Monday, April 13, 2015

From Worry to Worship - Genesis 32

Have you ever dreaded what you knew was going to happen later in the day? You tossed and turned all night and soon it was morning. It could have been you were apprehensive about a special meeting that was called at work. It might have been the arrival of some friends or family whom you haven’t seen for years. Maybe it was a phone call that you knew would get after supper. Whatever it was, it’s had your stomach in knots and your shoulders tensed up.

Jacob knew this feeling, too. Jacob was coming back into the land that he had left. That meant he was going to run into his brother. And, if you remember, they didn’t exactly give each other a bon voyage party when they separated. No, there was a threat of murder.

Join me in the classroom of Genesis 32. It’s here that Jacob teaches us how to handle those situations that are mixed with the known and unknown. What’s known is something will definitely happen. What’s unknown is what will happen. Oops, the teacher is telling me to get quiet . . . .

“Class, I want you to learn how to handle situations like mine. First, lay your pencils down and set your notebooks aside. Now, slide out of your desks and kneel down on the floor. You are all doing great so far!”

“Next, do like this,” he says as he folds his hands together.

He continues, “We’re almost there. One of the last things is to bow your head. That’s right, you’ve got it!”

“Now that you’re there, I think you know what else to do. All of you go ahead with yours and I’ll just say mine from up here.”

And so class is done. Jacob may not have shared this in a whiteboard-lined room, but he did show it in verses 9-12 of our chapter. When the day was going to be uncertain (and which ones weren’t?), he prayed. Specifically, he said a prayer claiming the promises that God had made to him.

When your day has your stomach rolling and your shoulders tensing, call out God’s promises in prayer. Are you reminding him? No, you’re helping him remind you. Be reminded of all he said he would give you now and in the life to come. Go on, set this down and slide out of your desk. You remember the rest . . . .

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Drop ‘Em and Heap ‘Em - Genesis 31

It was bound to happen. For twenty years Jacob and Laban tried to keep up the appearances of getting along. Maybe it was their similar personalities. Maybe it was their shared interests. Whatever the reason, the big blow-out finally happened. They each voiced their opinion of the way things had been going the past several years. They both made accusations that they had kept locked away in the basements of their minds. And they both pointed their fingers while the rest of the family looked on. So it ends. They each throw their arms in the air, shake their heads, and shake the dust off their sandals. “That’s it!!” they say almost in unison.

Or was it that way? Verse 44 says that Laban wanted all of this to end. The grandkids were watching two grown men throw temper tantrums. Laban decided he would just be man enough to step in and stop this childishness that he had been a part of. “Let's make a covenant,” he says. So they recruited the family onlookers and they all gathered up some stones. They piled the rocks up and cut a deal that seemed fair and honest, even to these two deceivers. They both agreed that God would see to it that they each held up their end of the deal. Calling the rocky pile “Mizpah” reminded them that God was the watchtower over all that had been said and promised.

Do you need to follow Laban's and Jacob's lead? Whether it is a spiritual or physical family member or someone you used to call “friend,” this example still applies. Take the rocks you were going to throw and heap them up. You can even call that heap Mizpah because God will watch.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Stick With, Count On, Give To - Genesis 30

Verse 24.5 should read, “And Jacob was now tired so he named himself Whipped which means worn out.” I realize our culture is quite different than his, but this boy had been busy. The kids are here, the wives are restless, and the handmaids are getting cranky. He tells his father-in-law that he is going to load up and move on, but Laban says “Hold up!” He wanted Jacob to stay so he could be with the grandkids. Jacob agrees to it only if he can set his own wages. I have to give him credit on how he did it. You can read it in verses 31-33. My concern comes with his return to his old ways. Jacob not only resorted to deception this time, but to superstition. Instead of praying to God for the proper and necessary increase, he resorted to what was probably the equivalent of an old wives’ tale.

I’m glad we wouldn’t do that. We always seek God in everything, don’t we? Or do we? How about that lucky number you always use or that ritual you go through at certain times so you'll play the game better? Instead of prayer do you shake your old Magic 8 Ball? Does a coin flip decide more for you than God’s written word? You know your little lucky tokens, special rituals, and ways of making a choice. I know mine and Jacob knew his. But, whom are we seeking when we use these “special” things? All may go well for you as they did for Jacob, but then to whom will you give the glory? God? For you using your lucky number 3? If we stick with God, we can count on God, and then we can give glory to God.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hanging In When You Are Hung Out - Genesis 29

Up to this point in Genesis, we can definitely fault Jacob for some of his actions. He decided to wheel and deal for his brother’s birthright. Later, he put on a mask in front of his dad and it wasn't even Halloween. But in Genesis 29 he shows us a trait that is so admirable. Some call it patience, some call it endurance, and those in a suit and tie call it perseverance. Me? I call it hard.

Jacob had every reason to give up and get out. He ended up on the opposite end of a plan of deception. He ended up with a woman he hadn't really even met. And he ended up working at his job long after the quitting-time buzzer had sounded. Through all of it, though, he hung in there. He really didn't voice all he could have and maybe should have. And the result of his patient endurance? The continuation of the family that would ultimately bring the world a Savior.

So how about you? Do you think anything good can come out of your individual situation if you can just hang in there a little bit longer? Just as Jacob kept on working for his master, we can keep on working for our Master. Ours has also promised us something when the job is done. And, you can bet he won't pull the old' switch-a-roo on us. Hang in there!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dream a Little - Genesis 28

Have you ever had one of those dreams that leave you waking up sweaty? It may be bears chasing you or it may be a weird twist on the day's events. No matter what it was, though, your pajamas are soaking wet.

Jacob had one of those kinds of dreams in this chapter. It wasn’t wild animals after him or even a dream where animals speak. In his dream, the God of the Heavens spoke. It's not the words of the King I want you to notice right now, it's the reaction of the servant. Jacob's head jerked up off his stone pillow and he said, “God's right here and I didn’t know it!” And as he wiped the sweat from his forehead he continued, “This place is awesome! It’s none other than God’s house, heaven's gate!”

Jacob did something that we, too, would do so well to remember: God is right here! As I type this, the Creator of the universe has his chair pulled up beside mine. As you read this, your hands aren’t the only ones holding the paper or the mouse. I have to agree with Jacob – that’s awesome! No matter where I go or what I do, and wherever you find yourself, Jehovah is right there. Think of that next time you are in the car “alone.” Remember that when you do something in “secret.” Remember that when you are sure “no one else is looking.” And don’t worry, you’re not dreaming. God really is in this place.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What the Blind are Looking At - Genesis 27

It started something like this: Dad just wanted to give the oldest son his blessing. Then more things followed. The oldest son is target-shooting at his brother's picture. The youngest is running away to his uncle's farm on his mother’s advice. And, Mom is complaining to Dad after flat out deceiving him. No, it's not General Hospital, it’s the 27th chapter of the Bible!

In this chapter we can see an age-old problem at work: selfishness. Jacob wanted what he didn't have. Rebekah sided up with her favorite. And, Esau had such a grudge against his brother that he was ready to hunt him down. All three were looking at the same three: me, myself, and I. In the account of this family, God is only mentioned in Isaac’s blessing and in reference to being “Isaac's God.”

What about your family? Are you seeing to it that they are satisfying God first? How about you? Whom are you seeking to please? Are you setting the example? If so, don’t be discouraged to see your lead isn’t being followed. Isaac seemed to be mindful of the Lord while his “tribe” looked on themselves. But, read on. The reward wasn't with the backstabbing, the brutal, or the betraying. Instead, it was with the blind. Amidst everything, Isaac saw God. Look to self or look to God. Isaac decided and so must you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

“He Really is With You!” - Genesis 26

It has to be one of the greatest compliments a follower of Jehovah could hope to hear. Abimelech and his men gave such a compliment to Isaac: “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you.” Wow! The king of the Philistines recognized a believer when he saw one. Or did he? How did Isaac lead the king to believe this? Well, it certainly was not perfection in Isaac’s life that caused the king to see God. Isaac let a little back rub fix that perception. If it wasn't a perfect life, then what was it that allowed God to be seen in this believer’s life?

First, Isaac was not afraid to own up to mistakes he made. In this case, it was a lie he told. He just flat out said why he did what he did and made no more excuses about it. Second, Isaac chose not to argue. He had plenty of opportunities to voice his opinion. He was told to move out of his home and later to move away from two wells he had dug. Did he just vent it all on those calling the shots? No, he pulled up his tent and moved on. Third, he called on the name of the Lord. He could have invited all of his friends and herdsmen and threw a pity-party, but he saw the time better spent in praise and prayer. Fourth, Isaac ate with those who wronged him. When the door-bell rang, he could have just cracked open the front flap and shook hands with Abimelech. Instead, he invited the king to come in, eat, and watch the game with him.

Isaac teaches us how to show God is with us. It is not a perfect life that does it. Instead, it is the ability to own up to what makes us imperfect. It is also biting our tongue, praising God, and forgiving and eating with our enemies. Thanks for the example, Isaac!