- Message: Reading through Luke 4 I noticed that everywhere Jesus went people were trying to figure out who he was and whether he was legit or not. He was not recognized as the Messiah by most people even though they had past scripture pointing in his direction. On the contrary, the demons recognized him at literally every encounter. They knew exactly who he was and Jesus had to silence them to keep them from blowing his cover prematurely. I also noticed that when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness the devil knew exactly how to tempt him. He chose the things that appeared missing or weak at each particular moment because he knew man’s tendency to choose poorly during vulnerable moments. Jesus knew who he was before the temptation, so the decision was already firm during the vulnerable time of his temptation.
- Command: Know who we are and what lines are non-negotiable before temptation hits. Don’t wait to decide in the moment.
- Promise: God will not allow us to be overtaken without providing a way out.
- Warning: We need to know our God better than our enemies, and we need to be aware that our enemies have studied us and learned our weaknesses.
- Application: Reading through this made me realize how much of God we overlook in our daily lives, and it was more disturbing to realize just how aware of God the devil is. If we aren’t paying attention we’ll be caught off guard. I recognize in my own life that when I make a from decision to do something, I am unmovable and I will not waiver. When I have only half-heartedly committed to an idea or plan, I will cave under temptation because I have already entertained the idea. I’m currently trying to get my exercise and diet under control. I have allowed a few excuses to hang out, and although they are somewhat reasonable excuses, I have already caved on both my diet and exercise plans at different times because I entertained the excuses and allowed my feelings in the moment to choose for me what I should do.
- Message: Salvation is more than just a prayer that we pray to make it to the heaven list. It means to repent and surrender our lives over. In this case they were feeling safe because they were Jews. Christians often feel safe because we go to church.
- Command: Prove by the way that you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.
- Promise: Salvation
- Warning: Don’t just say to each other “we’re safe. We’re the descendants of Abraham.”
- Application: To me, this passage calls us deeper than just doing the church things and being a part of the club. In this case the Jews felt safe because of their lineage. Christians usually feel safe because they go to church and do moral things. This passage challenges further than that. Several people in the crowd asked “how?” and he responded differently to each of them because the hang-ups they all had were different. The same is true of us because the surrender of our sin is supposed to bring change. We can’t compare ourselves to others to make ourselves look and feel better. For me this challenge pushes me past the church things and the discipline habits. What in me has not changed over the years? What am I still holding onto because I already feel like I’m in?
Ponder the Promises
- Message: Reading through Luke 2 was so familiar. Even people who don’t go to church have heard this narration of the birth of Jesus so pushing past the familiarity of this chapter, I noticed a pattern about Mary even though I have heard these words more times than I can count…”Mary pondered these things in her heart.” This was said when the shepherds came to see baby Jesus and they told Mary & Joseph what God had shown them. The same thing was said again when Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem at twelve years old and he told his parents “why did you need to search? Didn’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?” Mary had heard from an angel, she had heard from prophets and she was hearing from the mouth of her son a lot of incredible things about his life. Although these prophecies had some very specific things in them I can’t imagine the awe and wonder she felt as she walked it out and watched things unfold. I love that her response was quiet and she pondered these things in her heart.
- Command: Don’t try to figure out the details of God’s promises. You never will! Instead we should ponder them in our hearts as we watch them unfold over time.
- Promise: God’s promises never fail.
- Warning: Often times God’s promises take longer than we would have hoped, and they rarely come out looking the way we imagined them to look. We can’t get stuck in our own imagination. We need to ponder these promises in our hearts so we don’t get off track and miss it entirely!
- Application: I was so amazed by Mary’s response. She was quiet and she pondered everything in her heart that was told to her. This was wisdom modeled for us because the truth is, none of us knows what God’s promises will actually look like. We have an outline idea at best and if we aren’t thinking about what God said, we will be concocting our own ideas based upon our own ideas and our own desires. This spoke loudly to me as I have thought about the dreams and visions in my heart and how much my imagination has gotten carried away with them. It’s good to know God has plans and promises for me but I really need to ponder them and pray as they unfold so I don’t chase a rabbit trail to my own ideas and miss the actual plan God has completely!
- Message: In Genesis Joseph finally reveals his true identity to his brothers it was a very emotional time and Joseph tells them that he is not angry, and that this was God protecting them and their families from starving. The only problem now, is that is brothers had told their father that he was eaten by an animal and they had gone to great lengths to cover their story. Now they had some splainin to do!
- Command: Tell the truth!
- Promise: God takes our tragedies and turns them into miracles.
- Warning: Don’t let the shame of your past mistakes ruin the possibility of a bigger miracle.
- Application: This story grabbed my attention from the perspective of the brothers. They had to be relieved that he was alive, but they had to be feeling both dread and excitement over telling their father! They had some explaining to do! I can see this in my own life because at times I discover an error in my work that is tied to something more important.
- Message: Proverbs is all about listening to wisdom, and responding to correction. This is great to live by, but we also have to learn how to respond to and interact with people who don’t choose this. Proverbs 15 addresses a lot of this and reminds us that not only are there people who refuse to live this way, but their view of life is so contrary that you have to learn how to respond to them (or not respond) to avoid being burned in their shenanigans. As much as we all want to believe we are on the side of wisdom, we all have our foolish moments too. We have to be prepared to not only deal with the crazy and often predictably unpredictable ways of the foolish, but we also have to be able to turn ourselves around when we have a foolish moment.
- Command: Think carefully before speaking, don’t respond to a fool and be willing to be corrected.
- Promise: If we follow after wisdom and allow ourselves to be corrected we will learn more, we’ll have God’s favor and people will be glad to interact with us.
- Warning: God is watching both the wise and the foolish.If we act a fool and refuse to be corrected we won’t learn from our mistakes, we’ll alienate people and we will be punished for our poor choices.
- Application: Reading this while answering these questions made me realize just how juvenile we all are! This chapter applies to children and adults equally and spells it out so simply that it almost sounds insulting. Yet as I read through I spot all of the areas where I personally struggle. I have to acknowledge that I don’t always do well in my responses. I get irritated when someone speaks disrespectfully to me so right off the bat with verse 1 “a soft answer turns away wrath” I feel convicted about my sarcastic responses. As I get further in I see the responses to a “hot tempered man” and I know I am guilty of escalating. Not necessarily with my volume, but more in my attitude. This does not ever help my situation and I’m never happy with the response. This is not to say we should enable bad behavior and allow people to be abusive. In my case I need to stop allowing foolish behavior to offend me and remind myself that they are not insulting me. They are only revealing their own foolishness. There have been times in my growth that I have had to stop and ask myself…”how would a healthy person respond to this?” This alone is a game changer because even if the “foolish person” continues ranting their foolishness, I don’t have to allow them to drag me in with them. Refusing to engage keeps the foolish behavior on them and not me. Even further, I know that God is paying attention to all of it and he will reward my responses if I follow them.
- Message: As I read through this story and saw Joseph’s brothers fear and expect the worst as they were being given the best of everything. Including full access to Joseph in his private banquet room. They were receiving the highest honor, but they weren’t enjoying any of it because they were full of guilt over what they had done to Joseph all of those years ago. Even though they didn’t even recognize that they were with Joseph, they still carried the guilt so strongly that they saw everything as a potential punishment and viewed everyone as against them.
- Command: We need to come clean of our past mistakes and allow forgiveness to heal and cleanse us of it.
- Promise: God gave us his best even while we were filled with guilt.
- Warning: Guilt from the past is debilitating.
- Application: As I read this story I saw how much we are like the brothers of Joseph. They were given the best, and seated in the highest places of honor, but they couldn’t stop thinking about the guilt of the past and waiting for something terrible to happen. We do the very same thing!! God has given us his best but we are so consumed with guilt that we can’t enjoy it. We keep wondering when we will be punished or who is setting us up.
- Message: There seems to be a parallel of messages between Genesis 42 and Mark 14 with a theme of betrayal. In Genesis we see Joseph facing his brothers for the first time after they betrayed him and sold him into slavery. Now the tables are turned and Joseph has all of the power in his hands. In Matthew 14, Judas Iscariot plots and pulls off his betrayal of Jesus. At the same time Jesus warns the rest of them that they will all betray him when things escalate. Peter didn’t want to believe it and even argued that he would stay loyal to the death. Sure enough they all ran away when Jesus was arrested. In both cases there was purpose to the betrayal and in both cases the one being betrayed would save the very ones who betrayed them.
- Command: “Keep watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38
- Promise: In our betrayal God remains faithful.
- Warning: No matter how steady and faithful we believe we are, temptation comes to all of us.
- Application: Betrayal is tough. Nobody wants to feel betrayed and most of us don’t want to be a betrayer to the ones we love. Unfortunately, we all have been on both ends of this and the very thing that makes love so risky is the vulnerability of being betrayed. Without the risk of vulnerability love can’t exist. It’s a slippery slope but we all take the risk because we want to be loved. In both of the stories we read today there was betrayal, and the betrayal led to salvation for the very ones who betrayed them. All of us as believers have been on the receiving end of salvation, but we have also been on the betrayer side too. I feel like this tension of both sides reminds me that when I feel betrayed, I am not alone in this, nor am I innocent of it either. In fact, the only one in these stories that was undeserving of betrayal was Jesus and he suffered it because of his perfection. My reminder to myself to day is that when I feel betrayed by the ones I love I need to remember that I have stumbled in betrayal too. This is not a license to be careless or unfaithful. This is a reminder because when I am the one being hurt I tend to forget about the hurt I have caused. When I forget about my own tendencies, pride rolls in and brings unforgiveness with it.
- Message: As a child, Joseph had dreams about his future. These weren’t grandiose desires that he concocted out of his mind on his own. They were short pieces of his future that God showed him through his dreams. He wasn’t quiet about them so sharing them in his immaturity caused him added grief because his brothers already hated him. It also seemed to be the necessary thing that provoked his brothers to jealousy. Their jealousy led to the plan to get rid of him which caused them to unknowingly launch him right into the middle of his destiny. Oh the irony! The irony continues because even though Joseph didn’t have an interpretation for his own dreams, God placed people around him that also had dreams, and then gave Joseph the interpretation. Each dream that he interpreted for others brought him closer to the fulfillment of his own dreams. Everything came full circle when it became clear that the very dream that caused it all was the answer to saving not only his family, but all of Egypt.
- Command: Don’t despise people with dreams, and don’t underestimate their worth.
- Promise: God has given everyone purpose.
- Warning: The purpose inside someone that I dislike or resent, just might be a pivotal part of my future. The people that have opposed me just might be the driving force or motivation behind what God is doing in my own life. Don’t resent either.
- Application: Although I would rather put myself in the place of Joseph for this analogy, it’s hard to overlook the fact that I just might be one of the brothers! We all have dreams and we all have desires. I think it’s important to distinguish between the selfish parts of us that crave recognition and relevance, and the things that God has whispered into our hearts as tiny, vague details as long as we can remember. As I think about this I realize that everyone I encounter also has some sort of dream written on their heart. Although I would love to be part of propelling someone forward into their dreams, I don’t want it to be done out of a spirit of jealousy. I’m sure there are plenty of jealous people that would be happy to fulfill that role. I pray that God would find me useful to help unlock the dreams in other people like Joseph did. I also know that when we help support the dreams of other people, it usually launches our own dreams when we aren’t even aware. My challenge to myself is to become more aware of the people around me and encourage the dreams within them.
- Message: Jesus was being tested and questioned from all angles and all sorts of powerful religious people who were coming at him with an agenda. They brought their trickiest angles in trying to provoke Jesus to implicate himself by answering questions that would contradict authorities in both religion and government. They had no idea who they were really dealing with. Then there was one religious teacher who was listening to it all. He asked a different question and after a genuine interaction Jesus told him he was not far from the Kingdom of God.
- Command: Ask questions coming from a heart of humility.
- Promise: Your humility in the ask will bring understanding.
- Warning: You can ask the right questions with the wrong motive and learn nothing.
- Application: As I processed through this I realized that our motive and attitude in the things we ask or wonder about has a direct impact on the answers we receive. There are times I have approached things with an attitude that I already knew the answer, and there are times I have had to completely humble myself and consider that all that I think I know may be wrong. This dramatically changed what I was able to learn. In the story the religious leaders were trying to trip him up by asking questions that they thought would have a contradictory answer. Instead, Jesus answered on a level of wisdom that they didn’t count on and his answers made them look stupid. In fact Jesus flat out told one of them that the whole basis of his question was in error. I’ve gone through things in life that I thought I understood. When I asked God for direction I felt like he was silent. There have also been times that I took what I thought I knew and set it aside. I cried out to God for a real answer and was completely blown away by the powerful direction and insight he gave me. Moments like those I never felt closer to him.
- Message: Today as I read Mark 11 I came across the story of Jesus telling his disciples to go into town and they would find a colt tied up. They were to untie it and if anyone were to ask them about it they were to say “the Lord has need of it and will return it”. Knowing that the gospels contain most of the same stories told by different people I decided to go back into Matthew where that same story is told. It wasn’t too long ago that we read it there. In Matthew 21 it says that this happened in order to fulfill the prophecy that described Jesus riding on a donkey. As I re-read this I realized that not only was the story told to fulfill prophecy, but it was done repeatedly throughout the gospels. This established multiple witnesses. After reading all of that I came across the story where Jesus cursed the fig tree and then after they walked past it told them they could move mountains if they were to speak it with faith and have no doubt OR unforgiveness toward anyone.
- Command: speak to the mountains we need removed.
- Promise: God is faithful to move the mountains we speak to if we speak it in faith.
- Warning: We can’t have any unforgiveness in our hearts when we speak to the mountains.
- Application: I have read this passage about moving mountains more times than I even know but deep down carried a sense of skepticism and believed that this is only for certain situations. I found myself pushing side things I want God to do in my life and somehow disqualifying them. Before I read this passage today I had prayed a very specific prayer about a situation in my life. I honestly poured out my heart and talked with God about my skepticism and my confusion on how to pray for it. I asked him to show me what was right. Then shortly after I read the story about the colt and internalized the fact that Jesus made sure this prophecy was confirmed more than once to establish the validity of the prophecy and to erase any doubt of it’s truth. By the time I got to the mountain moving story I knew that was God speaking to me about my situation. This was the answer to the prayer I prayed earlier. Where I was afraid to speak out such a bold statement and demand that this mountain be removed, I felt the confirmation in both stories allowed this truth to give me boldness. I prayed again and asked God to show me any unforgiveness in my life. I prayed for the people involved (including myself) and then I spoke to that mountain. I didn’t yell at it. I simply spoke it and I know that the authority comes from Jesus and he has allowed me to speak in his name. Like the fig tree that Jesus cursed, I will also see the destruction of this mountain.
1.Message: Reading through Mark 10 I found myself reading on auto-pilot. I have read it so many times, and I’ve heard plenty of sermons on these stories but today something jumped out at me as I read about blind Bartimaeus. As he was crying out to Jesus and everyone else was telling him to shut up, he cried even louder. He was determined. When Jesus heard him yelling, he told those same people to tell him to come. Not only did Jesus validate him to those who were shutting him down, but he told this man who was blind to come to him. An undetermined man would have told him that he couldn’t come because he couldn’t see but not this guy. This guy cried out to Jesus in his desperation with all of the people trying to shut him down, and then he pressed through who knows how many people in his blind condition to get to Jesus and Jesus told him that his faith made him whole.
2. Command: Cry out to Jesus and when he tells you to do what feels impossible, do it anyway.
3.Promise: Jesus will validate and vindicate us in the face of our enemies, and those who have opposed us.
4.Warning: People will oppose us, and our blindness will make us feel incapacitated.
5.Application: I saw so much in this as I thought about how easily I want to shut down when I feel like people are against me. It’s hard not to let those voices discourage. Especially when those voices are coming from familiar people. In this story I thought of the familiarity of these people to this man. They lived in the same town so they saw him probably every day. They may he been ashamed of him in front of Jesus and they most likely viewed him as a bother. What most impressed me about this story is that even after the people tried to shut him down he stayed determined and cried louder. Then when Jesus had the people too him to Jesus he brought his blind self through the crowd of people who were trying to shut him down. Talk about a tough crowd! He didn’t make excuses about being blind. He went right through that crowd of haters and Jesus healed him. I want that kind of tenacity!!! This is my challenge!
- Message: As we have been reading through the gospels I have noticed thatJesus was constantly bringing up things that were previously prophesied to happen, and then fulfilling him just a short time after. Every time Jesus would perform a miracle or fulfill something prophetic he would tell them not to tell anyone about it. Almost every time it mentioned that the people would immediately go and tell. In Mark 9 something changes. Jesus tells the disciples that a few of them would see the power of heaven before they die. Six days later he took Peter, James and John up to the mountain and was transfigured in front of them, and if that wasn’t enough, they also saw Moses and Elijah, and to really blow their minds they heard the voice of God confirm Jesus as his son. When it was over Jesus told them not to tell anyone…until he is raised from the dead. This is the first time I have noticed him saying that last bit, and this time they obeyed and didn’t tell anyone. I always wondered why he told all of those people not to tell anyone. It never made since until this little line caught my attention…”until he is raised from the dead”. The disciples didn’t even know what he was talking about but now I see that he was building a case that would mean something when he actually rose from the grave. He made sure that his death prediction was recorded and he left evidence all over the place will each miracle so that after the resurrection people will believe. In spite of all of that, the people who knew about the prophecies in the ancient scriptures the most, missed all of these details.
- Command: Don’t miss it!!
- Promise: God will fulfill every prophecy and will put the pieces together.
- Warning: Don’t get sow caught up in religion that we miss it!
- Application: After I read this I sat and thought about so many things in my life that have pieced together evidence. It’s so easy to miss!
- Message: In Mark 8 Jesus was about to feed another crowd of people. The disciples didn’t understand how they were going to feed the crowd even though they had already seen Jesus feed 5000 people with a little boy’s lunch of two fish and five loaves of bread. They saw it not only feed everyone until they were satisfied, but they themselves collected 12 baskets of leftovers when they were finished. This time around they he fed 4000 people with seven loaves of bread and had seven baskets leftover. Right after this Jesus and his disciples got in a boat and the disciples realized they forgot to take bread with them. They were obviously pretty upset about it and probably blaming each other because it consumed their focus so much that when Jesus started warning them about the leaven of the Pharisees and religious leaders they thought Jesus was scolding them for forgetting the bread.
- Command: Give God all we have, even if and especially when it doesn’t appear to be enough to get it done.
- Promise: God will go all in when he sees us go all in.
- Warning: The temptation will be to hold back when we see what we have to offer won’t cut it.
- Application: What I really got out of this was how hyper-focused I can get on immediate situations when I have watched God do impossible things just like them before. Why were they so upset that they forgot the bread? I can’t help but speculate that this was bigger than them worrying about being hungry. I wonder if they weren’t ashamed that they dropped the ball by forgetting the bread. In both of the previous crowd feeding situations Jesus told them to feed the people. He didn’t just create bread and fish out of nothing. He told his disciples to get it and it seemed completely impossible. They wanted Jesus to send the crowds away because they understood the cost it would take to feed them. They even calculated the annual salary amount and said “we don’t have what it takes”. Jesus directed them to find out what they did have. In both cases it was a very small amount but Jesus made them go get it. The miracle didn’t happen until they presented to Jesus the tiny bits they had collected and put it in his hands. Now they were in a boat with nothing to hand Jesus and they were so hyper-focused on what they didn’t have that when Jesus was talking to them about spiritual matters all they could perceive was BREAD!!! I feel this one so much!! Not just in financial situations, but in impossible situations that looked hopeless and all I could offer was a tiny bit of effort. A conversation or an act of obedience and suddenly God took that tiny insignificant thing I gave and turned it into something else. Today I remind myself that nothing great is going to be accomplished with my measly efforts alone, but my measly efforts are required (no matter how insignificant they may seem) before God will finish it. God is going to take that effort or that obedience and multiply it into something way beyond me. I love that he won’t just do it for us. He requires us to take the first step and go all in with what we have. There are things in my life that I have dreamed about doing but gave up on making any moves toward it because I assessed and obsessed with the fact that I don’t have what it takes. We’re in a self-empowering culture that says that it’s up to us and we just have to work hard. Although this it’s true we have to do things with all of our effort, we have to remember that the rest will be done by God.
1. Message: What stood out to me today was In Mark 7 when the Pharisees were calling out the disciples because they didn’t do the ceremonial hand washing tradition before they ate. It was more than just hand washing to be clean. It was a ritual that had been so much of tradition that they did it as though it were sacred law. I guess you could say they did it religiously. Jesus called out the Pharisees in response for treating the traditions like they were more important than or equal to the commands of God. In verse 13 he tells them that they cancel the word of God in order to hand down their own traditions. If this sounds harsh for hand washing, he further clarifies that this was just one example.
2. Command: Live a godly life as a response to a changed heart. Not as a means to obtain a reputation of godliness.
3. Promise: There is no peace and joy than what comes from obeying God out of surrender and not out of tradition and obligation.
4. Warning: “Their worship is a farce for they teach manmade ideas as commands from God…they cancel the word of God in order to hand down their own traditions.”
5. Application: This passage was somewhat uncomfortable to go through at more than a surface level. Most of us understand the danger of being religious rather than changed. We see it so blatantly in other Christians who get caught up in legalistic rules like enforcing modest dress codes, eliminating secular music and “Christian cussing” (replacing curse words with similar sounding words so we don’t go to hell). The problem is sometimes our own religiousness shows up so differently that we don’t see it. As we plateau in our growth and the good and wonderful things that we once did out of a heart response of obedience and honor shifted into a to-do list of things we do (or don’t do) to thwart off guilt. I have walked plenty of years in auto-pilot and at the time I wouldn’t have seen myself as far from God but I see now where I did a lot of things that were culturally Christian, but not necessarily the bible. They weren’t bad things to do. They were actually really good things that became part of a pattern that made me feel like I was living a godly life at a time that I wasn’t even fully surrendered. This was not only dangerous to my own growth but it also became a problem in my ability to connect with other people. Since we tend to blur the lines between things we feel personally convicted about, and what scripture actually says, we tend to use it as a measure of judgment and expectation. Then we enforce our own rules and convictions on other people to follow suit. This is why it’s so important to be reading the word every day. We need to know what it says. When we read we reinforce God’s word and diminish our own ideas. This is good because we are wrong about a lot of things! On a more humorous note, I once had someone close to me mention that she had always been told that the bible tells us not to pray for patience. I kind of laughed as I thought about all of the Christians I had heard in my life saying “Don’t pray for patience!” Their logic was that since we know that we gain patience through trials and tribulations, it’s safer not to ask God for patience so we don’t have to suffer the hard stuff. This had been repeated so religiously by so many Christians that this person believed it was an actual command in the bible. As funny as that is, it’s a lot less funny to internalize the scripture telling us that when we elevate our own ideas and Christian culture rules we cancel out God’s word. Obviously no man can cancel God’s word but we can definitely cancel our ability to receive the benefits of it. Today I want to remind myself to examine the things I do and why. Especially if I feel any kind of attitude toward people who don’t do what I do. This seems like a red flag to me. I’m not going to eliminate the good things I do as a daily habit (like reading) but I want to examine my motives and make sure I’m obeying God and not just a man-made Christian culture idea.
- Message: When Jesus went to the region of the Gerasenes he met the man possessed by demons. The man initially ran toward Jesus and bowed before him, but then he screeched at Jesus saying “why are you interfering with us?!”We have no idea what the man’s name is because when Jesus asked the man his name, the demons once again spoke on his behalf and said his name was “Legion because we are many”. It really struck me that this man’s bondage had so consumed his life that it literally became his identity and the demons were so large and in charge that they were the ones speaking and acting on his behalf. The other thing that really struck me about this story is how much the townspeople normalized this man’s issues. He was so out of control that he couldn’t live civilly. Since he could no longer be restrained by chains and shackles he lived in the cemetery, but for some reason when Jesus cast out his demons and they saw him clothed and sitting in his right mind it scared them so badly that they pleaded with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. This seems like such a strange response! Why wouldn’t they be happy for this man who was now able to go home to his family?
- Command: Stop letting the bondage speak or act on our behalf!
- Promise: There is no water (or barrier) that Jesus has not already crossed to set us free, and he will not be moved by the “townspeople” of our lives who fear our freedom.
- Warning: Don’t let the areas of our lives that have held us captive become our identity. We are not our sin issues, and we are not the product of things that happened to us.
- Application: I see the application in so many ways here. We all have things in our lives that control us. It could be a bad memory, a pattern of abuse, an addiction, a victim mentality, an illness, a behavioral trait…the list is endless and some of them can seem more innocent or “normal” to us. Like the townspeople in this story, there are people in our lives who are resistant to our deliverance and change. When we change it throws off the balance that people in our lives are used to. The change brings insecurity to other people and exposes what is broken inside them. I carried many of these labels for years and I wasn’t really aware that they were speaking on my behalf and running my life. I still have a lot of things to work out but one of the most important questions I started asking myself was “how would a healthy person respond?” I don’t want to be known for my issues or my traumas so I’m continually asking God to help me process through all of it layer by layer.
Emotional Baggage of Guilt
- Message: Well I’m still sucked into the story of Jacob so here I go again in Genesis! Jacob is about to see his brother face to face for the first time since he stole his blessing and fled. He is now so paranoid that his brother might try to kill him that he split up his wives and servant wives and children and he sent a generous amount of flocks ahead hoping this will appease his brother. When he finally sees Esau he hugs him and kisses him. Esau is happy to see him but wants to know what’s up with all of the animals. When Jacob tells him it’s a gift for him because he is overflowing with blessing, Esau says “no thanks, I have plenty.” Jacob insists so Esau accepts the gift and then immediately wants Jacob and his entourage to hit the road and follow him home to Seir. Jacob tells him to go ahead and that he would follow at a slower pace, but then he takes another road and settles somewhere else. Anyone else confused by this move?
- Application: Once again I skipped the command, promise and warning. We’re just observing behaviors here. I think it’s interesting that Jacob spent SO much time obsessing over his brother’s response that he was absolutely paranoid. When he finally saw his brother he was well received and his brother clearly wanted him to go home with him. It seems that Esau did in fact let loose of that yoke and was doing very well. Interestingly enough, Jacob is holding all of the blessings and favor of God but his soul is still not ok. He appears to be the one still in bondage to the yoke that was originally put over Esau. Even though the blessings that were spoken said that Esau would serve his brother, Jacob continues to refer to himself as “servant” and his brother as “master”. I’m completely speculating here but it seems he might still be stuck in his guilt. He tried to buy his brother’s favor and even though his brother showed genuine signs of restoration, Jacob took another road. I have seen this in relationships. One person is unable to get past their guilt even when the other has healed. The guilt looms over them and makes them paranoid so they duck out of the relationship entirely. I see myself on both sides of this story and I just want to take note here that you can be victimized and heal from it like Esau did, or you can get stuck in your guilt and self-destruct. I’m not saying that Jacob self-destructed but his behavior is peculiar. We all do this when we’re guilty. We act weird, get paranoid, try to earn or buy relationships or avoid them altogether.
- Message: It seems I’m stuckin Genesis lately but I can’t help but follow this interesting storyline. If you remember back to where Jacob received the stolen blessing, his father said that he would be his brother’s master. When he blessed Esau he also told Esau that he would serve his brother… UNTIL the day he would decide to break the yoke. After he went on his own rebellion to marry the women his father didn’t want him to marry we don’t hear anything further about him. We don’t know what went down with Esau or whether he ever decided he wanted to be free from the bondage. It seems like there is an injustice going on because God honors all of the blessings promised over Jacob and he prospers even under a crooked master. Now suddenly Jacob is anticipating seeing his brother and several times refers to Esau as “my master” and to himself as “his servant”. He is wealthy from all of the blessings he stole but can’t enjoy any peace from it. He separates his household into separate camps in fear of a possible attack and sends gifts ahead hoping to win over his brother. This is when he ends up in a camp alone and he wrestles with “a man” in an unusual encounter which is later described as him being face to face with God. Jacob demands a blessing and refuses to let go until he gets it. I find this interesting because he has already been blessed right? He received so much blessing that I don’t know what else he could possibly ask for, but he was a fraud and he knew it. The “man” responds by asking Jacob his name. Not because his fraud wasn’t already known, but to me this looks like a critical moment of honesty and acknowledgment. Kind of like an addict who finally lets go of denial and acknowledges the truth about what he is doing. This seems important because although he was receiving the blessings he stole, he couldn’t really thrive because he was carrying guilt and fear from the dishonesty. He must have felt like an imposter in spite of the blessings. After this the “man” changes his name from Jacob (which means “the deceiver”) to “Israel”. Then he blesses him in his own name.
- Application: Since I went on with so much detail on message portion I’m going to skip to the application. My personal application of this is to ask myself the hard questions. The ones that question my motives and force me to be honest with myself so that I can be healed!
- Message: Jacob had marked a large stone as a monument to mark his covenant with God. He renamed the town Bethel before showing up at his Uncle Laban’s place.He endured a lot of dishonesty, trickery and unfair treatment in all of those years but God did miraculous things to bless Jacob because of his honor at Bethel. When the turmoil worsened with Laban, Jacob took off with his family. When Laban chased after him God showed up in a dream to Laban warning him not to harm Jacob. After this the two of them built another rock pile monument and agreed that as they parted ways they would never pass those monuments with ill intent towards each other.
- Command: Honor God and stay faithful no matter what turmoil and unfair treatment you have to endure.
- Promise: God will protect us in ways that we could never protect ourselves!
- Warning: Don’t allow corrupt or unfair treatment to change our response. We represent God and we work for him.
- Application: As I read this I thought about seasons in my life that have been unfair and full of turmoil. There was so much temptation to respond accordingly, but God was not going to let me get away with using any of it as an excuse. I felt the weight of my covenant with every decision and although things were really tough God didn’t allow me to use any excuses to act out even though I really wanted to. He was training me and teaching me to rise to another standard. Not to elevate myself as a “good person” but because in order for him to bless me in spite of it all, I needed to honor the covenant I made with him. God is faithful and he will allow us to go through the struggles for our own good, but he will honor the stand we make to honor our covenant with him.
- Message: As I was reading about Jacob’s interaction with his Uncle Laban I started to see a continued pattern of trickery going on. Previously Jacob manipulated and tricked his way into stealing Esau’s blessing and then he runs away to escape the problem and finds another one. Laban tricks and manipulates Jacob into marrying the wrong daughter and then doubles the work time for him to marry the other one. After Jacob marries both sisters the favor went to only one of them and she started having babies while the other sat in envy. Once again, to solve a fertility problem Rachel tells Jacob to sleep with her servant to try to fulfill her desire for a baby. Sound familiar? This is exactly what Jacob’s grandparents did when Sarah was unable to conceive. The madness continued until finally the cycle was broken when Rachel finally conceived.
- Command: Have we learned nothing yet? God’s promises are not to be manipulated! It will only bring on more jealousy and heartache!
- Promise: God will bless in his timing when we surrender our plans and choose his.
- Warning: Our manipulations causes heartache and prolonged waiting!
- Application: As I read this I really saw theissue of personal and family patterns that cause destruction. We tend to repeat what we grew up in even when we don’t realize it. Running away from the problem only makes it worse. The only answer is to surrender our plans and trust that what God has for us is far more wonderful than we could ever concoct out of our own doing. We talked about this last week when we saw Jacob do it, but since we are talking about patterns and cycles, I thought it was worth repeating!
Embrace the Process
- Message: In just this one chapter we see a large summary of Jesus’ ministry beginning with John the Baptist preparing the way, the baptism of Jesus, a confirmation from God about his purpose, Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus preaching repentance and gathering disciples, Jesus speaking with an undeniable authority and then the miracles.
- Command: Follow God’s process and don’t try to cut it short.
- Promise: God is faithful
- Warning: Temptation, distraction and talking Will try to push us off-course
- Application: As I pulled all of these things apart I saw how Jesus, who was perfect still walked out a process before ministry began. Some of this prepared him but I can’t help but wonder how much of it was for the sake of those watching him. We’re all in a stage of the process and people around us and those closest to us are watching to see how we handle each stage. I’m often impatient with the process. I want to do things to help it along.