How did you do it? (Genesis 33-35)

January 23, 2020

Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone, Genesis 35:3

A couple of days ago one of our brothers installed a new drink counter in our fellowship hall.  A shout out to brother Howie for a great job.  I stood and watched him for a few minutes and was amazed at the ability he had to do the job perfectly.  Then I thoughT about Tony Padgett who built the counter.  My brother has amazing ability to take wood and create amazing things.

Here is what I took away.  The wood had no ability on its own to create anything.  But the wood in the hands of a skilled carpenter can become what it never could on its own.

This same truth applies to Jacob all those years ago.  It was God who pulled Jacob through life.  In chapter 35 Jacob gave testimony before his entire family and servants of God’s goodness in his life.

Think with me back to what we have already studied about Jacob’s colorful life:

  • Jacob’s birth was a miracle from God.
  • Jacob’s early days was a miracle in that his brother did not kill him for his constant deceit.
  • Jacob’s days away (20 years) from home truly was in day in and day out a miracle from God.

Take time this morning and reread chapter 35 to gain an even better understanding of God doing it all in Jacob’s life.  Here are truths that I realize in my own life:

  1. God is always faithful.
  2. God never changes.
  3. Even when I am unfaithful, God is faithful still, II Tim. 3:13.
  4. In our darkest days God will be faithful.

Brothers and sisters, how do others do it?  They do it the same way we are to do it, by faith in our faithful God!!!

Psalm 106:48 English Standard Version (ESV)

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
    Praise the Lord!

Here is the song I finished my devotion time with:  ALL THE WAY MY SAVIOR LEADS ME
  1. All the way my Savior leads me,
    What have I to ask beside?
    Can I doubt His tender mercy,
    Who through life has been my Guide?
    Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
    Here by faith in Him to dwell!
    For I know, whate’er befall me,
    Jesus doeth all things well;
    For I know, whate’er befall me,
    Jesus doeth all things well.
  2. All the way my Savior leads me,
    Cheers each winding path I tread,
    Gives me grace for every trial,
    Feeds me with the living Bread.
    Though my weary steps may falter
    And my soul athirst may be,
    Gushing from the Rock before me,
    Lo! A spring of joy I see;
    Gushing from the Rock before me,
    Lo! A spring of joy I see.
  3. All the way my Savior leads me,
    Oh, the fullness of His love!
    Perfect rest to me is promised
    In my Father’s house above.
    When my spirit, clothed immortal,
    Wings its flight to realms of day
    This my song through endless ages:
    Jesus led me all the way;
    This my song through endless ages:
    Jesus led me all the way.

Jacob’s Mess and God’s Favor (Genesis 31-32)

January 22, 2020

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.” Genesis 32:7-8

Jacob’s life has always been a great mystery to me.  I have taught through his life and drawn so much from God’s work in his life.  Just yesterday I wrote about “Jacob’s mess and God’s favor.”

Twenty years had past since that terribly day when Jacob deceived his father and brother.  This deception drove a wedge between he and his brother, so off Jacob ran and for 20 years he walked in the same patterns.  In chapter 31 we discover how difficult it had been for Jacob.  The deceiver was being deceived over and over again by his uncle.

Had I been around in those days and had Jacob sought me out for pastoral counseling, I would have said, Jacob look for familiar patterns in your life.  I believe he and I would have together spotted 4 obvious patterns:

  • Jacob was a man of fear, 31:31.  Over and over he operated out of fear.
  • Jacob was a man of the flesh.  Jacob was always trying to figure the easy way.  Even when Esau was coming to him, Jacob was trying to find his own way to appease his brother.
  • Jacob was a man who was fighting.  He would not give up.
  • Jacob was a man of faith.

The last pattern is one that is covered up in most of Jacob’s story.  However, chapter 31 reveals God’s hand on Jacob’s life in every part of his journey.  God spoke to Jacob and said, it’s time to go home.  God gave him direction and God protected him from his uncle.  In 31: 42 Jacob gives witness: “If God had not been on my side…”

If Jacob and I would have discovered these patterns together, I would have directed him to the following counsel:

  • Walk in faith and not in the fear, II Tim. 1:6-7.
  • Walk in faith and not in the flesh, Gal. 5:16.
  • Walk in faith and cease fighting God, James 4:6-7.

If you are like me, I need daily inventory with God so that I can truly understand what are healthy patterns (so I can strengthen them in Christ) and so that I can understand what are not healthy patterns (so I can crucify them to Christ).

This morning I sang that old Hymn: I need thee every hour.  Here is one stanza from the song.  I believe it fits well with what we have studied:

I need Thee every hour,
Stay thou nearby.
Temptations lose their pow’are
When thou are nigh.

Jacob’s Mess and God’s Favor (Genesis 29:1-30:24)

January 21, 2020

29 Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. Genesis 29:1

I love how chapter 29 begins, “Then Jacob went on his journey…”  As Jacob rode away from Bethel. the place where God met Him and proclaimed a blessing on his life, it would seem that Jacob would live faithfully before God.

However, Jacob’s journey over the next 20 years could accurately be described as a mess.  Consider some headlines from our text:

  • Relative returns home to discover the woman of his dreams.
  • Jacob works seven years for the dowery for the love of his life.
  • Jacob is deceived by her father and marries the wrong girl.
  • Jacob goes back to work seven more years for dowery number two.
  • Jacob has two wives and two concubines.
  • Headlines, Jacob’s family is growing.  By the 30:24 he has 11 boys and one girl.

I think it is fair to say, Jacob’s life is in some ways a mess.  But at the same time, there is a blessing at work.  God is positioning Jacob to have 12 sons which will become the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel.  In chapter 48, while blessing Joseph’s sons we read the following:

15 And he blessed Joseph and said,

“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
    the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;
    and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
    and let them grow into a multitude[c] in the midst of the earth.”

As we will read this year, Jacob’s mess turns into a multitude of a people that would ultimately give birth to our Messiah!

Here is our big deal for Tuesday:  God works miracles even in our mess

It may be that some who read this are in a mess today. If so, cry out to the God who can take you out of the mess and turn your mess into a miracle.

It may be that some who read this are praying for others who are in a mess.  Lift up the name of this person to God with strong faith.  Keep believing and keep praying all through the day knowing that nothing is impossible with Him.

If God has kept you from a mess or has delivered you from a mess, give Him praise today and share His story with others.  Here is song that came flooding into my heart as I worshiped my God today:

“Our God”

Water You turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind
there’s no one like You, none like You!
Into the darkness You shine, out of the ashes we rise
there’s no one like You, none like You!

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God! Our God!

Into the darkness You shine, out of the ashes we rise
there’s no one like You, none like You!

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God! Our God!
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God! Our God!

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
Then what could stand against?

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God! Our God!
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God! Our God!

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
Then what could stand against?

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God! Our God!
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God! Our God!

 

Running Away or Running Toward? (Genesis 27-28)

January 20, 2020

17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:17

Jacob, where you are headed in such a rush?  Are you running away from something or are you running toward something?  The previous two question would have been my questions to Jacob had I meet him on the road to Haran (28:10).

You remember Jacob?  He was a guy who was the youngest son of Isaac by just a few minutes.  His life was mostly filled with deceit and dysfunction.   His name meant “cheat or deceiver.”  His dysfunction can be seen in how he and his mother together stole the blessing reserved for the oldest son.  3 times in Genesis 27 we read of his mothers directions, “listen to the voice of your mother.”

Genesis 28 begins with Jacob on the road either running away from God’s will or running toward God’s will.  Question: which was it?  Here is what I believe:

In spite of who Jacob was, God was directing Jacob toward His will.

This would be hard to explain without the scene in the night recorded in Genesis 28.  Take time to reread the chapter.

DID YOU DO IT?  YOU WILL FAIL TO GET WHAT IS NEXT IF YOU HAVE NOT.  SLOW DOWN, ITS WORTH IT.  GO BACK AND REREAD THE CHAPTER.

Did you see it.  As Jacob thinks he is running away from something, he is actually running toward God’s will.  God meets Jacob on the road (28:13) and comes down to speak with him.  God had made His own choice to bless Jacob.  Now for Jacob to walk in this blessing, things would have to change. It would take 20 years, but God was working all things out in this man known as Jacob but who would become to be known as Israel.

On this Monday, I remind you of this truth:  Jesus Christ came down those steps (ladder) from Heaven.  We call this, His incarnation.  Jesus was in this place (we call this His life on the earth).  Jesus became our payment for our sins.  He went to the cross spilling His blood so that we could be redeemed.  When we surrender our lives to Christ, we are declared right with God because of what Jesus did.

Jacob’s life proves the great love of God (John 3:16) in meeting us on the road to Hell with the sole purpose of saving us and placing us on a different road!!!  Praise God, I am running toward and in His Will.

Father, I pray that all who read this are walking in the steps you have ordained for them.  May all who are discouraged by the seemingly useless paths there loved ones are walking in, take heart knowing that they will by your grace run right into your will.  May we see it today. 

Life in the valley of contention (Genesis 25-26)

January 17, 2020

20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek,[g] because they contended with him. Genesis 26:20

Each week I get to sit with one of my accountability partners and we have the joy of sharing what God is doing in our lives.  One of the best moments is when the question comes: How is your week going?

One of the cool things about reading narrative texts in Scripture is in knowing we are reading the true first hand accounts of how people’s days, weeks, years, and life really happened.

Beginning in chapter 25 the Biblical Narrative is clearly focusing on Isaac’s life.  You remember Isaac?  He is the son of the promise.  At the age of 40 God gives him a wife.  In these chapters we find Isaac’s life as one that is not always easy.  At one point, he digs a well and the stress of contention with other people leads him to identify the well as (the valley of contention).

Let’s consider life with two lenses:

  1. The lens of the touching moments of life:

For Isaac it was touching when God said, you will have children, 25:21.  He had prayed for this and at the age of 60 it happened.  It was touching for Rebekah when she wanted to know about her soon to be born children.  She found out that there would be two great nations which would be born.

2. The lens of the tough moments of life:

For Isaac life would be tough from time to time.  It was this way with the contention between his twin boys.  It was this way when a famine came to the land, 26:1-5.  It was this way when in fear he lied about his wife, 26:6-11.  It was this way when he faced push back from people, 26:12-23.

But as he consider life through these two lens he came to this understanding:

So he called its name Rehoboth,[i] saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

God was faithful in both the tender and tough moments!!!

He is a faithful God.  Take time this day and clean the lens by which you see life.  Now look and see what the Lord would say to you! So when someone asks you, How is your week going you can say, “God is faithful!!!”

Which Way is Best? (Genesis 24)

January 16, 2020

 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way[e] to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Genesis 24:48

It sometimes happen’s and each time that it does I promise God I will not do it again, but then I do it again.  You ask, what do you do?  It happens when I am traveling on long trips.  I realize I need to take an exit to find a gas station.  Each time I read the signs and then I take the exit. Then I look on the signage to see which is closest me, which is often a mistake because there is more at stake than which gas station is closest.

In Genesis 24 there was a lot at stake.  Abraham was now an older man and much was on his heart. The most important was that God would give his son (Isaac) a godly wife.  The question came, which way was the best.  God had apparently told Abraham to send his oldest servant back to Abraham’s homeland to find Isaac the best bride.

This was a big decision, far bigger than getting gas.  What would he do?  In this great narrative chapter we discover some key principles in making the best choice:

  • The servant listened to the wisdom of Abraham.  When Abraham said, “the angel of the Lord will go before you,” the servant listened and obeyed.
  • The servant was wise in calling on the name of the Lord.  This servant knew Abraham’s God was the only true God.  I believe God was His God as well.
  • The servant stepped into the revealed will of God.  He trusted and obeyed God when the doors opened.
  • The servant gave praise to the only true God. 24:26-27

God had lead him in the right direction, Vs: 48.  I imagine the scene as Isaac first meet Rebekah. The Bible says, “He loved her.”

Now I know there have been times when you have loved the outcome of your decisions and I know there have been times when you suffered the agony of wrong decisions.  Follow the wisdom of the servant of Abraham.

Be encouraged by listening to the wisdom of God’s Word (Ps.1 119:105).  Moment by moment seek the presence and direction of the Lord (James 1:5).  Step by faith into the revealed will of God (Hebrews 11:6) and finally live a life of constant praise (Phil. 4:1).

Why and How? (Genesis 22)

January 15, 2020

 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2

It always confounds my mind when I first read Genesis 22.  I often ask God the following: Why would you give Abraham and Sarah a son and then take him away?  For 25 years (Rom. 4:17-24) Abraham did not waver at the promise of God.  Surly God knew Abraham was in Awe (fear) of Him?

Let me lay this aside for a moment.  I am also confounded by the how. How could Abraham obey such a command from God? Hebrews 11:17 has the answer: “by faith…”

Brothers and sisters, you and I have faith.  But the question is, do we have this kind of faith?  Here is the inside story of Abrahams faith:

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. Heb. 11:17-19

Here we discover the how:

  1. When God spoke Abraham was listening.  He was in fellowship with God (I John 1:3-4).
  2. When God spoke Abraham obeyed.  He trusted in God.
  3. When God spoke Abraham evidenced his confidence in God.  He believed God could even raise his son from the dead.

Wow.  Brothers and sisters, this day I am praying for a faith that is alert, obedient, and believing in the miracle power of God.  Now I see the why. Hebrews 11:6 “without faith, it is impossible to please God.”  

Is your faith being tested today?  If so, look to Jesus and listen.  Obey what He says.  Watch as He does even the impossible.

I sang to God this morning a familiar hymn:  I have decided to follow Jesus.  Sing it as your response to what you have read this day:

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

2. Tho’ none go with me, I still will follow,
Tho’ none go with me I still will follow,
Tho’ none go with me, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

3. My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry till I see Jesus,
My cross I’ll carry till I see Jesus;
No turning back, No turning back.

4. The world behind me, the cross before me,
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Who is behind all these things? (Genesis 21-22)

January 14, 2020

22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do. Genesis 20:22

In the middle of the night I was suddenly awakened by the noise of the terrible storm that had settled on our city.  Immediately I began to call on the name of the Lord.  A few seconds later our electricity went out.  I continued to seek the hand of God.  Within an hour the storm moved on and once again our city was spared the devastation that other cities have experienced.

As I called out to God in thankfulness I wondered, why had God chosen to always be with us?

It was this way with Abraham:

  • Abraham was not a perfect man-we see in Genesis 20:13 how Abraham had fear and sometimes he even struggled with the plan of God.
  • Abraham was a man chosen by God for a purpose.

This God (The Everlasting one) has a perfect plan for all eternity and this God calls people to join Him in His plan.

Every time Abraham started to step out of the plan of God, God stepped in and said, no Abraham, I have a better plan for you!  Brothers and sisters, there is only one plan that will bring true joy to your life.  This plan is the will of God.  In Genesis 21, God gives Abraham a son.  This son’s name, Isaac, speaks to the joy that comes when God’s plan is birthed in our lives.

This day I am reminded of God’s plan:

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

  • God’s thoughts toward you are good-they have a joyous future.
  • God’s task is to work with you, before you, behind you, and in spite of you to get you through.
  • Your task is to both seek and stick with God’s plan for your life.

If you and I will will seek and stick with God’s plan, our lives will be joyous even in the midst of the tough storms of life.  The Devil has a different plan (John 10:10) but God is greater.  He is the one who is behind all these things!!!

 

Meanwhile in Sodom (Genesis 18-19)

January 13, 2020

28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. Genesis 19:28-29

Whenever I hear the names of the cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, I always think of sin and judgment. Surely you know the stories of these cities?  These were large cities in Abraham’s day.  Surely you remember Abraham?  Abraham was a righteous man who lived where God told him to live which was the Land of Canaan.

Meanwhile just across the way, when he stood on a mountain peak, Abraham could see down in distant valley these wicked cities.  His heart broke for one of those cities in particular because his Nephew lived there. He had been living there for many years (Genesis 13:8-13).  God had told Abraham and Lot about their wickedness, but for some reason Lot moved his family into Sodom.

Now, the patience of God was complete and it was time for God’s wrath to be carried out against this city which practiced the most wicked sins known to man.  Now most who read this blog would not consider the city where they lived deserving of what Sodom received.

But I challenge you to be careful in your thought processes.  I took time this morning to write down the characteristics of the city where I live and after writing them down I came away with this truth: All cities are living in ways that will someday face the judgment of God.

But the question on my heart was this, what was Lot doing about his city?

  • Lot was laboring in his city without impact.

Here was a guy living in Sodom and truly he was troubled by what he saw, but it did not move him to leave with his family.

  • Lot lingered in this city while Sodom was impacting his family and the people he cared about.

Lot could not even get his soon-to-be son-in-laws to listen to his urgent pleas to leave.  He had waited too long.  His now urgent plea was meet with no response.  Even his own wife was lost in the judgment of God.

  • Lot had to be pulled from this city not realizing he was holding onto death itself.

Brothers and sisters. If God has called us to labor in the city, let us do it with the intention of being gospel-centered as well as gospel-conquering in our daily life.  May we practice accountability to God so that there will not be any lingering in our lives.

Father, help us to pull people away from the sin they are in and help us to stand firm in our faith not allowing any of our garments to be stained with sin.

I have heard this before (Genesis 16-17)

January 10, 2020

And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me! Genesis 16:5

One of my favorite characters from the TV show “MASH” was Max Clinger.  He was an orderly in the MASH unit who was always trying to get hard-shipped out of the army.  His C.O. was smarter than he was in that he kept records of Clinger’s attempts to get out of the Army.  In one episode, Max makes a mistake and uses an excuse he had used before.  His C.O. simply pulled out the file and said, you did this one already.

Question:  Could there possibly be any reoccurring problems in your life?  Maybe this will make better sense:  Are there any pattens in your life that always seem to lead you into the same messes?

In Genesis sixteen, as Abraham and Sarah are in year 10 of waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled, we read something we have heard before.  What is it that we are reading?  We are reading about the age old problem of sin infiltrating a family.

Sarai became impatient with God and he husband.

Sarai decided on a different plan than God had said.

Abraham accepted her plan without pushback.

Sarai blamed Abraham for their problems.

Question:  Have you ever heard this before?  Certainly we have. This story looks exactly like Genesis 3.  Consider a different story.  If sin was not present nor was controlling:

Sarai would have patiently waited for God’s timing.  Sarai would have fulfilled God’s perfect plan in His perfect time.  She and Abraham would have walked in unbroken fellowship with Abraham fulfilling his role and she fulfilling her role.  But instead we know what happened.

There is something else I see in this chapter:  I see the name of God: “He is the God who sees me,” 16:13.  In chapter 17, He is the God who is Almighty (17:1).

I don’t know if you have heard this or not.  The God who sees us, loves us so much, that He sent Jesus as God Almighty.  This God redeemed us from our sin so that we can walk in new paths.  This day does not have to be a day of defeat.  This can be a day of deliverance through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today you and I can establish new patterns as we place our full faith in God Almighty!!!