Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Beyond Deception


Genesis to Now:
Beyond Deception

 Dear Christa--
Sometimes, in fear and at a loss of what to do is just where God wants us to be. Indeed, isn’t it when we have no place to turn and we’ve exhausted our own resources that we totally fall before God and “struggle” with him?
Here, in the dark, after 20 years of work and deception, Jacob finally acknowledges what he really wants is to be blessed by God. Finally, in a night of wrestling between himself and God, Jacob commits to God Himself. Jacob may have appeared to win in this struggle, but the wound the Lord gave him was a daily reminder—every time he took a step—that ultimately God controlled his destiny.
We would think that Jacob at long last would have learned his lesson and not resorted to deception, but human frailty is hard to set aside, and the temptation to color our world through the lens of all sorts of deception is a life long struggle far beyond one night’s revelation. Didn’t even Jesus infer in His teachings that in this earthly and fallen nature mere people naturally walk like the deceiver who first trapped Eve?
And surely all these examples serve as our warning that from generation to generation we will war against the bent toward self deception, which is probably the very worst kind.
Jacob received God’s blessing, but the true Redeemer was yet ages to come—the only one Who can truly help us to walk a path of light
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, July 17, 2015

Struggling


Dear Christa—
When I first looked at Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestled with God, the application struck me a little differently than it does today as I look back over it. It’s true that we often struggle with God one way or another. It’s also significant to see the motive Jacob had for his struggle.
Jacob struggled with God for the purpose and desire to be blessed by God. This is saying a great deal, especially considering his natural bent—to depend on himself, his own wiliness in his situation—but not this night. This night Jacob recognized a world beyond the physical, a world he could neither manipulate nor control.
Yet, Jacob desired a blessing. Don’t we all? Jacob desired a blessing and somehow he knew the key to his life lay with this “man.” So, he wrestled—wrestling with the knowledge that real blessing comes from God.
So here this night is in some ways not so different from the night long ago as he fled away from home. Then, he was heading toward the unknown with a stolen blessing. Now, once again the unknown awaits; and if there is one thing he needs, it’s a blessing—not the kind people give but the kind that truly matters.
Jacob does not give up. He struggles, and as he wrestles he realizes he struggles with something far greater than himself. This time, so unlike with his father, he seeks a blessing, not with duplicity, pretending he’s someone he isn’t’, but he asks for it outright. Without giving up, he struggles on hour after hour all through the dark night.
So I ask myself: Do I desire the blessing of God as Jacob did? How willing am I to hold on to God—all through the dark nights and days of life? To wrestle till there is blessing. To wrestle till morning’s golden light.
To wrestle for a blessing means something so different from materialism and fame. To wrestle with God is to really know Him and know we need Him. To hold on in times of the unknown and fear. To hang on both night and day. To never give up on Him. To always be amazed by Him and that He regards us individually, not as some mass creation or robot He’s put into motion.
In the morning “Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
To wrestle with God is to hold fast always because we know God. We touch Him and He spares us in all His omnipotence. And though He should wound us, we still wrestle—we wrestle for His blessing.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, July 6, 2015

When Fear Besets Us


From Genesis to Now:
When Fear Besets Us

Dear Christa—
After 20 years of working for Laban, Jacob’s life is changing. God is always at work bringing about his plan, but often as we move through life, it’s just hard to see. Day in, day out, Jacob worked Laban’s flocks. Night in, night out, he dealt with two competing sisters and two maids, who likely felt more used than anything else.
But, the day came when angels appeared and Jacob was heading home. He didn’t know what lay ahead, but at least it was different, and it involved dreams from God and an angelic appearance. Even considering his fear of the unknown, it had to be exciting. Change typically brings excitement…and fear.
Twenty years can change a person—at least to some extent—and notice how Jacob approaches his brother. He refers to Esau as “my master” and himself as “your servant.” And, he wants to “find favor” with the brother he’d so terribly wronged. Sometimes fear forces us to recognize our faults and past sins.
Twenty years had changed Esau as well. Perhaps, he’d been more attentive to his parents. Perhaps he’d come to accept God’s plan for his life. We don’t know. All we know is that 20 years gives time to ponder one’s regrets and Esau’s animosity is gone, but Jacob doesn’t know this.
So, Jacob finally, totally turns to the God who’d sought him—the God who saw him for what he was and who’d blessed him far more than he deserved or expected anyway.
As Jacob, we realize that we, too, are unworthy of God’s kindness and faithfulness.
And even as Jacob leans into the one true God, he still doesn’t refer to him as his own God. It’s interesting that God is so busy at work in the life of a man who only sees God as the god of his father. But, Jacob is in a pickle, so to speak, so he turns to the only effectual god he knows. Trouble has a way of doing that.
So, Jacob prays in the fear of his brother Esau and sets a plan to meet him.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, June 12, 2015

God Goes Before


Dear Christa—
God Goes Before
Sometimes—even now, after all these years of living in the West—I get the urge to go home. Have you ever just wanted to go home? Twenty years is a long time to be away. Jacob had been blessed in Paddan Aram. He’d also had his fill of Laban and his sons. Surely, he missed his mother and father. He’d probably gained some appreciation for his father Isaac. He probably wanted his parents to see their grandchildren—especially that favorite—Joseph and for them to meet Rachel. But, the true encouragement was when God sent His angel to remind him that He’d done everything He’ promised Jacob at Bethel and that at long last it was time to go home. And so, he did.
Laban, eventually—after 3 days—heard of it and took after this rebellious son-in-law that he couldn’t seem to manipulate to his advantage no matter how he dealt with him.
But, God goes before—before Jacob and before Laban who eventually catches up to him.
God, Himself, warned Laban in a dream, and even though there isn’t any indication that Laban worshiped God, he wasn’t foolish enough to disregard Him either.
So, even though the parting between Laban and Jacob might not have been loving, it was somewhat civil. Of course, there is that incident of the household gods that Rachel had stolen and Laban pilfering through all Jacob’s tents. But, nevertheless, God protected Jacob just as he said He would. And, Jacob surely lay awake in his tent as Laban and his sons departed and turned his thoughts away from Paddan Aram with a sigh.
God had shown Himself true to this point. But, Jacob surely wondered what lay ahead for him. Perhaps his thoughts drifts away from Laban and his sons to his father, his mother, his brother.
Esau—surely Esau gave him pause even 20 years later.
What about this God of his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham?
What about the God of our fathers?
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Let the Games Begin


From Genesis to Now
Laban vs. Jacob: Let the Games Begin
Dear Christa—
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I think the first time I remember hearing that old adage, or at least when I took notice of it, was in an Anne of Green Gables movie. The point being that Anne was falling into the same pattern of pride that had robbed Morella of the love in her past.
If ever there was an example of a family characteristic being passed from generation to generation it’s revealed in Rebecca’s family. Deception is connected to so many family members that you can’t really miss it.
Here in the second half of Gen 30, there’s a stand off between two manipulators—Laban and Jacob—and they are each doing what they tend to do—getting what they want through trickery.
Jacob has been far from home and family for many years now. Nothing is mentioned about any connection between him and his parents. Maybe in those days people left and were never heard from again. I don’t know. But, sometime after Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob gets restless and wants to go home. After at least 14 years Jacob is probably thinking his parents are old, that he wants them to see Joseph (the favored child), and surely Esau doesn’t seem as scary as he once did...at least not yet.
God may have blessed Laban through Jacob, but Jacob through Laban had acquired two wives, two concubines, which had given him a significantly large family.
So, as Laban and Jacob discuss their terms, the parleying begins—not unlike the circling of two wrestlers sizing up their opponents—searching out the other’s weak spot and strengths. Only Jacob has a trick in his pocket that neither one of them recognizes at the moment.
the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, May 4, 2015

By God's Own Hand

  
Dear Christa—


Now, all the finagling in the human mind can’t change God’s design. The first thing Laban does after he makes his wages deal with Jacob is to remove all the animals that were marked to be Jacob’s and gave them to his sons to care for—3 days journey away. 

Jacob did little better. After Jacob strikes his deal with Laban and announces, “my honesty will testify for me in the future,” he goes about his own plan to glean the strongest animals and leave the weak ones for Laban.

Then, without Laban or Jacob recognizing it, God determined what each new baby animal would look like. Hadn’t he promised Jacob that He would be with him? 

So, by God’s hand Jacob became a wealthy man.

How often does God work on our behalf and it goes totally unnoticed by us?
How often do we connive and scheme to work things out, when in the reality, God has his plan and when he decides to work in our regard, he certainly will. 

To rest in the knowledge of his omnipotent hand—Jacob is not there yet, and I’m not either, I’m afraid.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, April 27, 2015

Leah, the Unloved Wife


Dear Christa—
Names were very significant in ancient times. They were often indicative of a person’s personality, but for Leah, the names she gave her children and her accompanying comments reflect the ebb and flow of one woman’s life experiences. Note the progression:
Reuben: “It is because of my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”
Simeon: “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.”
Levi: “Now at last my husband will become attached to me.”
Judah: This time I will praise the Lord.
Her children through Zilpah, her servant:
Gad: “What good fortune.”
Asher: “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.”
Leah’s later children:
Issachar: “God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.”
Zebulun: “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.”
Dinah: The only daughter apparently didn’t merit a comment.
At some point, probably with the giving of the maidservants, it became the battle of the sisters. Although Leah was winning by a landslide in the birthing match, it seems to have changed little between Jacob and her.
Jacob slept with all four women, but he loved Rachel. And, even in their times of discord, it seems obvious that his heart belonged to Rachel and Rachel alone—the woman who welcomed him at the end of his journey to Paddan Aram. The one he was willing to work 14 years for. The one who was willing to sacrifice her life to give him one more son.
And, even beyond her death, his love for Rachel surely stung like a slap every time Leah saw his expression when one of Rachel’s sons entered his presence. We don’t know what Leah’s role was in deceiving Jacob on his wedding night; but one thing seems certain, none of it turned out the way she’d dreamed.
Vows and obligations in marriage are important, even essential, but nothing takes the place of a husband's love.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything