deserved a chance to see and understand their dire straits?

When the angels appeared, the citizens of Sodom were aware. They saw new faces and strangers in the land. They saw them but did not know their mission. Instead of the angels enlightening them, they were smitten with blindness. And the little flicker of physical recognition was snuffed out.

Thus the benighted Sodomites became even more ignorant, while Lot who knew the truth, gained more revelation.

From he that hath not:

Jesus gave us the parable of the talents. It is noteworthy that the Master gave the servants talents according to their abilities. Those that had greater capacity got more, those that could do less, got less.

The least endowed in the parable was the man that got one talent. In a fit pique, he hid his talent in the sand and did nothing with it. He gained nothing too. The others put their talents to use and made profit for the Master.

As expected the Master came back and asked for returns on his investment. The man he gave five talents showed his returns, the man with two talents did the same.

However, the hero of the drama was the man given only one talent. He produced zero return on investment.

What would the Master do now? Would he punish him? The Master’s decision was one for the ages. He took the unutilized talent of the lazy servant and handed it over to the man who already had ten talents (He made five more in trading).

Which brings us to another example of spiritual osmosis. The light that the one-talent man had was taken away from him and given to someone who already had more than enough.

It is clear then, that we need to hold tenaciously to the Word of God we know. Otherwise It could be taken away from us. The little light will turn to darkness while the bright lights of those who wholeheartedly accept the Word will become brighter still.

God forbid that we should be on the wrong side of this osmosis like the people of Sodom or the one-talent servant.

A Dream Discerned

Nebuchadnezzar once had a dream from Divinity’s realm
He was troubled by its significance and humbled by ignorance
He called his academy of spiritual arts, men of divers parts
Magicians, astrologers, sorcerers and chaldean pseudo-philosophers

They could not interpret the dream, for the king on a whim
Did not tell them his dream, so they had double trouble
They must recount it and interpret it or else they would be stubble

The King insisted on this and they were bemused and flabbergasted
They had hoped he will tell so that they could fabricate so well
With fair words and dark lies, interpreting as the crow flies

The King’s decree was death, to all the wise in the kingdom’s breadth
When Daniel heard of this, he knew this dart would not miss
So the quartet began to pray, that God would reveal the way
An escape from this temptation that could lead to wrongful execution

God who discerns thoughts, who finds where clues are not
Gave the dream and interpretation to Daniel and brought salvation
To the elect in captivity, not allowing them perish with the majority

The dream was about a great image with portents for age to age
The head was gold, the body was of silver, brass and iron twice told
For iron was twofold, first pure, then an unsure alloy of clay
Each metal represented one of the four great empires that would dominate
The Gentile dispensation – the fourth holds sway via clay to this day

Roots Of Deepest Impulses

Where there is a deep calling
There is a deep to respond
Where there is a longing
There is also a satisfying
Where there is a sincere seeking
There is a reward of receiving
The reason we strain for life
Is there is a life without
strife
When we see the sick battling
It tells of One who does healing
Every teardrop of pain and loss
Speaks of a land without a cross
No winged bird would have been born
Without a way to fly to the sun
The reason we want to know more
Means there is more to know for sure
Many men on earth hoard gold
Unwittingly pining for a city of riches untold
If the striving for things transient
Is a sad legacy of man’s celestial bent
Better to convert these surging urges
To the high calling of Him sent
To satisfy mankind’s thirst
By restoring Eden of the blessed