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July 30, 2008

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Tim Galloway

Geoff,

I got this the day after you preached on Jacob and his wrestling match.

Thought you might find it interesting.

Tim Galloway

-----Original Message-----
From: A Slice of Infinity [mailto:slice@sliceofinfinity.org]
Sent: Monday, August 04, 2008 8:15 AM
To: slice-text@lists.rzim.org
Subject: [Slice 1737] A Congregation of One (August 4, 2008)

08/4/08
A Congregation of One
Jill Carattini

"Is persuasion dead?" an editorialist asked recently, admitting he felt the
signs were not good. And though his own editorializing was itself an
attempt to persuade, he brought up a subject often recognized but
unquestioned, seen but unseen: our capacity for selective hearing is
gigantic. "Best-selling books reinforce what folks thought when they
bought them. Talk radio and opinion journals preach to the converted...
Politicos huddle with like-minded souls in opinion cocoons that seem
impervious to facts."(1) Persuasion seems to have been replaced with
preaching to the choir, and we are all very particular about the choirs to
which we want to listen. The image may hit home, but it is usually the
home across the street we point at first.

When it comes to listening, we are quick to listen to the things we want
to hear. We are also quick to listen to the things we think other people
need to hear. In a book study with several couples on the subject of
marriage, several of us mentioned the struggle to actually read the book
for ourselves and not for our spouses. I found myself carefully reading
the sections I hoped my other half would carefully notice; another
admitted circling and highlighting and handing it over. I'm not even sure
you can call our behavior half-hearted; for our hearts were not the ones we
were putting on the line. Undoubtedly, we missed things that would have
been good for us to hear ourselves. Though reading with our own eyes, we
were listening for someone else.

Expanding on G.K. Chesterton's clever aphorism that between one and two
there is often a difference of millions, F.W. Boreham notes the massive
difference between a congregation of one and a congregation of two: "A
congregation of one takes every word in a direct and personal sense; but,
in a congregation of two, each auditor takes it for granted that the
preacher is referring to the other."

Long after Jacob had tricked Esau out of his birthright, Jacob stood at an
impasse. His brother was approaching and there was nowhere else to run.
Fearful and distressed, he sent his family and a peace offering ahead of
him. And Jacob was left alone. Yet, the text is sort of unclear about
this. Immediately after Jacob is reported to be alone, it seems to tell
us he is not: "And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him
until daybreak" (Genesis 32:24).

The times in life when God seems to speak most clearly to me are often the
least pleasant. Yet perhaps it is in tears and distress that I stop
listening for others, and find myself most desperate to hear God myself.
Jacob was alone in the sense that there was no one else to put the words
on, no one else to listen for, no brother to trick or blame. He was a
congregation of one, wrestling with the beloved enemy who demands of us
everything. When the stranger asked Jacob the very question he had once
answered deceptively, there was no one to help twist words for him, no one
to answer but him. "What is your name?" the stranger asked. "Jacob," he
replied. And the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but
Israel, because you have striven with God and with humans, and have
prevailed" (Gen. 32:28).

While we are in Christ a body of believers transcending history, race, and
language, so we are a congregation of one, seeking the voice of our maker.
As the writer of James urges, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so
deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22). Before giving
us life, God demands our lives, our hearts, our wills, and our attention.
Christ’s call is personal and specific, and we must answer for ourselves.


On his way to see Esau, Jacob watched the sun rise upon him as he passed
the place where he wrestled with God. Jacob left limping, but he had seen
God face to face. He had heard for himself the voice of God.

Jill Carattini is senior associate writer at Ravi Zacharias
International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Matt Miller, “Is Persuasion Dead?” The New York Times Online,
June 4, 2005,
https://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/04/opinion/04miller_oped.html.


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