No debate prep needed

It’s the middle of election season in the U.S and with precisely a month to go it’s getting weird and ridiculous and entertaining. Which is why almost 100 million Americans (and I suspect some others as well) tuned in to watch Trump and Clinton debate at Hofstra University, in an event that was moderated in very biased fashion by Lester Holt. There are two more debates to be televised before Americans go to the polls and if ratings from the first debate are to be believed, the debates will continue to attract viewers. Past is prologue and all that.


To put this in context, probably more than 200 million people will watch the debates via television. Billy Graham, the world famous evangelist, has reportedly preached to 215 million people in 185 countries over the course of his ministry stretching over decades.


There’s nothing close to being an equivalency in these comparisons. One is a series of debates, essentially a job interview for political office, and the other is a message of life and death, salvation and eternal hope for all mankind.


It’s kind of sad that the world pays so much attention to something that probably won’t matter a few months from now. Yes, it may matter that one candidate gets the job over the other but the debates themselves will be forgotten until the next election cycle. They will be part of history books or a presidential library.


Instead of converts to Republicanism or socialism in 4 year election cycles, the enduring choice in the election of life is whether we accept God as our king or not. The ratings do not reflect this.


In Acts 24, Paul is imprisoned by the Roman Empire and, seemingly famous among the ruling elite of the day, appears before governor Felix and then before governor Festus and King Agrippa. They wanted to hear what all the fuss was about and hear this guy who had been labelled as a loon by his detractors. Having an audience with a snooty, arrogant ruler who has the power to have you given a dirt nap is probably a little more intimidating than a liberal debate moderator and yet Paul didn’t hold back and made his appeal to these important guys. Man to man, soul to soul.


Paul recognised that though he appeared before these rulers, they themselves would one day appear before Christ. As recorded in Matthew 10, Jesus sent out his disciples:


16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”


No debate prep needed because we represent Him and his Holy Spirit will see to it that we know what to say. I suppose that at some point we all are faced with a scenario like Paul, except of course slightly less dramatic. It’s refreshing to know that when you testify about God he does the talking. e’s please

WWE, TBN style

So to set the scene, Jacob is a schemer and when he left Canaan he burned his bridges with his brother Esau, kind of like a sad country song with all the drama of a soapie episode and now he’s on his way back and Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.


And the 400 men are not there to provide moral support, and they’re not singing minstrels or comedians.


That’s the context of Genesis 32. And Jacob is in the middle of all of this and he doesn’t see a way out but he’s trying to work the angles and curry favour with the long lost brother he swindled out of a birth right.


Not to forget the 400 men.


Jacob has no more angles to play and he prays to God, as he refers to Him, the ‘God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac’ (verse 9). And left alone, looking over the ford of the river Jabbok, God wrestles with him until daybreak.


So, perhaps Jacob was a smooth talker and a canny operator and had never been confronted with his mortality or his relationship to God. He referred to God as the God of his father Abraham and father Isaac. God has an established relationship with Jacob’s father and grand-father but here Jacob is and there’s no more angles.


Daybreak approaches and Jacob won’t let go unless God gives him a blessing. Now Jacob was already blessed as we think about the flocks of farm animals he sent on ahead to pacify Esau (and his 400 men), and Jacob was almost certainly aware of God’s promise to the family of Jacob’s fathers but now here Jacob is wrestling with God and Jacob wants a blessing from the Source.


Jacob is not merely content with the blessing without knowing the One behind the blessing. And so he insists, and God could easily have escaped his grasp, but it’s almost like He’s pleased with Jacob’s effort and rewards it.


From that time on, God has met with Jacob face to face and given him His blessing, and for his part Jacob is changed: God gives him a new name, Israel and Jacob now calls God his God too, not merely the God of Abraham and Isaac.


And he also has a hip out of joint. But he goes on to meet Esau and his posse head on with a sort of confidence that comes from having wrestled with God.


Now for the pivot, and the application: the world is filled with issues and people find themselves on one side or the other: Trump or Clinton, Green energy or ‘drill-baby-drill’, pro-choice or pro-life, in rugby: South Africa or New Zealand and we can wrestle on one side or the other and try to convince people that our view is right.  Some people wrestle with the whole world and see everybody else against them: wild conspiracy theories about world government, Communist aggression, and entrenched racism in Europe.


I have issues that capture my attention but have come to realise that these are mere side-shows. If you wrestle with the world you become worldly. If you wrestle with God (or let him wrestle with you) then you become godly, because you encounter Him.


Obviously this doesn’t refer to being antagonistic towards God, it’s relating to Him even if you disagree with His methods or will. After all, who doesn’t want the blessing of God?