Joseph the Dreamer

joseph-the-dreamer

“Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.” (Genesis 41:34-36, ESV)

Just a few hours after writing my previous article about the importance of life insurance in estate planning, I came across the above-quoted passage during my devotions. Maybe God intentionally led me to this passage of Scripture, which totally drives home my point in all my recent posts since last month, and that is: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

In the Old Testament account of Joseph, we can read how he was the most favored son of his father, Jacob (Israel). He was so obviously the favorite that his brothers plotted to kill him in jealousy. Fortunately, one of them convinced the others that killing their own flesh and blood is wrong and that they should just instead leave him in the pit where he was trapped. Nevertheless, when Bedouin caravan merchants came by, the brothers instead sold Joseph to them as a slave. Then they in turn sold Joseph at the public market who was bought by an Egyptian official named Potiphar. After many successes and tragedies in his life, Joseph finally gained favor in the eyes of Pharaoh who made him ruler of all Egypt second only to the king due to his God-given ability to interpret dreams and leadership capabilities. As a severe famine was about to strike the land of Egypt and its neighboring nations, Joseph came up with a plan to dampen, if not eradicate, the effects of the imminent famine. This story of Joseph is very famous that it was made by Walt Disney™ into an animated full-length feature film entitled “Joseph the Dreamer.”

This biblical story clearly illustrates the importance of planning ahead of any undesirable circumstance that may come our way. While Egypt’s neighboring countries suffered due to the ravaging effects of the famine, Egypt remained prosperous and plentiful. For us living in the 21st century, these undesirable circumstances may take the form of loss of employment; natural calamities such as earthquakes, typhoons and inundation; conflagration; sickness; or even death. This is where sound risk management, together with effective financial planning is a must. As with everything else, financial security starts with a plan. According to Rienzie Biolena, a Registered Financial Planner, “A comprehensive financial plan is a document that outlines the goals of a person, assesses his/her financial status, and gives concrete recommendations on how to achieve those goals. Each plan is different as every person has unique status, needs and aspirations. Yet all comprehensive financial plans cover each aspect of a person’s finances – cash flow, debt management, investments, insurance, tax and estate, and retirement.”

So when is the best time to start planning for your and your children’s future in order to protect yourself from life’s uncertainties? The answer is: YESTERDAY. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail. So what are you waiting for? Contact your legal and financial adviser before it’s too late!

Advertisements

The Role of the Holy Spirit in Counseling

Before Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He promised His disciples that He would not leave them orphans but would send them another Paraclete Whom He identified as the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17). In English translations of the Bible, the Greek word ‘Paraclete’ in the above-cited passage is rendered either as ‘Advocate’ or ‘Helper.’ In addition to those however, the most appropriate translation of that word in the context of our topic is that of ‘Counselor.’ Although Jesus was and is definitely the Great Counselor while He walked the earth, the Counselor who remained on earth to guide Jesus’ disciples is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will remind His disciples everything that He taught them—and that includes us modern-day Christians.

In referring to the third Person of the triune God, the word ‘holy’ is most commonly used. According to Jay Adams, the Holy Spirit is called holy not only because He is to be distinguished from all other spirits, and in particular from unclean spirits, but also because He is the Source of all holiness. He further states that “the holiness of God’s people that results from their sanctification by the Holy Spirit must be attributed entirely to Him as He works through His Word.

As pastors and nouthetic counselors entrusted by Jesus to take care and watch over His flock (Acts 20:28), we are to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. We should acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). Instead of relying on human wisdom as set forth in the various philosophical systems of the world, it is only through the help of the Holy Spirit and by our reliance on the truth of God’s Word in Sacred Scripture that we can truly be effective in guiding His people out of the problems they are facing. By being faithful to God’s calling and direction, we bring glory to His name.

The Counselor

One of the most important elements of counseling is the counselor himself and according to Adams in his The Christian Counselor’s Manual, “While every Christian must become a counselor to his fellow Christians, the work of counseling as a special calling is assigned particularly to the pastor.”

Corollary to this is his apparent antagonism towards the “science” of psychiatry, positing that biblically, there is no warrant for acknowledging its existence as a separate and distinct discipline because there are only three specified sources of personal problems in living, namely: demonic activity, personal sin, and organic illness, and that all options are covered under these three heads, leaving no room for a fourth—non-organic mental illness. So, there is therefore no place in a biblical scheme for the psychiatrist as a separate practitioner. The same is true with respect to his view on non-directive counseling saying that those words represent a contradiction of terms.

As ordained Christian ministers are the ones specifically tasked to do the work of counseling, the qualifications of a counselor are the same as those of a minister. To be an effective nouthetic counselor, one must possess the following: (a) adequate scriptural knowledge of the will of God; (b) divine wisdom in one’s relationships to others; and (c) good will and concern for other members of the body of Christ. In short, he must be convinced that the Bible is true and be ready and able to direct others to its promises with assurance and conviction. The counselor, as an ordained man of God, exercises the full authority for counseling that Christ gave to the organized church. As such, he must also exhibit faithful obedience to God’s Word in his daily life.

Aside from the qualifications discussed above, the emotional health and attitudes of the counselor are likewise vitally important. A person who is undergoing emotional turmoil due to his own personal problems may not be in the best condition to counsel others. He will be out of focus, distracted by his own issues that he would not be able to listen attentively and effectively process the information his counselee is sharing. Moreover, the emotionally disturbed counselor’s judgment might become clouded and colored by his own biases and desired solutions to his own problems.

As the person primarily responsible in helping other people deal with their life problems and issues, the minister must see to it that before he enters the counseling room or office and meets with his counselees, his emotional and mental disposition is well-balanced and free from any distractions that may affect his performance and functions as such. To help achieve this, the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit is indispensable, which can be gained through prayer and meditation on God’s Word.

Counseling and the Bible

Pastoral counseling would not be as such without the Bible. As Christians, our primary source of wisdom for faith and morals is Sacred Scripture. Without the Word of God, our counsel may only be based on the hollow and deceptive philosophies of man. According to Allen Brabham: “The shepherd role of the pastor, the closeness that exists between pastor and parishioners, and the working of the Spirit through Scripture afford pastoral counselors an ideal teaching opportunity.” However, pastoral counseling is more than just teaching, otherwise, it would have no difference with preaching, which is primarily didactic in nature. While counseling also involves teaching, it is in reality a sharing of one’s life in God in a more personal and individualized manner.

St. Paul the apostle said that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). Moreover, the author of Hebrews posits that “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (4:12, ESV). It is clear that unlike the wisdom of man, when correctly used, the Word of God has power, power to affect and change people’s lives. Jesus himself prayed to the Father that his disciples shall be sanctified by the truth, and this truth is the Word of God (John 17:17) as Jesus himself is the “way the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Some people may counter by saying that the Bible is an outdated ancient document irrelevant to our present-day issues and problems. Granting that we in the 21st century are culturally, linguistically, and chronologically far apart from biblical times, surely nonetheless, the issues and circumstances illustrated and addressed in the Bible are human issues which transcend time, language, and culture. Because the Bible is the Word of God, it is just as immutable and eternal as its divine Author. The Word of God convicts man of sin; it brings the message of salvation; it produces faith; it ushers in new life; offers cleansing to the believer; gives unerring guidance; it offers discernment; produces knowledge; and offers protection against sin.

Of course, as pastoral counselors, we must be careful in our use of Scripture. The apostle Paul exhorted the young bishop Timothy to keep a close watch on himself and on his teaching, for by doing so, he will save both himself and his hearers (1 Timothy 4:16). This he could do by doing his best to present himself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Just like in preaching, we should likewise observe good and established rules of hermeneutics when quoting and applying Scripture to the various situations of our counselees.

The Bible is a Christian counselor’s best manual as it was authored by God who created us. As said in the movie “The Guru,” The B.I.B.L.E. is our Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

The Importance of Counseling

As a lawyer, I have experienced counseling other people regarding their problems, albeit, on the legal aspect. Aside from legal counseling where provisions of law are consulted in order to address a particular issue, there are various kinds of counseling such as medical and psychological. However, in this article, we will be focusing on pastoral counseling. Other terms for pastoral counseling include spiritual or biblical counseling, because in order to address the issues of a certain counselee, the Word of God, the Bible, is consulted.

​We live in a fallen world. As believers of Jesus Christ, we are in a unique position to help those who are suffering by bringing them the light of the Gospel. Very real and practical examples are those people who have suffered the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Sadly, we have been hearing reports that there were instances of looting, stealing, and even killing committed by the typhoon victims against each other. According to news reports and those who have visited the affected areas, chaos and anarchy now reign therein. The rule of law has been foregone. Apparently, due to their extreme hunger and thirst, they have somewhat forgotten their humanity. These people, among others, especially need the grace and wisdom of God that we Christian counselors could offer. To be sure, they have lots of questions regarding the character of God or the problem of evil. Oftentimes, they wonder how a supposedly loving, compassionate and merciful God could allow such atrocities.

​And yet, others would say that all these people need is to hear sermons where the Word of God is expounded. According to Narramore, most pastors realize the importance of the pulpit ministry but some have not fully considered the significance of the counseling ministry. It has been said that a minister who does not place a strong emphasis on counseling is only “half a minister.” Counseling, insofar as it is more personal in approach, is more effective in addressing the specific needs of individuals rather than a sermon, which employs a “shotgun” approach. During the homily, the respective problems and issues of those seated in the pews may or may not be addressed.

​Nevertheless, there are some important factors that we need to consider when it comes to counseling. First is the counselor himself. The effectiveness of a counseling session largely depends on the skill and character of the counselor. People won’t just go to any counselor regardless of his academic and professional qualifications. What is more important is that the Christian counselor is mature in his walk with God as evidenced by the way he lives his life. In most cases, the only Bible that other people will read is us. Counseling is, in a sense, a projection of the counselor. The counselee must see in us the wisdom of God. Wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. As Christian counselors, there must still be real compassion and love for the sinner without any sympathy for sin.

Prophets of the Eighth Century

I have read pages 303 to 337 of Reading the Old Testament by Rev. Fr. Lawrence Boadt, CSP. Boadt discussed the rise of prophecy during the exilic period of Israel’s history. These prophets such as Amos, Hosea and Isaiah, were known by the Jews as the “Latter Prophets”. He notes that Amos marks a turning point in our understanding of prophecy since up to that time; our knowledge of prophecy depends on stories about the prophets, from Samuel and Nathan to Elijah and Elisha. From Amos on, we can study and examine their actual words. The author also significantly notes the similarity of the Jewish prophetic wordings to those used by the pagan prophets, also called “diviners” or “oracles”, of the Assyrian and Babylonian kingdoms.

Amos’ basic message stresses God’s moral rule over the entire world and the divine demands for justice and concern for the outcast and oppressed; and yet, since God has specially chosen Israel and entered into a relationship of knowing and loving them, He holds the nation particularly responsible for a just and upright way of life.

As for Hosea, Fr. Lawrence divides the book into three sections: (a) Chapters 1-3 describe in different ways the broken marriage between God and His people and serve as a kind of preface to the rest of the book; (b) chapters 4-13 gather the actual oracles delivered by Hosea throughout his ministry; and (c) chapter 14 stands as a closing vision of hope after judgment.

After discussing Isaiah’s prophecy, the author took up Micah of Moresheth who looked out at the same nation as Isaiah and saw the same injustices and evil everywhere. He divides the Book of Micah into four parts which alternate between judgment and hope, to wit: (a) 1:1-3:12 describe the oracles of judgment against both Samaria and Judah; (b) 4:1-5:15 records oracles of hope and restoration; (c) 6:1-7:7 is a legal trial against Israel for its sins; and (d) a vision of God’s victory over Israel’s enemies.

The Wisdom of God

I have read pages 278 to 288 of An Introduction to the Old Testament by Temper Longman and Raymond Dillard along with pages 71 to 78 of a book of the same title but authored by David Carr.

In Carr’s book, the chapter looked at some texts in the Bible that contain strong “echoes” of past ancient empires in the biblical texts, specifically the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. These echoes may indicate that these texts were written during the early monarchy when scribes were most dependent on foreign models in creating the first Israelite written corpus. Some of these texts were traditionally attributed to Solomon while others are originally anonymous.

Since Proverbs is a collection of collections, it is particularly difficult to summarize with a single theme or set of themes. Nevertheless, major features of the book include its prominent focus on female figures toward the beginning (1-9) and end (31:10-31), and its repeated emphasis on the importance of the “fear of Yahweh” (1:7, 29; 2:5; etc.) throughout.

The lead themes through most of Ecclesiastes are the absurdity of all human striving and the daily pleasures of daily life. Yet, the last verses of the book as well as isolated sections in its midst affirm the more traditional idea that good eventually is rewarded and evil punished. Many would take these more traditional affirmations to be late additions to the book.

As for Song of Songs, many readers insist that one must decide that it is either about human desire or about divine-human love. The poetry of the Song, however, is more elusive. The dense metaphors and disconnected dialogues invite readers to build their own images of what is happening. The lack of explicit divine references and other features of the Song suggest that the book was meant to evoke the drama of human love. Still, the poetry allows multiple readings, especially now that the Song stands in a Bible that elsewhere depicts God’s love for His people.

Here I Am to Worship!

In preparation for our Old Testament Survey class, I have read pages 266 to 291 of Reading the Old Testament by Rev. Fr. Lawrence Boadt, C.S.P. This chapter discusses Israelite worship and prayer, particularly the nature of the book of Psalms. The author described the development of Israelite worship beginning with the book of Genesis to the time of King David. He then compared the same to the different methods of worship of the pagans surrounding the land of Canaan with special emphasis on their respective holy places, which, for the Jews, culminated in the temple built by Solomon. Attention was likewise given to the major types of sacrifices found in the book of Leviticus and the various feast days observed by the Jews as commanded by God through Moses.

The second part of this chapter dealt with the Psalms and Israel’s prayer life. According to Fr. Boadt, the Psalms seemed to be grouped in small collections, namely: (1) Davidic hymns; (2) northern collection of hymns; (3) collection from temple singers; (4) psalms from a royal collection; and (5) a second and expanded Davidic royal collection. He noted that each of these divisions is marked by a special prayer and blessing of praise. Moreover, the Psalms are further made up of different literary genres such as praise, thanksgiving, individual laments, community laments, liturgical, wisdom, trust songs, royal psalms of the king, Zion hymns, and royal psalms of Yahweh as King. Aside from these, there also some psalms for special occasions like weddings, victories, and personal piety.

Reading the Psalms can truly be a source of blessing and inspiration as it gives us an idea on how the ancient Israelites approached God in prayer and worship. Likewise, we can use it today in our own respective church services or personal prayers. It shows us that we can indeed approach God with both our triumphs and pain, in short, God receives and meets us in whatever circumstances we may be in. May the Lord be praised forever!

The Interpreter

According to Dr. M.W. Klein, in biblical hermeneutics, the interpreter himself has is a huge factor in determining the direction of interpretative process. In his book, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, he provides certain qualifications an interpreter of Sacred Scripture must possess, namely, faith, obedience, illumination, membership in the church, and appropriate methods: (a) Faith, because as St. Paul makes it clear, the ability to apprehend God’s truth in the fullest sense belongs only to the “spiritual person” (1 Cor. 2:14); (b) obedience, because the interpreter must be willing to put himself “under” the text, to submit one’s will to hear the text and obey its Author; (c) illumination, because as W. Swartley says, “In the co-creative moment, text and interpreter experience life by the power of the divine Spirit. Without this experience, interpretation falls short of its ultimate potential and purpose”; (d) membership in the church, because we do not work in a vacuum as we are not the first ones to puzzle over the meaning of the Bile. As Bible interpreters, we must be wary of the trap of individualism by recognizing our membership in the Body of Christ, the Church; and (e) appropriate methods, because we need methods that are appropriate to the task of interpretation, which requires diligence, commitment, hard work and discipline.

In addition to the above, we must likewise recognize the presuppositions that the interpreter brings into the text. An acronym popularized by the computer industry makes the point well, i.e. GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). For Bible interpreters, there are good presuppositions and bad presuppositions. Among the good and necessary ones regarding Scripture are that it is: (a) inspired revelation; (b) authoritative and true; (c) a spiritual document; (d) characterized by both unity and diversity; and (e) an understandable document. Other presuppositions include the nature of the interpreter, methodology, and the goal of hermeneutics.

Finally, Klein discussed about the nature of preunderstanding. D.S. Ferguson defines preunderstanding as “a body of assumptions and attitudes which a person brings to the perception and interpretation of reality or any aspect of it.” A good contemporary example of this is the way homosexual marriage advocates such as Rev. Ceejay Agbayani interpret Scripture. Being a homosexual himself, his preunderstanding of Scripture is filtered by his prior experience, training, and thinking. That is why Thiselton argues that “the goal of biblical hermeneutics is to bring about an active and meaningful engagement between the interpreter and the text in such a way that the interpreter’s own horizon is re-shaped and enlarged.”

The above considerations are just but a few things we should keep in mind when approaching Sacred Scripture as its interpreters. The apostle Paul stressed to the Philippian church that they, including all Christians, must continue to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in them (and us) to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose (2:12-13). Simply put, we must approach the Word of God with reverence and awe and not just like any other ordinary book. We should let the Scriptures shape us and not the other way around. May God help us!

Who Needs Hermeneutics Anyway?

According to Moises Silva, the very use of the term hermeneutics raises an important question: Why would Bible readers be expected to study principles of interpretation? He said that “the difficulties surface especially when we try to read a book produced in a different culture or time, as some examples from Shakespeare can make clear. In the case of ancient documents written in other languages, we need to make a special effort to take into account their original setting through a method known as grammatico-historical exegesis. Moreover, the divine character of Scripture suggests that we need to adopt some special principles that would not be relevant to the study of other writings.”

Hermeneutics is traditionally defined as the discipline that deals with principles of interpretation. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, hermeneutics is not only limited to biblical interpretation but to all kinds of interpretation such as law, which lawyers refer to as statutory construction. A good number of Bible readers, especially the laity, criticize the study of biblical hermeneutics for fostering a sort of elitism in church. They would normally point out that since the Bible is God’s Word to His children and that as Christians, each of us have the Holy Spirit’s guidance as our indwelling Teacher, then there is no need for tedious academic methodologies. Although however we believe in the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture, the fact is, we need hermeneutics precisely because in addition to being a divine book, the Bible is likewise a human book. Just like Jesus Christ, the Scriptures also have a dual nature in that God is the author of the Bible but written by and through human knowledge and skill. This is significant because human language, by its very nature, is largely equivocal, that is, capable of being understood in more than one way.

There was in fact a famous book that came out a few decades ago bearing a very peculiar title: How to Read a Book. It was written by Mortimer J. Adler. This book was one of our very first assigned readings during my first year in college for our English class. My classmates and I were even laughing about the title, not knowing that it was actually a classic book on hermeneutics. Adler discussed the various kinds of reading materials such as newspapers, history, science and poetry, and how each of them should be read in a different manner. In the same way, the Bible is not only a single book but actually a library containing books with various literary genres. Therefore, to be able to properly understand its meaning, we need to learn the discipline of hermeneutics.