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Posts Tagged ‘deception’


Nehemiah 4: Hostile Plots

Sunday, October 15, 2017

We may recognize a familiar pattern in many lives.

Just when we believe our work is moving forward with purpose and success, an obstacle blocks our way to make forward progress impossible.

Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he mocked the Jews. (NRSV)

Just when our relationships are most fruitful and supportive, a loss brings stress that strains the bonds we have built over so many years and with so much effort and prayer.

But when Sanvalat, Toviyah, the Arabs, the ‘Amonim and the Ashdodim heard that the repairs on the walls of Yerushalayim were going forward, and the breaks were being filled in, they became very angry. (CJB)

Just when our work place is most fulfilling and rewarding, stealthy plotters threaten chaos and destruction.

When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall he exploded in anger, vilifying the Jews. In the company of his Samaritan cronies and military he let loose: “What are these miserable Jews doing? Do they think they can get everything back to normal overnight? Make building stones out of make-believe?” (MSG)

Just when our prayer life is fruitful and healing, duplicitous schemers find their way into the heart of all that matters to us.

When Sanballat heard that we Jews had begun rebuilding the wall, he became furious and began to ridicule us. (GNT) 

We may recognize a familiar pattern in many lives, and when we do, there is only one path of return to peace. We best thwart all hostile plots when we place our lives in the hands of God.

When we compare varying versions of how evil plots threaten the new-found order brought out of chaos, we open our hearts and minds to the healing order of the Spirit.

For more information on Sanballat, Nehemiah’s nemesis, visit: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13167-sanballat 

Tomorrow, dealing with oppression.

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1 Samuel 13: The Heat of Self-Knowledge – Part I

Monday, October 17, 2016

Benjamin west: Saul and the Witch of Endor

Benjamin West: Saul and the Witch of Endor

As the political season heats up in the U.S., we consider this important story from one of our oldest scriptures.

This is the portion of the Samuel story in which we watch Saul move away from God to begin his long slide into darkness.  This downward movement happens because he presumes to know best.  Saul takes action on his own without waiting for Samuel, who is designated by God as the judge/leader, to offer sacrifice before battle.  Although his son Jonathan and the rest of Saul’s troops have immediate success, Saul himself is eventually lost.  He becomes paranoid about his fear of David (1 Samuel 18) and forces David to flee the court (1 Samuel 19).  He allows his fears to overtake him as when he orders the priest of Nob to be slaughtered (1 Samuel 22) and continues his frenetic search for David in the wilderness (1 Samuel 23).  In his panic he consults with a seer in Endor (1 Samuel 28); and finally he meets his dreadful end (1 Samuel 31) along with his beloved son Jonathon.  This is a sad ending for a man who had shown such promise but who, in the end, did not trust God.  Today we see the beginning of Saul’s long and terrible journey into the dark.  Unwilling to admit his errors or to seek pardon, Saul gives himself over to the fantastical thinking that he knows better than God . . . that he can do without God.  He sees his troops slithering away before the battle and, thinking that he will keep them from leaving, he steps in to intervene – countering God’s plan.

Today we reflect on Saul’s story and examine our motivations to see if the fire of self-knowledge threatens to consume us. Tomorrow, the fire of battle. Do our conflicts help us to know ourselves better? Or do they send us further into deception and denial? 

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Hebrews 12:14-17Peace and Holiness

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hendrick ter Brugghen: Esau Selling his Birthright

Hendrick ter Brugghen: Esau Selling his Birthright

As we continue to consider the quality of peace in our lives, we reflect on this Favorite written on August 23, 2007. How do we find peace in our families? How do peace and holiness abide in times of deception and deceit? 

Strive for peace and holiness by avoiding bitterness, and by seeking reconciliation and unity through repentance and reparation.  Seeking blessing through tears does not work unless it is accompanied by true repentance and a true desire for intimacy and union.  The example of Esau is clear.  He deserved his inheritance yet he was cheated out of it by his own mother and brother.  We go back to rethink the story and we find something new.

In a homily more than a year ago, the homilist pointed out the following in regards to the stealing of Esau’s birthright by his brother Jacob: When we look at Jacob’s life, we see that he manipulated God’s plan in order to receive something which he thought he deserved.  He angled for his brother’s inheritance by clear and overt deception and betrayal. Yet in the end, his life was one of a series of losses of family members and of separation from loved ones.  The homilist pointed out that no matter how we try, we humans cannot out-maneuver God.

We reflect on how Esau was so often absent from the family, doing what he pleased while hunting and fishing.  He was a member of his family but had moved himself away from the intimacy of the precious circle of love.  Perhaps if he had been more engaged, more interactive, more truly present, less passive resistant or even passive aggressive, his brother would not have thought it possible to steal an inheritance.  Esau neglected something important that had been given to him: the gifts of his intimate family members.  He was cavalier in his attitude about them and in Chapter 25 of Genesis he sells his right for a single bowl of stew.  Later when he cries, he does not repent.  So Esau goes off to join the Ishmaelites and to begin his own tribe which thrives in opposition to the tribes of his brother Jacob.

And so as we reflect, we pray.

God in Heaven, keep us from neglecting those whom we love so dearly.  Do not let us stray so far that my loved ones believe me gone.  For those whom we love who stand away from us, let us always be open to the newness of the Spirit, always present to the impossible possibility that a new beginning is waiting to bloom.  For those to whom we have an aversion, for those we hold at arm’s length, keep us aware that you work wonders – even in the lives and plans of those who mean to do harm.  Keep us prudent but open to the possibility that hearts may be softened, walls taken down.  Keep us from being part of the wall.  Allow us to trust you to be our shield and protection.  Keep us holy and in peace.  We pray this in Jesus’ name as we abide with you in the same Spirit who guided Jacob and Esau. 

Amen.

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John 8:1-11: Throwing Stones – Part I

Wednesday, July 27, 2016stones with heart

What tax or tithe do we surrender when we give in to the temptation to throw stones? 

In our public and private lives, in our work places, in our houses of worship, in our homes . . . we are constantly called to judge one another. Where so we learn how to handle our tendency to judge?

Swarms of people came to Jesus. He sat down and taught them.

Christ still walks among us and teaches us through our own spiritual core where the Spirit speaks, and through the words and actions of others whom God sends into our path. When we silence the noise of the word and withdraw for a time as Jesus does, we allow a space for God to speak to us. Even then, there will be those who challenge us. And they will frequently hide among the holy, the expert and the innocent. What do we do to distill the Word of God?

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone.

In all circumstances and at all times we are vulnerable to the trick questions and false fronts of those who take advantage of our better nature. What do we say when we are hard-pressed by deceivers?

stonesThey were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 

On all days and at all hours we face confusion and obfuscation. When we do as Jesus does and answer the deceptive dare with a question that goes to the core of the deceit, we invite Christ into the conversation.

 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 

At times we are the condemned woman, at times we are the hypocritical accusers, at times we are innocent victims of the unjust. In all cases we must respond as Jesus responds: Does no one condemn you? Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.

Throwing stones is a dangerous temptation. Throwing stones puts us in ambiguous positions. Throwing stones nurtures division and does not encourage understanding or inclusion. Today we chose a circumstance, environment, or situation at which we want to throw stones. We reflect on this story and we look for ways to apply it to our own lives.

For a reflection on the distinction between throwing stones and giving grace, click on the image above or visit: http://sharperiron.org/article/showered-with-stones-or-grace 

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joyWednesday, November 5, 2014

Genesis 31

Joy and the Deceiver

This is the first in a number of posts in which we will visit scripture looking for stories about joy. These tales will surprise us in a number of ways as we explore. If you wish to read more about how joy astonishes us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see what surprises you there. Today we begin with the book which holds scripture’s oldest stories: Genesis.

In today’s story we read of the relationship between Jacob and his uncle Laban. After deceiving his father and brother – with the help of his mother – and depriving his older twin brother of his birthright, Jacob leaves home to travel to a distant land where he lives with his mother’s brother. Laban promises protection and wages and Jacob settles into his new life, taking his wives Leah and Rachel from among Laban’s daughters, and establishing his own family. But as happens so often in family dynamics, Jacob’s uncle and cousins become jealous of Jacob’s prosperity.

Verse 2: Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly.

And also as so often happens in our human relationship with God, the all-knowing creator sends word to guide and assure us.

Ribera: Jacob with the Flock of Laban

Ribera: Jacob with the Flock of Laban

Verse 3: Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you”.

Jacob and his wife Rachel deceive Laban so that they might take their children, livestock and belongings to return home; but Laban pursues them and all hope seems lost until God surprises Jacob’s household with joy.

Verses 24 and 25: God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad”. Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead.

Laban and Jacob meet and each speaks his mind. They argue. They air grievances and sort out quarrels.

Verse 27: Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre; and did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters?

Finally uncle and nephew reach a covenant agreement and seal their pact with ritual stones at Mizpah. The drama ends with each man stepping away from violence, each man going his way, each man blessing the other.

Verse 55: Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

Brugghen: Jacob Reproaching Laban for Giving him Leah in Place of Rachel

Brugghen: Jacob Reproaching Laban

In a story chock full of deceit, joy surprises us. In a tale with so much potential for violence, God speaks to the heart. In the patriarch saga of bloodshed and deception God brings us to the joy of mercy. Let us consider today the times we have moved out of a relationship without allowing the joy of knowing one another kindle forgiveness. Let us reflect on the times we have deceived another without offering the gift of asking pardon. Let us remember the joy that surprises all deceivers. And knowing that God is always with us, let us look for the joy that is waiting to surprise us today.

To learn about the story of Jacob, spend time with Genesis chapters 25-36. For insight into the relationship between Jacob, Leah, Rachel and Laban, and how both joy and deception play roles in Jacob’s life, visit: https://bible.org/seriespage/never-satisfied-story-jacob-and-rachel 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Wolf in sheep's clothing[1]Matthew 7:15-16

Sheep and Wolves

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but underneath are ravenous wolves.  By their fruits you will know them. 

It is not difficult to think of the wolves dressed as sheep whom we have encountered in our lives.  The difficulty comes when we examine the times we may have been the wolves.

God says: Some times when you see sheep they are just sheep; at other times they are wolves who have cleverly disguised themselves.  I know that many of you are frightened by the truth that these wolves hides among the children of light.  Do not be afraid of false prophets for they cannot harm you; they prepare you in a bizarre way to discern good from bad.  Your gut reaction is often accurate but at times the disguise is so clever and the costume fits so well that you cannot discern the practiced deception.  At other times these false ones present themselves with an oft-rehearsed role so they are impossible to mark.  The mask is perfect and well cast.  The speech refined.  The gestures practiced to perfection.  Yet their fruits will expose them.   It may take quite a long time but in the end . . . the imposter reveals himself.

Our culture prepares us for superficial encounters but does not give us the tools of discernment, perspicacity or prudence.  We regard speed and change as gifts.  Patience, endurance and farsighted-ness have little value. For the former we look to the world.  For the latter we must apply to Wisdom.  For tools that sustain forever rather than a mere season . . . we go to God.   When seen through the prism of the Spirit, wolves are quickly seen as hiding in sheep’s clothing.

Enter the words false prophet in the blog search bar and explore how wolves disguise themselves.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Psalm-69-14[1]Psalm 69:2-3

Great Distress

Save me, O God, for the waters have reached my neck.  I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold.  I have gone down to the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me.

Anyone who has stepped into murky waters at land’s edge will know the sensation of mud oozing between toes.  It does not take much imagination to conjure up the feeling of water rising slowly to envelope us.  Death by drowning overtakes the lungs, strangling any cry for help.

God says: The chaos and deception of the world have frightened you; but remember that I am always with you.  The dragging darkness threatens you; but keep in mind that I guide and protect you.  The feelings of loss and desperation weigh you down, robbing you of your natural buoyancy and positive outlook.  Turn to me when the world sweeps over you.  Rely on me when darkness becomes too heavy.  Trust me when you are at your last ounce of energy and hope.  When great distress paralyzes you and saps your very breath, allow me to breathe for you.  I have plumbed the breadth and depths of the ocean; I know the boggy reed beds where you have lost your way.  Lift your eyes and heart and hopes to me.  And I will pull you out of your great distress. 

We recognize that we too often rely on self rather than God.  Let us determine today that it will be God’s name we call upon when shadowy depths bring us great distress.

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