A Dysfunctional and turbulent Family
I wonder if any of you identify with the seriously dysfunctional and turbulent family of whom part of the story of two generations is related in Genesis 27. The main characters are a father, a mother, and two sons. We will look at them in that order:
Isaac showed favouritism between his twin sons. He loved the older one more than the other, and he let it be known. When his life was nearing its end, and he was almost blind, he asked his favourite son to go hunting, prepare a sacred meal for him from what he caught, and as part of the meal he would bless the son. The blessing included, “Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.” He reserved no blessing at all for the younger son.
The mother was also guilty of favouritism, loving the younger son, Jacob, more than the older. When she overheard Isaac giving the instructions regarding the hunting and the meal, she quickly told Jacob, her favourite son, to kill a couple of two young goats from the flock, from which she herself would prepare the sort of meal Isaac loved. She then helped Jacob disguise himself as Esau, his brother, so that he could get to Isaac before Esau had time to get back from hunting and to prepare the meal. Thus she led her son into a major act of deception, had a hand in deceiving her husband, and deprived her older son of the sacred blessing his father wished to impart before he died.
The older Son
Esau had a tendency to be flippant and shallow concerning important matters. One day when he was hungry from his outdoor activities, he recklessly and promptly sold his birthright to Jacob for some lentil stew: the birthright included spiritual blessing, preeminence in the family, and an enhanced inheritance.
He also married two foreign women who made life bitter for his parents, to such an extent that his mother, Rebekah, said, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women.”
The younger Son
Jacob broke several commandments during the course of this deception. He took the Lord’s name blasphemously in vain, for when Isaac asked how he had managed to hunt and prepare a meal so quickly, he replied, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” Another commandment has this requirement: “Honour your father and your mother.” Another forbids the bearing of false witness against one’s neighbour, yet Isaac claimed to be Esau in answer to Isaac’s question, “Are you really my son Esau?” Another commandment says, “You shall not steal.” And the last one says, “You shall not covet … anything that is your neighbour’s.” The Ten Commandments had not yet been written on stone tablets, but the righteous principles were – and always are – valid.
* * *
Not one of these characters comes out well from these events: none could say, “I was guiltless.” But here is an amazing and merciful thing: through this family God was at work, carrying forward the blessing he had planned for all the world, to bring through them the Messiah, the Christ, and the blessings of faith, forgiveness, and eternal life to all the nations of the world. Do not despair of experiencing God’s blessing within your own turbulent, dysfunctional family: his mercy is over all that he has made.
God had promised Isaac in the previous chapter: “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven … And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” And so it came about that many years later, through the descendants of Isaac and Jacob, Jesus was born, Son of God and Son of Man, to give his life a ransom for many, to rise from the dead, to impart eternal life freely to all who come to him in true repentance and faith.
This small book of about 100 pages was originally written for translation into Albanian, and was published in Tirana under the title Mposht Dyshimin. It explores various doubts about God and our salvation which often afflict sincere Christians. Here is the English original, newly prepared for publication on-line or on paper (or both). Click on the link for some advice on how to ward off or counter the doubts that trouble you about God, his love for you, your sin or forgiveness, your inadequate service, your eternal salvation. Click on the link to read on. And please feel free to download and keep this pdf file, and to pass it on to others, unaltered and with its source acknowledged.
Studies in Immortality: Shall we be re-united in the Beyond?
by Rev. William E. Farndale, Aldersgate Magazine, 1919
A persuasive argument from Scripture, by a former Primitive Methodist minister, President of the Methodist Conference in 1947, that those who die in the Lord will know one another after death, and will be reunited, albeit without resumption of the earthly family relationship.
The Lord of the Rings: a richly Christian book
In 1920 J. R. R. Tolkien became a “reader” in English at Leeds University, and in 1925 a professor at Oxford. In 1997, polls for Waterstone’s chain of bookshops, the Daily Telegraph and the Folio Society all put Tolkien as the century’s most popular writer.
It was largely a conversation with Tolkien and Hugo Dyson that brought C S Lewis to faith in Christ, and Tolkien’s diary later referred to “Lewis… a lover, at least after a long pilgrimage, of Our Lord.”
Tolkien’s major writings are “mythopœic” – invented myth. He wrote that his nature “expresses itself about things deepest felt in tales and myths,” and he saw myth as a way of expressing truth which is hard to convey in more mundane terms.
He was a devout traditional Roman Catholic, and took care to ensure that his grand-scale myth was consonant with Christian orthodoxy. There is delight in life, and lively appreciation of the beauty of creation – of water, trees, mountains – and of friendship. His view of evil was strong and uncompromising, and his writings explore how evil enslaves, and how we cannot use its methods to defeat evil. The constant working of an unseen Providence underlies the story, and is conveyed to the reader’s own heart; and Tolkien explores its relationship with our free agency. We see personality shaped through tribulation and sacrifice, and small and insignificant people caught up, as Christians are, in a Quest vaster than themselves. Life is portrayed as significant, making readers more eager to offer and spend their own for a divine calling. The sense of exile, felt by all whose citizenship is in heaven, is achingly conveyed, and he has much to say about a good death, which scripture sets before us “precious in the sight of the Lord”.
My seven readings of The Lord of the Rings have enriched my appreciation of God in creation and providence, of Christian friendship, of virtues such as loyalty, commitment, sacrifice, truthfulness, of the significance of our service, and of the fact that Christians are exiles and sojourners until the world is cleansed and renewed at the Coming of Christ for which we wait. Questions of soteriology, transubstantiation, purgatory, or Mary, never intrude, and thus do not spoil the book for an Evangelical. It has been asked why there is no Christ figure in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien wrote: “The incarnation of God is an infinitely greater thing than I would dare to write”; and the story is set in an age long before the coming of Christ.
The Lord of the Rings, enjoyed with a receptive heart and perceptive mind, can help to point you, or bring you, nearer to God. There is a short YouTube video which is the closing four minutes of the longer talk under “Talks and Videos” on this website. Here is the link to the video: https://youtu.be/eeQ-YowQOYA .
Thorin Oakenshield: some thoughts on his death
Thorin is a leading character in J. R. R. Tolkien’s story The Hobbit, who dies a heroic death in the events the story relates, and utters some deeply meaningful words at his death scene.
Some Thoughts about the Coronavirus Epidemic 2020: two short articles
As the coronavirus spreads from China across the world and kills people in Britain, many may be asking “Where is God in all this? What is God doing? And why? Can I find him?
“Providence”: how God often leads us
I have often pondered on the ways of God in leading us through our lives, if we wish to serve him, and I am aware that people worry in case they miss their providential way (to borrow Charles Wesley’s phrase (Wesley’s Hymns 326). This short meditation is intended to help readers find peace and trust that God will always fulfil his purpose for those who sincerely desire to serve and follow him. Click here to read it:
HADLOW: call, ministry, failure, questions
“There was a very very strong feeling that God had let me down. I had no full-time secular job to provide for my family and no sense of direction . I reckon there must be other ministers who have tasted a similar bitterness, and I would love to assure them that they are not alone“, and I hope that my experiences in this article will speak to someone who is in a similar time. Click here to read the article (the words by me, the title by the magazine editor): Hadlow call and closure
Ruby Violet Oakley-Hill, a little-known English Christian in 1940s Albania
Ruby (1916-2007) left missionary training college at the outbreak of World War 2 and in her own words: The war broke out during my last term at missionary training college… I was called up to the SOE branch of the Foreign Office Balkans section to set up a new department for operations in Albania.” She married Col. Dayrell Oakley-Hill who served under King Zog from 1929, during the War with the Albanian Resistance, and after the War with the United Nations. To read Ruby’s story, with some of Col. Oakley-Hill’s story as well, click here: Ruby Oakley Hill article enlarged
The Founding of the Albanian Evangelical Mission
AEM was founded in April 1986 to promote Evangelical life and ministry among the Albanian people. This article, written to mark the 35th anniversary in April 2021, relates the events leading to it foundation: the why, who, where, how. Click here to read: founding AEM corrected
Ælfric, first Abbot of Eynsham
Ælfric was a man in whose heart burned a steady, unextinguished love for God and man – the sort of ardent desire to serve God and bring others to have faith in Him that has stamped itself on every sincere Christian heart for many hundreds of years. The love and zeal which moved and activated Ælfric a thousand years ago may move us as we read and ponder his life and his writings. Click here to read about him Ælfric, first Abbot of Eynsham
Ælfric, weekly readings from his sermons
Here in just under 9000 words are extracts from the homilies of Ælfric, translated into modern English and arranged under date to provide a reading for each week of the year. Click here to read them, and feel free to download them for ease of future access: Ælfric extracts (Eng.)