Sunday, October 25, 2009

Providence Magnified by Peripety

One new word that I learned today from bible study (Esther 6:1-14) is peripety; it means a sudden and unexpected change of fortune or a sudden reversal of circumstances or destiny.  It is a literary devise to make the story more interesting.  I guess it is a devise that is intended to extract a reaction and response from the reader.  The sixth chapter of Esther shows an example of peripety when Mordecai the Jew, scheduled to be the first victim of the newly built top-of -the line gallows, is now going to be honored.  He is supposed to wear the king's robe and crown and will have to be paraded throughout the land on the king's horse.  That is a sudden shift in destiny.  Haman on the other hand, assuming that he would be the only one who deserves to be honored by the king, made very generous recommendations on what should be done to the one His Highness wants to honor.  It turned out that Haman's worst nightmare Mordecai qualified above him to receive all the things he recommended.  Not only did Haman miss the rewards he was also assigned to coordinate the details in order for it to happen as he recommended.  Peripety indeed, but this is not the last shift in circumstances in the chapter.  Haman, who is all consumed to kill, annihilate and destroy the Jews, is going to be consumed in the gallows he had ordered to be constructed for Mordecai, the Jew.  Haman's plan was to end his enemy but before he could accomplish it, he ran out of time.  Events have shifted allowing the unexpected to prevail. 

I will digress here a little bit just to justify myself from feeling disappointed about some things. We can look at a story as literary piece.  We dissect it based on the manner it was written and we appreciate the style and tools that were used by the author.  Beth Moore was led to this direction when she delivered her talk on the sixth chapter of Esther.  She discussed about the chiastic structure and the peripety encountered in the book.  There seem to have been very little reason to brood over these matters when the chapter is filled with interesting events.  It is packed with excitement and yet here we were learning about chiasm and peripety as literary tools.  These are good topics for discussion but the timing is a little bit out of place.  I was a little bit disappointed.  One gal in my group even said that BM must have given her long talk just so she could read a quote from a book that mentioned "peripety".  I thought that was an accurate observation.  Should I call this a mini peripety?  If so, then there must be a bigger plan (God's plan) above my head that I cannot see.  One benefit for me is improvement of my vocabulary.  That is a good thing I must admit.

The peripeties that take place throughout the book of Esther is what I call God's providence.   Providence means that God is watching his creation carefully, he is working within and around the lives of his people carrying out His plans that he laid before the beginning of time.  Stories of the bible are loaded with messages that are intended for us to catch.  Sometimes we get distracted into focusing our attention to the "packaging" and eventually miss what's inside.  God is the author of the Holy Scriptures.  Literary style and structure which He varied depending on whose hand and brains he used to write, is a medium He used to deliver such messages.  It is a mechanism that encapsulates the message so that its intended force or efficacy is achieved.  In the story of Esther, peripety is therefore the magnifying glass that exposes the providence of God in a clarity that we could not miss.

Monday, October 12, 2009

True Fasting

"Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"
~ Isaiah 58:7

Sometimes in the deep of our sleep we are awakend by an unusual sound.  Sometimes in the midst of our busy-ness we are disturbed by a strange sound - a sound that does not fit with the noise around us.  This noise does not have to be loud to get our attention because the magnitude does not count as much as the uniqueness of  the sound.

 It has been my obsevation that whenever I am awakened by an unusual sound, there are three things that happen after I open my eyes: 1.  Find out where I am,  2. In my blurred vision, I figure out what's going on around me, 3. Then decide what I should do next.  Most of the time I never get to the third step - I just go back to sleep.  More often than not I wake up with a headache. 

Last night,  I've heard that unusual sound (that keeps coming every once in my life) when my family watched a video of Harvey Carey [Leadership Summit 2009].  In his talk he articulated the need for christians to "break up from their huddles and start to play the game", stop collecting binders from numerous seminars and get to action, and avoid being in the state of "paralysis by analysis".  Instead of counting out your financial resources for a ministry get busy figuring out what our Almighty God can do and depend on that. "You need to learn how to just go and do what Jesus said to go and do." 

This morning John Hamm talked about his story in meeting Pastor Naha and eventually starting "My Brother's Burden".   He underscored the unusual voice from God that rang in his ear time after time.  God's voice came to John through the the passages in Isaiah 58:10 - "if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."

   'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
~ Matthew 25:45

We are very comfortable here in America.  In fact this is the very best place to live.  We hardly ever know what real suffering means.  We mistake simple inconveniences for true tribulations.  When our peace and quiet is disturbed by a news that some people somewhere need help,  it is easy to close our eyes and go back to sleep.  We see and hear about sufferings around us and our pious response is to close our eyes in prayer and skip a couple of meals in fasting.  We know that God is pleased with us when we pray and fast.  Nevertheless, we need not forget that praying and fasting are means to an end.  They are intended to prepare us mentally and spiritually to join God in His agenda.  Isaiah 58 describes what true fasting is all about.  God did not create us to be a bucket but a well.  A bucket collects but a well gives.

I believe that God meant for us to help those in need not only in our abundance but give to the point of being in need.  God's grace is sufficient for us.  He does not want us to rely on the things that He gave us but on Him. 


Monday, October 5, 2009

We Thank God for Our Pastor

When was the last time you thanked God about your pastor? When was the last time that you told him you appreciate him?  I asked myself the same question and it was embarrassing to find out that I never really sat down and thought about the things that I like about him.   As a family we pray for our pastor every Sunday right before we turn on the car engine to go to church.  We pray that God would help him deliver a good message.  Do you see what's wrong with that?  It is so selfish.  It has not occurred to me that I was praying for something that I would get from him. There is more about your pastor than the sermon that he delivers every Sunday.

"Take time to sit down and reflect kindly about your very own pastor."

It is October 2009.  It is clergy appreciation month.  Take time to sit down and reflect kindly about your very own pastor. Then let him know about it.  True joy comes when we give up a part of our life (including our pride) to bring blessings to someone.  As inspired by Beth Moore, I asked everyone in my family to think of something they like about Pastor Dave Henry.  This is what we came up with, I'm sure your list can be different. 

Dear Pastor,  we appreciate you because:
1.  You are a good listener. 
2.  You have a happy attitude.
3.  You take time to know everyone's name in your congregation
4.  You are passionate about evangelism.
5.  You show your love for your wife, Keisha.

"The LORD bless you and keep you;  the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." 
- Numbers 6:24-2