Sunday, March 15, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Jacob Flees

 Dear Christa—

It doesn’t really appear that Jacob was concerned with God. He seemed to be far more focused on duping his brother and acquiring the inheritance of his father. But, as actions always have a way of catching up to people, he eventually found himself alone—far from his conniving mother’s advice and protection—fleeing the disappointment of a father and the anger of a brother.

Perhaps for the first time, Jacob had to grow up. It appears he’d gone quickly—before Esau found out he was leaving.

Now, it was night—dark, desolate—no city lights for comfort and assurance. Just the perfect place to find God—or for God to find him.

Note that God does not claim to be his God at this moment. He tells Jacob, “I am the LORD,” the God of your father and grandfather. He promises Jacob the land and the inheritance—for it was truly only God’s to give in the first place. Who but God controls our future? He promises to stay with Jacob and foreshadows becoming Jacob’s God as well.

When Jacob awoke, he was a changed man. Neither proud nor self-seeking, he was simply afraid (Gen. 28:16). If Jacob had never taken God seriously before, he certainly does now. He worships there and makes a vow—a commitment to God—that if God only watches over him and brings him safely home, God will be his God too—far less than what God had just promised him.

Though Jacob’s words have the impression of a condition, from this point forward we see Jacob’s growing dependence on God. Perhaps that’s always true of a real encounter with God—a shift from depending on our own control to a reliance on God’s eyes to watch over us and never to leave us. And, to bring us safely home.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Esau

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now
Isaac, and Ishmael apparently learned (if not to live together) to live tolerably in spite of their mothers, probably due to their father Abraham. For Ishmael had not been sent away, as had Abraham’s other sons. And when Abraham died, together Isaac and Ishmael buried their father in the cave he had bought in which to bury Sarah, as told in Genesis 25:9-10. It appears there was still familial connection between the two clans, for as we look at Esau in Genesis 28:6-9, he realizes how displeasing his wives were to his father, so he goes to Ishmael and arranges to marry his daughter. 

A couple of things standout in these verses: Jacob obeyed his parents, and Esau realized his wives displeased his father.

God is sovereign, and he has his reasons for everything, but sometimes I think Esau just didn’t get it. He didn’t get the whole thing about God and how important he is. If he had, would he have flippantly sold his birthright to his sneaky brother for a bowl of soup?
But, whether because of his own selfishness or because Isaac didn’t make much of it, it appears Esau only comes to realize that the wives he’d taken displeased his father after Jacob is sent away and obeyed.

Esau doesn’t appear to be close to his mother, but he did want to please Isaac. Maybe knowing he was Isaac’s favorite had made them both careless. Maybe he felt he didn’t need to worry about God because of his father’s love. The Bible doesn’t say, but his actions tell us he did want to please Isaac—so much so that he went to Isaac’s half brother, Ishmael, and married his daughter.

There are so many unknowns about this story of Esau, except that he really did want to please his father. But, somehow he seems to have missed the most important thing of all: Isaac worshiped the one true God. That should be our greatest desire, and the thing our children notice most about us. If my children had to say what is the most important thing to me, would they say “God”? I’m not sure they would.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Favoritism


Dear Christa—
God chose Rebekah for Isaac. Abraham sent his servant to his homeland, to his family, to seek a wife for his son. The servant prayed to the God of Abraham, who appears to be his God too. He had depended on God to go before him, and he had. There the servant found Rebekah.
Rebekah is a hard worker—and a risk taker. She speaks to the stranger. She waters his camels. She invites him home. She accepts his gifts; and, in a matter of hours, collects her things and leaves her home forever—to marry a man she has never seen.
I wonder what she thought on the journey back. Did she doubt herself? Did she wonder about this servant she was traveling with? Whatever her thoughts, she had made her resolve. When she sees Isaac approaching in the distance, she throws on the veil and is led away by him, and Isaac loved her.
We don’t really know much about Rebekah. Laban and their mother appear to be calculating, and Rebekah is eventually the same in her actions of deceiving Isaac and sending Jacob away to protect him, the blessing, and the birthright he’d stolen.
Rebekah had favored Jacob; Isaac favored Esau.
There’s danger in that picture. Favoritism in general and in families in particular has a way of working to a bad end that God eventually has to wrestle out of us. Somehow, it isn’t quite communicated to Esau what’s important to the family, and Jacob—well, you know what they say about the apple not falling far from the tree—at least on his mother’s side.
Not much is revealed about the household of Isaac and Rebekah.
Two brothers who could have been good friends, could have been a support for each other, could have been iron that sharpens iron; but they were not. Parental favoritism slammed a wedge between them…one that appears to have never quite loosened out.
Sometimes, the example is in what not to do.
Yes, favoritism has a way of working to a bad end that God eventually has to wrestle out of us.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

God Revealed



Dear Christa—

There comes a time of testing in every life, and Abraham was no exception. But, this isn’t really a story about Abraham. It’s a story about God.

God told Abraham to take his son, the promised son, and sacrifice him.

To our world and culture, this seems crazy, and we wonder who in their right mind would even consider such a thing—even for God.

But, for the world and times in which Abraham lived, this did not seem strange. Common was the sacrifice of babies to the demon gods of the surrounding cultures. Babies, so many babies, sacrificed to Ishtar and Baal. Rare is the ancient culture where there is not evidence of human sacrifice.

So, Abraham gathered his son and the necessary articles needed for such a task and started out to the place where the deed would be done.

But, this is not a story about Abraham. This is a story about God—real God.

We admire Abraham for following such a request. We admire Isaac for his part in the situation. Their faith was great, but this is not a story about them. It is a story about God—a God far different from the demon gods, who required human sacrifices.

Just as Abraham raised his hand to slay Isaac, God sent an angel at that moment to stay his hand. And as Abraham lifted his eyes, he saw a ram in the thicket. God had indeed provided his own sacrifice, just as Abraham had believed.

And this act of God’s separates him from all the false ones of Abraham’s day.

God was not like the false gods. God never required a human sacrifice. Here is knowledge that a mere human sacrifice would not appease him. He was not that kind of God.

God would provide his own sacrifice in his own time, in his own way. He would sacrifice himself.

Today, the very thought of sacrificing our children is appalling, and it should be.

We do not serve that kind of God. He is not like the others.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Saturday, January 3, 2015

For Lot's Sake

Dear Christa—
God chose Abraham. And when God revealed himself as the one true God, Abraham chose God. A covenant was made, and from that time on, God had a relationship with Abraham that was significant.
The rest of the world seemed to be about doing their own things, worshiping their own gods—the fake ones—the ones that really placed the focus on people and their selfishness. But, it didn’t change that the world was still the creation of the One, True God. And, he was aware and took action within his world.
There came a time that God decided to bring judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, but before he did, he told Abraham of his intention. And Abraham’s reaction is where the story gets interesting.
As Abraham walked with God and learned of his intentions, his thoughts bent toward Lot, his own flesh and blood. Lot had been foolish in many ways, thinking he could mix the ways of the world and the ways of God. People of Sodom knew him, but they did not listen to him.
So, as Abraham walked with God, he inquired of the Lord if he would destroy the righteous with the unrighteous. Realizing he was pressing God, very God, he still pleaded for the salvation of his kinsman. Would God destroy it for the sake of 50 to 10, he asked. I notice in what way he asked his petition—honoring, yet pushing, for so great was his love for Lot. And, God promised he would not destroy it for the sake of 10 righteous people. Surely in the cities of the plains, there were 10 righteous people, but there were not.
Yet, as the angels pushed Lot and his family on their way, they told Lot they could not do what they’d come to do until he was gone. God would stay his hand for even this one wayward man. It appears he did it for the sake of Abraham.
What if I loved as great as Abraham? What if I boldly asked for too much, for beyond reason, for the undeserving? Are we not all undeserving?
What if I believed in God to that extent?
What if I expected God to act to that extent?
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Joy


Dear Christa—
Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, clicked the heels of her ruby red slippers and said, “There’s no place like home.”
As I pulled off my boot last night, out tumbled the puzzle piece that Jay and I had searched through 999 puzzle pieces to find.
Often, what we seek most is what we’ve already put our feet into.
As Mark preached on joy yesterday morning, it seemed to me that it really just shakes out to one word—contentment.
Why is it so easy to search for joy in all the wrong places?
We tend to think it lies across the street or in the next county or country. If only we had a different job, a different house, a different body, a different spouse—when all along we are dissatisfied with the choices we have made and the path God has planted us on.
Years ago I read a book titled Happiness is a Choice. I read it at a time that was very difficult. I didn’t have a job; there wasn’t enough money; and relationships were tense. All these years later, I don’t remember the specifics inside the cover, but I’ve always remembered the title.
Joy is not found in jobs, houses, money, or people. Mel has said that the happiest people she has ever known were the orphan children she met in the Dominican Republic on a missions trip with Heidi.
As Mark said yesterday, “When you pursue your own joy, you lose it.” And, “Abiding in Jesus is the restoration of fulfillment and fruitfulness.”
Real joy is found in a Savior who is only a breath away. I’m praying for a specific person to find Him this Christmas season. I’m praying she’ll look at her feet and discover that she has been standing in joy all along.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, December 22, 2014

Things Forgotten


Dear Christa—
Chris said we’d been there once. I didn’t remember. I don’t remember seeing that at all. I think there are a lot of things that I intended to remember, but I don’t.
I intended to remember so many things. I wanted most to remember the most important things, but I think the daily things got in the way, and somehow when I was cooking dinner, doing the laundry, and cleaning house, I forgot or downright missed some of the important things.
I wonder if Mary, the mother of Jesus, ever did that. Did she get so busy with the other children, the regular doings of mothers, the interruptions that she laid aside the incarnation. Oh, she would never forget the angel, the wise men, the trip to Egypt; but as they settled in to daily life in Nazareth, did life overshadow the important things?
When he was 12, she didn’t notice his absence as they left Jerusalem. I doubt she was used to his having to be looked out for. When she and Joseph turned back, they found him in the temple, and he reminded her. He reminded her of the important thing—that he was the Son of God. Mary scolded him for not being with the others. She probably wondered what he’d eaten and where he’d slept. Did she notice that he was explaining the Scripture to the leaders?
Submitting, he followed them back to Nazareth, for it wasn’t his time. As she walked the dusty road, did she once again ponder the things of his birth? Did she begin to watch him now, like mothers watch and wonder about the future?
The daily robs us of the significant. There is so much that I didn’t want to forget, but I know that I have. Sometimes, it surprises me.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything