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Posts tagged ‘Abraham’

God’s Power, Not Ours


On this Third Sunday of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.  This week we focus on the Exodus and today we look at God’s selection of instruments, specifically God’s choice of the younger and weaker Jacob over his masculine brother Esau.

When negotiating a contract, I want to negotiate from a position of strength.  This is often determined by the relative size of the parties.  For example, when I am representing a small vendor negotiating a supply contract with a behemoth company, often the smaller vendor needs the business more than the behemoth and is in a position of relative weakness.  And often the behemoth has a standard contract that it wants to use, and it is usually very favorable to the giant.  The larger company can adopt a take-it-or-leave-it position.

This is why a company like Wal Mart can dictate the terms of its relationship with vendors, including specific packaging requirements, while small mom-and-pop stores often have to take things as they are.

With God—the Almighty—He clearly is in the position of strength vis-à-vis His people.  And yet He seems to prefer to select the weakest to lead His people.  Today’s reading discusses the selection of Jacob—the younger, weaker, less “manly” brother—over his twin Esau.

Perhaps one reason why God chooses a Jacob over an Esau is because He does not want to cram the terms of our relationship down our throats like a large company can do when negotiating contracts.  He wants us to come to Him completely open, full of our own desire for Him, willingly entering into the Covenant.

But there is another reason God chooses weaker instruments.   When a carpenter uses a tool to make a beautiful chest, it is clearly the carpenter’s skills that bring about the results.  And when an artist takes a canvas and a variety of paint colors and makes a masterpiece, it is the artist’s skills that determine the outcome.

But when you throw in a human being as the instrument, the apparatus often confuses itself for the master.  If God chooses the strong to bring His message, we may confuse the messenger with the master.

“Don’t shoot the messenger” is often said to express the notion that a person conveying the bad news is not the creator of the bad situation, not the cause of the bad news.  Likewise, God chooses weak messengers so we don’t perceive the bearer of Good News (Gospel) as the Good News itself.  Only Christ is Word (made flesh).

Paul and Barnabas get caught up in this sort of confusion in Lystra, a city in ancient Turkey.  When Paul cures a crippled man (in the name of Jesus), the people of the city believe that Barnabas is Zeus (Greek god of thunder and sky) and that Paul is Hermes (son of Zeus).  The people want to worship Barnabas and Paul rather than recognizing the true source of their power.

So God often chooses weaker human beings so that His glory can shine through the weakness and not be confused with some perceived strength in the messengers.

Often the person whom God chooses recognizes his own weakness and fails to see that God will make up for it.  For example, when God selects Moses as His mouthpiece to Pharoah, Moses complains:

“If you please, my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and tongue.” Ex. 4:10.

God reminds Moses that God can—and will—provide.

I, too, feel inadequate when faced with challenges of faith.  Can I do this thing You ask of me, Lord?  Who am I?  I forget that He will give me what I need to do His will.

Day 19-1

I am learning that God will never allow me to face a challenge of faith in which He will not make up for my shortcomings.  One of my favorite aphorisms is: “Do your best.  Let God do the rest.”

Day 19-2

God Will Provide


On this Saturday of the Second Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

God asks quite a lot of Abraham.  After God finally blessed Abraham with a son at the ripe old age of 100, He asks Abraham to give up Isaac.  Not just to let Isaac go or to abandon him.  To offer him up as a holocaust to God.  To slaughter Isaac.

WOW!

And yet Abraham unquestioningly obeys.  Or at least he starts to until God stops him.

Could I do that?  Could I obey without doubt or reservation?  When have I been called to sacrifice something dear to me?

Well, I’m still seeking discernment on this related question:  is my reputation—and are my friendships—things that God wants me to place on the chopping block?  To offer up to Him?

I think He might have recently given me an opportunity to offer these things to Him.  Specifically, my 8th grade son’s basketball team has been very successful this year and, entering the postseason today, they have a very good chance at making a run for the championship.

Unfortunately, smack in the middle of the postseason is the Parish Mission.  The Parish invited an awesome speaker, Fr. Larry Richards.  I’ve seen him speak before—he is very energizing and inspirational.  For four days Fr. Larry will pump us up in our shared Faith.  I have been hoping to bring my whole family to each day of the Mission.

The difficulty is that the team’s practices will overlap with the Mission.  Our Pastor had asked us that Parish-related activities not be scheduled during the Mission to allow maximum participation.

So, the issue came up at the team’s parent meeting yesterday.  The coach explained the conflict, told us that no player would be penalized for missing practice because of the Mission.  He even offered to hold practices at 6:30 AM instead of the normal time to allow participation in the Mission.

My heart dropped when not one parent—myself included—spoke up for the Mission.  In fact, when asked who was planning on attending the Mission, the only voices were quick denials.

Should I pipe up?  But we’re new at this Parish and school, still learning personalities, making friendships, getting acquainted.    In fact, one of the parents who seemed most vocal is someone we’ve drawn close to and feel comfortable with.

During the discussion I did not speak up since the coach already knew I had planned on going to the Mission.  I told myself, “it’s not your place to tell these people whether to support the Mission.”  But is it?  Did I hide a lamp under a bushel basket by remaining silent?

Is God asking me to offer my newly forming friendships and reputation as a sacrifice to Him?  Or was I right to remain silent?

My family watched For Greater Glory last night, the story of Mexican Catholics fighting for religious freedom.  What sacrifices am I asked to make in our current war against cultural ambivalence?

Please give me your thoughts.   

Day 18-1

I pray for the Holy Spirit to infuse my heart that I may know His will for me.  And the courage to do so.Day 18-2

Laugh at the Impossible


On this Friday of the Second Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

When I was a plebe at the Naval Academy, one of the fundamental lessons beaten into our skulls involved how to respond to a superior.

Crusty Upperclassman:  “What are your Five Basic Responses, maggot?!”

Sloven Plebe:  “Sir/Ma’am!  The Five Basic Responses are:

    1. Yes, Sir/Ma’am
    2. No, Sir/Ma’am
    3. No excuse, Sir/Ma’am
    4. I’ll find out, Sir/Ma’am
    5. Aye Aye, Sir/Ma’am

The purpose of this training, as I understand it, was to wean us of our childish instincts to hem, haw, excuse or otherwise prevaricate.  But it also taught us the proper demeanor when addressing those of higher authority.  To this day, I still find myself giving deference to superiors with curt, to-the-point answers.

The Five Basic Responses have served me well in subordinate/superior relations.  One response I did not see among the Five, however, was laughter.  Yet Abraham and Sarah both laughed at God!  They didn’t chuckle, but burst out in laughter at God’s promise to make them fruitful in their ripe old age.  Abraham laughed directly at God, falling to the ground in laughter!

If I were to laugh at a senior officer, needless to say my career would be brief.  How did God respond to Abraham and Sarah’s “insubordination”?  He kept His promise and delivered the Impossible.

What does this tell me about my relationship with God, about His Covenant?  It tells me that He doesn’t seek a relationship in the form of subordinate/superior.  He wants me to draw closer to Him as Father, to feel comfortable to laugh with Him, cry to Him, and even complain.  Yes, complain!

Did you know that, of the 150 Psalms, approximate 65 contain complaints.  That’s almost half!  And these were written by David, a Man After God’s Own Heart!  If I want to be After God’s Own Heart, I need to draw closer to His heart.

God wants me to give myself completely to Him, in my anger, sorrows, fears and anxieties.  And when faced with an impossible situation, He wants me to turn to Him in complete trust.

Day 17-1

Sometimes, when faced with the Impossible, it’s easy to just give up and forget to go to God in prayer.  “What’s the use?!”  Day 17-2

Three Incredible Promises


On this Thursday of the Second Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

 “But you promised!”

How often have I heard this protest—usually in the form of a whine.  It usually occurs when a child twists an off-the-cuff response to their request.  Something like:

Child: Can I go to the movies with my friends this weekend?

Dad:  We’ll see.

Child promptly interprets “we’ll see” as something like:

most definitely.  I promise. I do hereby swear or affirm that you will be allowed to go do whatever you want with your friends this weekend and I will do all in my power to make sure you do.

And then Friday finds the Child in flight grabbing his coat and the car keys in a mad dash out the door.  Dad is the sole obstacle to his progress.

Dad:  Where are you off to?

Child:  The mall with my friends.

Dad:  You can’t go until you (pick one):

(a) Finish the dishes

(b) Clean your bedroom

(c) Do your homework

(d) Complete some other mundane, unnecessary yet arduous task.

Child:  But you promised!

 Frankly I can’t always remember what I said five minute previously, let alone what I told the kids days before, so I am very cautious about using any words that can be construed as a promise by an objective observer.  Maybe that’s the lawyer in me.

Today’s reading discusses three promises God made to Abraham:

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you;

I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

All the families of the earth will find blessing in you.  Gen. 12:2-3.

God promised, and God delivered.  Praise be to the name of God!  He never forgets His promises.

In my life I find that I can be very childish when it comes to what God has promised.  Whenever I respond to a situation with “why me?!” or “why not me?“, it’s an implicit demand that God fulfill a promise He didn’t really make.

When I lose a job, “why me?!” loosely translates to “God, you promised to keep me in this job!”  Conversely, when I am jealous of others’ blessings, “why not me?” can be loosely translated to “God, you promised me many blessings and successes!

And again, the antidote to these false expectations is an attitude of gratitude.  When I am truly grateful for all that I am blessed with, I can focus on the real promises our Father has made, particularly the greatest promise: salvation through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Day 16-2

Note the promise embedded in these verses:  “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving [NB: attitude of gratitude], make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:6-7.

Day 16-1

The Obedience of Faith


On this Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

I’ve heard that the typical member of my profession changes jobs about seven times in their career.  I heard this 17 years ago, and I’m guessing that the average has increased with the increasing mobility of society.

In my case, I’m a bit ahead of the curve.  In the past 16 years I’ve held seven jobs including my present job.  Not every transition was voluntary.  Some were very stressful: to my family, my marriage, my sense of self, even my faith.

Change can be very disorienting and disruptive, particularly change that is unplanned and unprepared for. Especially when the change forces me from a position of comfort or complacency.  How I respond to this change depends on how grounded I am in my faith.

Take Abraham, for example.  He was 75, wealthy and firmly established in Canaan when God told him to uproot his family and move to unfamiliar territory.  How did Abraham respond?  “Digo si señor.” Or, “yes, Lord.”  He obeyed based on God’s promise:

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will find blessing in you.  Gen. 12:2-3.

God sent Abraham.  Abraham obeyed.  What faith!  And then God blessed Abraham!

As I said, change can be quite unsettling.  For me, more than a few of the transitions brought about some real inner soul searching.  Mostly, I asked “why.”  “Why me?!”  “Why now?!”

But maybe I wasn’t asking the right questions, or delving deeply enough.  God sent Abraham as an extension of His Covenant, to further bless Abraham and His people.  Maybe–with each change–God sends me to further His Covenant in some way.  Maybe God wants to use me in the new location, new position, new situation.  Or maybe He just wants to shake me out of my complacency to serve Him better.

Day 15-1

This theme of change continues in the New Testament.  Just as God challenged Abraham, Jesus also challenged the Rich Man:

Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. Mark 10:21.

But in each case, the command to change was accompanied by a promise of even greater blessings.  Perhaps this should be my attitude with every change:  “thank you Lord for the blessings ahead of me in this new chapter of my life!”

Day 15-2

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