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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Don't Fret

Read:   Psalm 37:1-7

The Bible is full of intriguing stories, stories of the impossible, stories of doubt and faith, stories of fear and bravery, stories of hardship and rescue, stories of evil and divine intervention, stories of faithless people and a faithful God.   Ultimately, through all these true stories, God shows up in unexpected ways.  Through these stories He is revealing His Divine plan, like a scarlet thread weaved throughout history.

One such story is the story of Jacob. 

You may know the story of how Jacob, through deception, received the blessing of the first-born, instead of his twin brother Esau. 

You may know about how Jacob fled for fear of his brother Esau. 

You may know about how Jacob fell in love with his Uncle Laban’s daughter, Rachel. 

How Jacob promised to work for Laban for 7 years so he could marry Rachel. 

How Laban tricked Jacob, and Jacob woke up on the morning after his wedding to find he had married Rachel’s older sister, Leah.

How Jacob promised to work for Laban another 7 years for the hand of Rachel in marriage.

How Leah born many sons to Jacob, 10 to be exact.

How Rachel was jealous of her sister because she was not having children.  How God finally blessed her with a child, Joseph. 

Jacob now has 2 wives and 11 sons, and he is faithfully serving as head shepherd of Laban’s flocks.  He wants nothing more than to take his family and make a life of their own. So, he asks Laban to release he and his family from service.  Laban, however, realizes that God has blessed him immensely because of Jacob’s faithful service and his shepherding business was thriving beyond his wildest dreams.  He selfishly did not want to let Jacob go. 

So, Jacob and Laban struck a deal.  Jacob would be allowed to go and take with him all the spotted and streaked sheep from the flock.  Laban, treacherously, quickly separates out all the steaked and spotted animals from his flocks and sends them 3 days journey away with his sons. 

Jacob keeps to his promise.  He continues to faithfully fulfil his duty to Laban, tending the flocks.  In his breeding practices, he has a vision in his mind of his heart’s desire.  He wants enough spotted and streaked animals to sustain his family when they set off into a life of their own.  So, he puts spotted and streaked branches in front of all the places the flock would gather. In a sense, he puts his heart’s vision before the eyes of the flock. With full integrity and without deception and treachery, the flock miraculously begins to produce more and more spotted and streaked offspring.  The strong animals were streaked and spotted sheep, and the weak ones were solid colored. And Jacob became exceedingly prosperous, owning a large flock, many servants, as well as camels and donkeys.  

These days, with all the bad news around us, isn’t it easy to throw up our hands and think, “What is this world coming to?  Our world is falling apart!  Evil is winning!’ 

Yet, God calls us to be faithful, to carry out our seemly insignificant roles, and know that He will use our lives for His Divine purposes.  Against all odds, God wants us to focus on what He has placed upon our hearts to do, live into that vision (even when it doesn’t make sense), and trust that He will bless us more abundantly than we could ever ask or imagine.

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Be a Blessing

Genesis 30:25-36

In today’s reading we see that because of the care Jacob took with Laban’s livestock, the flock increased greatly.  Laban even acknowledges that he has been blessed by Jacob.  “I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you” (v. 27).

Jacob wants to return to his homeland, but Laban begs him to stay and they enter into an agreement that will keep Jacob there.  A few verses later we see that Laban doesn’t fulfill his end of the deal and cheats Jacob even after he praised him for his hard work.

Tomorrow’s passage will explore Jacob’s reaction and how he handles Laban’s betrayal, but today I want to focus on being a blessing and helping others increase their “flocks”, whatever form that may take.

To have someone say that you have been a blessing is powerful.  (And 99% of the time they mean it and won’t try to cheat you afterwards.)  To live as a blessing is a noble thing.  Jesus lived his entire life as a blessing to others and we are called to live by his example.

Am I always a blessing?  Certainly not, but I do strive to serve others and help them in their hour of need. It’s what community does.  Please don’t get discouraged by the “me first” world we live in.  There is a community out there looking to be a blessing and I hope you’ll be a part of it.

Father, thank you for sending your Son to take care of your flock.  Help me be a blessing to others and increase greatly Your good works.  Amen

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Stuff of Dreams

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

This story begins with Jacob settling down for the night. After dozing off, he experiences an amazing dreams. A dream like we want to remember forever. You know what that is like. You dream a supernatural power takes over your limbs and you are a superhero. Or maybe you have been living a nightmare existence with bill collectors hounding you, and the Prize Patrol knocks on your door and presents you with $1000 a week for life. 

Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

In Jacob's dream, God promised him everything he might want; those things of importance to the culture of that day - numerous descendants, and land for them to inhabit. Jacob was thrilled upon waking and wanted to do something for God.

Dreams are a mystery to us. Most of us have them, some of us never remember them, but just as often they are impactful in one way or another. Very often our dreams reflect something that is happening in our day to day lives. They can be scary, fanciful, and even other-worldly. But some time they are merely a reflection of the day we just had. 

Like Jacob, we will awaken. Maybe, like Jacob, we will feel a strong sense of God and His presence with us as we slept; watching over us and loving us into tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Extraordinary Gift of God’s Favor

By Thomas Denegre

Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all? 

Alas, fairy tales always have a good lesson for us to learn in life.  Don’t they? This week’s reading in Genesis takes us through the favor of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We see how God’s favor bestowed enormous wealth to his faithful but flawed servants, so God could build his nation to carry the bloodline to our messiah; Jesus Our Lord.
Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7, Genesis 22:1-12, Genesis 22:13-18, Genesis 25:19-34, Genesis 28:10-22, 
Genesis 30:25-36, Genesis 30:37-43

Understanding the true nature of God’s favor in our lives can transport our spiritual lives to the deepest ends of the water where we can find rest in the abundant life of Christ; even during our darkest days.  But beware of the mirror on the wall because it will lie to you causing you to crash onto the rocks.

I’ve heard that God’s favor is called His ‘demonstrated delight.’ While in the Old Testament God’s favor was bestowed to selected people, we in the new covenant are privileged to live in God’s favor when we believe in Jesus as our Lord and repent from our sinful ways.  Favor is like God’s grace of undeserved kindness and forgiveness, and then goes the extra mile to reach down in the muck of our black sins over-and-over again to save us from ourselves. The intent is for us to discover that all of God’s favor has been given to us the moment we believe. 

A friend once told me of his visit to a family in Lebanon.  Late in the afternoon the four-year-old son heard his father’s car come into the driveway. Excited to hear his father arriving home, the little boy jumped onto the sofa to look out the window joyfully exclaiming, “Abba! Abba! Abba!”

As the father walked into the home, the little boy ran to his father jumping into his strong arms. The father kissed the boy’s face and said, “I love you more than my eyes! I love you more than my eyes!” Again, the father smothered him with more kisses and said again and again, “I love you more than my eyes!  I love you more than my eyes!” In return, the son kissed his father back with delight. 

Favor is receiving the full force of God’s love with kisses to our face who says to us, “I love you more than my life! I love you more than my life!” 
  • Favor is the good shepherd leaving the ninety-nine to save the one.
  • Favor is rescuing the extortionist named Mathew to become his follower.
  • Favor is saving the adulteress from being stoned to death to become a saint.
  • Favor is liberating the murderer named Paul who became the greatest Apostle of them all
  • Favor is the loving father who forgives his prodigal son and says everything he has belongs to him. 

But beware of the mirror on the wall for it can deceive and destroy you.  It destroyed King Saul, Judas, the Pharisees, and the brother of the prodigal son. Most people are on a path from pride to humility, from self-centeredness to selflessness, from self-hatred to self-acceptance, from holding grudges to forgiveness.  They gaze into the mirror to see pride, fear, apathy, guilt, shame, or disgrace and then they project a god into their own image who is despising, condemning, punitive, vengeful, or indifferent.  Blind to their own ways they cannot see past themselves, or the mirror, to see our true God.  Sadly, they treat themselves and others in the same fashion.  God has become a reflection of their flawed nature.

As mature Christians we have looked past the man in the mirror to see Abba kissing our face saying, “I love you more than my life! I love you more than my life!” By receiving the full force of God’s favor, even in the midst of our sins, all we can do is desire to kiss him back with the full force of our love and our kisses. Even when I’m doing sinful things, my God loves me in return with kisses.  By receiving his favor, I only want to love him more. In this truth, God’s favor calls us to love Him, to love ourselves, and to love our enemies. 

By living in life union with Jesus (John 15:7), we know his living streams of love pour through us, so we can pour that love and favor onto others.  As mature Christians, we must tolerate the weakness of those in the family of faith, so we can shatter through a person’s mirror to display the full force of God’s kisses. The abounding favor of God has been given to us all to discover and to share; revelation by revelation.

The Apostle Paul teaches us in Colossians Chapter 3 the way to breach through the mirror, so other believers can experience and taste the favor of God with his kisses.

12 You are always and dearly loved by God! So, robe yourself with virtues of God, since you have been divinely chosen to be holy. Be merciful as you endeavor to understand others, and be compassionate, showing kindness toward all. Be gentle and humble, unoffendable in your patience with others. 13 Tolerate the weaknesses of those in the family of faith, forgiving one another in the same way you have been graciously forgiven by Jesus Christ. If you find fault with someone, release this same gift of forgiveness to them. Col. 3:12-13 (TPT)