Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wrestling With God

Genesis 32:22-32

Yesterday, I shared a little with you of how God wrenched an area of pride from me in order to make me more into the person He wants me to be.  But it wasn't easy; I fought it for a long time.  I shared how my husband and I moved away and hung on to our old house for two and half years because we couldn't sell it.  The housing market was completely devastated and saturated with foreclosures, which cause our home to lose half its value.  Do you know how awful it is to hear that your home is only worth half of what you bought it for knowing that you cannot possibly make up for the loss?  When I finally gave a piece of my pride to God, I was able to accept that the only way we could get rid of the home was to work with the bank and do a short sale.  It was a waiting game before we could put it on the market and then it was a waiting game to get a nibble on the home.  But, we finally got an offer right after Christmas only to have the potential buyers revoke their offer a week later.  That was so hard to swallow because we lost some precious time in the process and only had a few weeks left to sell the home before the bank would take it back.  My prayer had been that God would put the person in the home that He wanted and I continued to pray that prayer.

 One day as I was praying that prayer, I felt God speak to my heart, "Do you really want the right person in your home?  Even if it meant that you would lose the home?"  I didn't like that question and said, "God you wouldn't want that for us!  You are just testing my answer."  The question really hurt me because surely God wouldn't do that to us!  And then I knew in my heart that He wanted me to give Him a truthful answer and shouldn't be concerned with whether or not it was a test.  I also knew in my heart that if that was what God wanted that I would surrender to His will and let Him have it.  I said, "I hope that is not what it takes, but yes I am willing."  In all honesty, I felt like a weight was lifted because I was no longer struggling with God over the house.  I knew that God would do what was best.

The story I am looking at today is a significant moment in Jacob's life because he wrestled with God and received a new identity; please read Genesis 32:22-32.  Yesterday, I looked at Jacob's fear of his brother but he followed God's direction and walked into his greatest fear.  The night before meeting Esau and his 400 soldiers, Jacob slept alone and wrestled with a man all night long.  Even more significant is that the man had to finally hurt him to get him to stop wrestling.  He blessed Jacob by naming him Israel, which means God fights and then went on his way.  That moment changed Jacob by taking away his identity of grabbing at the heel or to deceive and gave him a name that reminded him that God would fight for him.

This story made me think of what I recently been through because I kept fighting with Him wanting to please my pride with our home.  I wasn't willing to let it go even if in the long run it would be best.  I covered it up by praying a very noble prayer of asking Him to put the person in the home that He wanted there - someone who would minister to our previous neighbors.  But God's question really hurt me because He was shining light on what was really in my heart.  God had to ask me a question that really hurt in order to show me that it was time to stop wrestling.  He showed me that for as noble as my words sounded, my heart still wanted what was best for me.  In His question, I realized that His plan may not be the grand miracle I was hoping for but that I would still be okay.  I was done.  I was done wrestling with God and holding on to my pride.  I was done wrestling with God telling Him how things should turn out.  And I walked away a new person.

Are you wresting with God right now?  Are you willing to surrender to His will?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Our Greatest Fear

Genesis 32:1-21

Yesterday, my church held an outdoor baptism service where 30 people were baptized.  I like going baptisms because it is wonderful to hear the God stories that are shared at the service.  I love hearing the testimonies of how God grabbed a hold of their heart and hearing them say that He changed their outlook on life.  The story I am looking at today made me think of one of the testimonies I heard yesterday because the person mentioned how God had changed them completely.  They were in the midst of the thing they feared the most and because they had chosen to follow God, He gave them a peace throughout the difficulty.  It was very powerful to hear such an amazing testimony and to hear someone say what an awful thing they had to go through was still difficult, but they knew that God was with them.  Jacob found himself in a situation that would also probably be considered his greatest fear and he also turned to God for help.  Please read Genesis 32:1-21.

The first two verses are interesting because they don't give us a whole lot of detail, yet it was considered important enough to put in the Bible.  We are told that Jacob is met by angels on his journey; however, we are not told what happened in that interaction.  Sometimes things are meant to be left between us and God.  Yet it was a significant enough moment to be brought to our attention and also significant enough for Jacob to name the site of the interaction.  But the next thing we find out in Jacob's story is the fact that he decided to be proactive in meeting with his brother Esau.  Jacob thought that if he approached Esau first and showered him with gifts that perhaps Esau would be friendly with him.  Jacob had a very good reason to fear Esau!  First, Jacob had tricked their father into giving Esau's blessing to him and second, we are also left with the impression that Esau was a skillful hunter and would probably dominate over Jacob if they were left to fighting.

But, notice what Jacob does in addition to getting gifts ready for his brother: he prays.  He reminds himself in this prayer that God promised His protection over him and would fulfill His promise through Him.  So, even though He is praying to God for His protection, he is also remembering that God had sent him on this journey promising protection.  When you think about it, it was wise of Jacob to try to appease his brother with gifts since he had also technically bought Esau's birthright.  Even though Jacob never really got an opportunity to claim the birthright and receive all his father's belongings, he thought he would still gift his brother.  And what a gift it was!  Even by today's standards, this was an extremely generous gift.  And even though Jacob was walking right into his greatest fear, he followed God's direction and did it anyway.  When you think about it, God had him walk right into what he probably feared the most.

When my husband was called to move to our current church, that meant that we would have to put our house on the market.  Our house was in a market that was completely devastated and saturated with foreclosures because the unemployment rate in the state at that time was around 16%.  When my husband was going through the interviewing process, my greatest fear about the journey was the fact that it looked impossible to sell the house.  Even though we chose to follow God's direction and move, I knew that a miracle would have to take place in order for the house to sell.  But God didn't do a miracle, instead He had me walk through my greatest fear.  Two and a half years later, we ended up having to give the bank our home because it lost so much value that it was only worth half of what we purchased it for.  But, what God did in me through the process is something that has changed me for the better.  He showed me that my pride was the only thing that was hurting and He stripped me of it.  By walking me through my fear, I learned to lean on Him and trust that He knew what was best for me.  It is not the ending I wanted for the house, but it is the result that God wanted in my heart.  When God walks us through our fears, we can know that it is only our best that He has in mind.

Are you in a fearful place today?  Do you see how God is protecting and providing for you?  Do you trust that He has His best in mind for you?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Transformation

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

All this week as part of my regular Bible reading and blogging, I've been looking at Jacob and Laban and their struggles with each other.  That has drawn me to consider things like where we are satisfying our spiritual longing or thirst.  Are we seeking the world to give us tainted water, or are we drawing from the well of Living Water that Jesus promised to all who believe.  It has also brought me to look at the wonderful promises we are given in the Bible of reconciliation with God through Christ.  It is through Jesus's sacrifice and victory over death that we are forgiven and brought into God's family.  God paid the ultimate price so we could be His.  I even challenged myself and my readers to consider what that means in how we live out our lives.  Do we live in a way that shows we believe that we are His?

My family recently went on a wonderful vacation to Washington DC.  One of our favorite Smithsonian museums was the National Museum of Natural History.  We visited three times in our week because there was so much there that we wanted to see!  On our last day in the city, we visited the butterfly exhibit at the Natural History museum.  I asked someone in the exhibit if the butterflies breed themselves, or if they had to continually buy the chrysalis to keep the exhibit going.  He explained that some of them do breed themselves and they don't have to replace them often, but some of the more exotic ones require plants that the FDA doesn't allow in the country so they need to buy them on a continual basis.  That got me thinking about our own spiritual transformation.  I know you have probably heard the idea of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly is similar to what God does to us when we are in Christ; however, it got me thinking about our spiritual diet.  You see, that transformation doesn't happen unless we have fed on the truth of God.  Without His truth we will spiritually die, but it is feeding on His truth that gives us life.  His truth is found in the Bible and daily reading it is what sustains us.  I can speak from my own experience that the more I read and learn, the more it transforms me living out the truth that I am His.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays and Still Saturday.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Everything You See Is Mine"

Genesis 31:43-55

Possession is an interesting thing, isn't it?  If one buys a home or a car with a loan, they can claim the item as theirs.  Yet, if they were to make every payment except the last one the bank would have the right to come and take back the item without giving any of the payments back even though the person paid a gross amount of interest (enough interest that far exceeds the last payment).  Something seems wrong with that, doesn't it?  But, that is the contract the lender and individual make with one another.  So, even though we claim the item is ours, technically it belongs to the bank and if we do not live up to our end of the bargain they can take back what they invested in.  On the flip side, I have also seen people sell their home and then get upset when the new homeowners make changes to the house.  I've even heard statements such as, "They changed our home!"  But it isn't theirs anymore, yet somehow we tend to still consider things our own even after we have passed it off and it rightfully belongs to someone else.  Today, the story I am looking at shows how the feeling of the right to possession causes problems between Laban and Jacob.  Please read Genesis 31:43-55.

God had told Jacob that it was time to go, and Jacob had to leave secretly because he knew Laban would try to stop him from leaving.  Jacob knew that Laban would try to stake claim in what he had rightfully earned and paid for.  Notice that Laban was still claiming everything was his in verse 43.  It didn't matter to him that Jacob had labored for 14 years for Leah and Rebekah, and it didn't matter to him that Jacob labored another six years and earned the cattle that he had.  In Laban's mind it was all his; however, he also knew that God had warned him not to harm Jacob.  Instead, he made a covenant before God with Jacob never to harm each other.

This story reminded me of the fact that we have an enemy who wants to stake claim in everything God created.  When you think about it, it is crazy that we could ever consider something as ours when God is the One who made it all.  However, we also chose to follow our own desires and sin against God, which is why the enemy wants to claim us as his.  But God, even thought He created everything, paid the greatest price to claim back what is His.  He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us and pay our punishment of death for us.  He rose again on the third day to show that He had victory even over death and He shares that victory with all who believe in Him.  I know that many of you already know and believe that truth; however, you are still living as though you belong to the enemy.  You do not have to believe his lies; you can live with your new life in Christ and fully know that you belong to Him.  He paid the greatest price for you and you are His.  Let the freedom of that truth transform your heart and lives so you can live like a child of God.  1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."  You belong to God...there is no better place to be!

Have you been transformed by the truth that you belong to God?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

God Will Protect

Genesis 31:22-42

Yesterday, I looked at how Jacob was in a very oppressive environment and God pulled him out of it.  In fact, Jacob had to flee from Laban's home when the opportunity arose.  Six years earlier he had told Laban that it was time to go and he continued to work for Laban because Laban kept changing the bargain they had made with one another.  He knew that if he told Laban that it was time to leave that Laban would change the bargain again and God said it was time now.  So, Jacob got everything together (including his flocks and cattle) and left while Laban was away.  We are picking up the story today when Laban finds out what Jacob has done; please read Genesis 31:22-42.

In these verses, we see that Laban takes relatives with him and makes a grand speech about how he would have sent Jacob off with a proper feast and instead he slipped away.  One thing I have experienced is that a person who can be oppressive to people sometimes knows when to put on the charm for others.  It is almost as if they know what they are doing is wrong and they don't want others to see what they are doing.  But God was not going to let Laban harm Jacob and warned him to leave Jacob alone.  Even with that said, Laban wanted to make sure that he could have destroyed Jacob.

You may find similar situations in your life, or maybe you are there.  I know I have been there!  We can be in the middle of harm's way even though we were following God's direction, but God steps in and doesn't allow our destruction.  It may not even seem that way when you are in the middle of it, but hind-sight always shows us how it could have been so much worse without God's protection.  I met a lady during a prayer session that I have not seen since, so I cannot name her to credit the following quote.  She said that when she knows that she is following God but finding herself in a dangerous situation, she tells herself, "I am invincible until God calls me home."  In other words, we are not leaving this earth until God decides it is time for us to come to our heavenly home.  Even though Laban didn't realize it, but he was confirming what God had already told Jacob - God was protecting him.  And when you are His child, you can know that His protection is on you as well.

Do you trust in God's protection?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday and the Grace Cafe.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Idols and Oppression

Genesis 31:1-21

While going through the book of Genesis, I read about Abraham and the call from God on his life to leave his home in Paddan-aram and go to Canaan.  There was no indication in the Bible that he was fleeing a bad circumstance; rather, he seemed to be leaving on peaceful terms.  Often when God calls us to a new place in our lives, it is peaceful just like that.  However, sometimes He is calling us to leave and it isn't easy and peaceful; there can be stressful situations that you may even feel like you are running from.  Sometimes God uses the bad situation to create discontent so we are willing to move on when He tells us, and other times He may be telling us to leave in order to protect us.  Genesis 30 tells us that Jacob was sensing that it was time to go; however, the verses we are reading today in Genesis show us that it was finally God that pushed Him on his way.  Please read Genesis 31:1-21.

Reading through these verses, I get a very strong sense of how oppressive the environment was for Jacob.  By this point in his life, he was not using deception to gain what he wanted because he was trusting God.  But that didn't make life easy for him, did it?  I think many of us have been there and it is hard to stay encouraged while in an oppressive environment.  Laban kept changing their agreement on Jacob's wages, yet God made him prosper anyway.  But even so, you have to admit that working in a place where the requirements kept changing to make it harder to prosper would be so discouraging.  Notice how the environment was so oppressive that he had to sneak out so Laban couldn't do any harm to him on his way out.

Have you ever wondered what caused Laban to react in this way toward Jacob?  Notice what verse 19 says - Rachel stole her father's household idols on their way out.  Okay, there are couple of things wrong in that verse with the first being that Rachel stole from her father.  That is something that we will see comes back to her later.  But, remember that Laban was part of the family of Abraham and Sarah!  They had the same grandfather.  These are people who are direct descendants of Noah and were raised to fear God.  Why did he have idols?  Somehow, the culture surrounding him influenced him and he allowed the idols in his home.  Who knows the origin?  We are not told.  It could have been a servant or a wife or even a friend.  The point is, because his heart was in other things he began to love other things.  The things in his life became more important than the people in his life.

Boy, that is a scary thought, isn't it?  This reminds me of how important it is to protect our hearts and keep them for God.  God is love and when we are living for Him, we are living in love.  That love will compel us to care more about others than our things.  Look, anything can become an idol in our life if it is put in place of God.  When our focus changes toward pleasing the desire for that item, we have put it in God's place and it has become an idol.  It doesn't have to be a thing, it can be something with deeper roots such as comfort, pride, or self-reliance.  For Laban, the result was bitterness toward Jacob because God was blessing him with the things Laban desired most.  This caused him to bring heavy oppression on Jacob and I believe even himself.

Consider your hearts for a moment and ask God to reveal if you have idols in His place.  Are they items that have caused you consider them above God and others?  Do they bring a form of oppression over you and the people that surround you?  God can heal your heart!

This post is linked with Word-Filled Wednesday and iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Water and Stripes

Genesis 30:25-43

I have had the blessed opportunity to just spend a good portion of Monday with God which was so refreshing and cathartic.  Part of that time was writing yesterday's post, and some of it was going through the study my small group is doing.  I also had some time in prayer and time to listen to what God was telling me and some time in worship.  He broke my heart about things in me that need to change but He also gave me an overwhelming joy and hope in His forgiveness and mercy.  Some of what He did in me was to continue on with the post I wrote yesterday, so if you have not read Monday's post please read it here; it will give you some background to what I am writing about today.  I am continuing to look at Genesis 30:25-43, and even if you read it yesterday please read it again to refresh your mind.

Looking back at the power of faith affecting what we believe about ourselves, I want to consider again the idea of the well from which we draw our water - which should be the Living Water Christ promised to us.  Jacob was building his flock with striped wood by peeling strips of bark off sticks.  He would place these pieces of striped wood in their drinking water where they mated and as a result the sheep would give birth to sheep with streaks and spots.  Because of Laban's dishonesty with their agreement, Jacob did this to claim what was rightfully his.  So, in a sense Jacob was bringing back to him that which belonged to him.

Does the idea of stripes sound at all familiar to you?  Let me take you on a trail of verses for a moment that show so much significance to this idea.  Please read Isaiah 53:4-6, which is prophecy about Jesus, and I want you to pay attention in particular to the wording of the New King James version in verse 5.  "...and by His stripes we are healed."  This word in Hebrew is chabbuwrah and can be translated as wound, blow or stripe.  Jesus was beaten and wounded for us before going on the cross, which included being striped (or whipped).  Please read John 19:1-3.  Also remember that it was on a wooden cross on which Jesus died.  But Jesus spoke of the importance of His death and leaving the earth so that we could receive the Holy Spirit in John 16:5-15.  And it is through all of Christ's sacrifice that we are brought back to the One to whom we belong (1 Peter 2:23-25).  It is through His stripes that we are able to receive the Living Water He promised to all who ask.  How humbling it is that He did all that to claim all that was His!

Be blessed in that truth today.

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Power of Faith

Genesis 30:25-43

There is a strong connection between how we behave and what we believe about ourselves.  Basically, we are who we believe we are.  What we believe about ourselves may not be the truth; however, we will behave in a way that matches what we believe.  For example, if a woman believes that she doesn't deserve a good husband because of her family or her past she will date men who are disrespectful and maybe even abusive.  So, that woman lives out her belief about herself even though it isn't true.  The story we are looking at today is about Jacob's expertise in animal husbandry and his desire to leave Laban's home to return to his homeland and provide for his family, which may not seem related to what we believe, but stick with me!  Please read Genesis 30:25-43.

This story intrigues me on many levels.  First, we see that Laban understands that he is being blessed through Jacob and he doesn't want Jacob to leave.  Second, we see that Jacob was willing to trust God and His provision by just asking Laban to let him leave.  We can see how much Jacob's faith has grown because of his encounter with God in the wilderness.  Jacob chose to believe the promise God gave him and we see him living it out in these verses.  Part of God's blessing on Jacob's life was an excellent understanding on animal husbandry.  In these verses we see that Jacob uses his knowledge in order to bypass Laban's deceitfulness.  And, I know this may sound odd, but I want to focus in on the goat and sheep that were breeding under Jacob's care.

I was perplexed as to how Jacob's methods would produce animals that were spotted or striped.  All he did was placed striped pieces of branches in the female's water when they were ready to mate.  I have searched for the answer to why this works, and basically there is no modern scientific basis for this.  I couldn't find any research done on the matter; however I found a lot of debates!  Some people say that the sticks had nothing to do with it and it was all God, while others believe that maybe there was a chemical reaction in the water.  Many Bible commentaries wrote that there was a belief in the power of suggestion while animals were mating.  If the sheep saw the stripes in the water while they were drinking, the power of the imagination would produce striped sheep.  No one really knows; however, it worked.  We do know that God's blessing was on Jacob and He made it work.  But the power of suggestive thinking got me thinking about who we believe we are.

The world likes to tell us who we are and we have an enemy who wants to tell us who we are.  But, the reality is that we have a Creator who is really the only one who truly knows who we are.  After all, He created us!  Yet, we often choose to believe the lies of the enemy instead.  Why is that?  Perhaps it has something to do with the water we are drinking.  Before you laugh, I'm not suggesting the water that comes out of our tap; I'm suggesting the the well from which we nourish our hearts.  Are we choosing to go to a well of impure water that produces impure thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, or are we choosing to draw from God's well that gives us "living water?"  (John 4:1-42; John 7:37-39)  Are we listening to the Holy Spirit's guidance that will always tell us the truth?  What is the truth about ourselves that we can believe and live out?  We can believe that we are God's children (Galatians 3:26), we are chosen by God and are His special possession and His royalty (2 Peter 2:9), we are beautiful (Isaiah 61:2-4), and we are so much more in Christ but we must draw from His well of living water to learn these truths.  The more we draw from His well, the more we will believe and live out His truths about us.

What well are you drinking from?

This post is linked with Monday Musings and Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Better Than Life

Psalm 63

As I was praying this morning, I was overwhelmed by the fact that God gave me life to live here on this planet.  How amazed I am that He wanted me to exist.  But even better, through Christ He has given me the promise of eternal life.  It is amazing that not only did He want me to exist, but He loves me so much that He wants me to live with Him forever.  That truth belongs to you as well - God wanted you to exist and He wants you to believe by faith in the gift of eternal life you have through Jesus.  Think on that truth and be blessed.  But knowing that truth also makes me long to know Him more as well.  Read what David wrote at a time in his life when he was hiding in Psalm 63.

Psalm 63:3 (NLT) says, "Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!"  So even better than the fact that we exist is God's unfailing love!  This is so true because His love is what made us exist and His love is what gives us mercy and the hope of eternal life.  In John 15:12-14 (NLT) Jesus says, "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command."  Jesus did lay His life down for us because He loved us so much that He bore our sin and shame.  He paid our penalty.  But He also conquered death by rising to life on the 3rd day.  It is His victory over death that He shares with us so we can have eternal life with Him.  In the same way, He wants us to be willing to die to ourselves and preferences out of our love for Him.  We should be loving each other, being willing to consider others over ourselves.  This is because God's unfailing love is better than life itself!

Do you believe that God's love is better than life?

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Motives and Intentions

Genesis 30:25-30

I've had a few jobs where I've had to make phone calls that I knew would be difficult because no matter what my intentions were, I knew the information would not be received well.  But, they were also calls I knew I would have to do because it was the right thing to do.  Don't you hate those kind of circumstances?  You know what is right and what should be done; however, you also know that it isn't going to be easy.  One phone call in particular, I had to consider the best interest of multiple people where the person on the other end was only considering themselves, which made the conversation even more difficult.  I remember having to remind the person that we needed to consider the other people and needed to treat them well, but the person on the other end of the phone line wanted only what would suit their interest.  I remember feeling frustrated and tired at the end of the phone call, but also relieved in knowing that I had finished a difficult task.  I am looking at just a few verses today, that has a similar issue: one person has honest and just motives and the other wants what is best for themselves.  Please read Genesis 30:25-30.

In these verses, we see that Jacob wanted to return to his homeland.  If you remember, Jacob had a moment with God that changed him forever.  From that moment on, Jacob knew that no matter what, God was with him.  We can see the evidence of that faith in these verses.  The first indicator is that he calls Canaan his "own homeland," even though his family were living as strangers in the land.  But he believed in the promise that God had given him.  He knew that this land would one day belong to his family.  The other indicator was that Jacob didn't demand anything from Laban, he just asked to be able to take his family and go.  He could have demanded more since he had worked longer than their bargain; however, Jacob seemed to trust that God would provide for him.  Jacob just wanted to live on his own and provide for his own family in the land God promised him.

Laban, on the other hand, seemed to have his own motives in the conversation.  Notice that Laban recognized that since Jacob had begun working for him God blessed his household.  The NLT leaves out the phrase, "please stay," but notice it is in the NIV.  This phrase is in the Hebrew text and shows us some of Laban's motivation.  His response to Jacob showed that he was thinking more of his own fortune than what would be best for Jacob and his family.  If Jacob left, who knew what would become of the wealth that he gained?

Even though we are not finishing this story today, it is important to remember that no matter what the motives of the people around us are, God has a plan for each and every one of us.  We can trust that even if we are surrounded by people who have motives that please only their own desires, God is with us.  We need to keep our focus on the truth that He loves us and is faithful, which will help keep our motives pure when we are in a difficult situation.  We don't need to be intimidated by a person who seems more powerful, we can continue to be honest and do what God wants us to do.

Are you motivated by God's desires?   Do you trust that He knows what is best and is faithful?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jealousy

Genesis 30:1-24

Jealousy is an ugly beast that we are warned to keep our distance from it.  There are so many horrible things that happen because of jealousy and we need to be careful to not let it take root in our hearts.  It is hard; however, when we are working hard and we see someone rising to the top so much easier or seeming to have the perfect life.  But don't forget, we really do not know what it is like to be in someone else's shoes and what may seem perfect can be a life full of great pain or difficulty.  This morning I am looking at Rachel's jealousy of Leah and her sons.  Please read Genesis 30:1-24.

Verse one reminds us that Rachel wasn't able to have children and she became jealous of her sister.  I want to stop right there and think back on some facts that I observed earlier in the week.  Laban tricked Jacob after seven years of work and gave him Leah even though he loved Rachel.  But Jacob agreed to work for another seven years so he could have Rachel.  Jacob was so deeply in love with Rachel that he was willing to work for Laban for fourteen years.  Jacob never asked for Leah and she was unloved by him and she knew it.  God saw her pain and gave her four sons, which brought out the monster of jealousy in Rachel.  Rachel was the one that Jacob desired; she was the one he loved.  But she forgot that in her misery of having no children and became jealous.  The following verses show us how Rachel and Leah competed with one another by having children through their servants and eventually each having children on their own.

It is important to remember that God loves each and every one of us and He blesses each and every one of us in different ways.  God knows what each one of us needs and remembering that truth can allow us to concentrate on our relationship with Him rather than looking at what other people have.  If we focus on how God blessed someone with something and become jealous, we will lose sight of everything He has given us.  But it is hard when we see people around us with the very thing that we desire, such as a child.  But remember, God wants us to desire Him more than anything in the world.  When we seek God with all our heart, it guards us from the jealousy that wants to stir up our hearts.

Is God your number one desire?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday and the Grace Cafe.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Unloved

Genesis 29:28-35

There was a period in my childhood where I struggled with feeling lonely.  I had changed schools and seemed to not fit in anywhere at my new school.  In fact, the one person who seemed to be my best friend ended up betraying me and hurting me deeply.  It was horrible to feel friendless and I look back at what a lonely time that was for me.  It was only for one school year because the next year I found some friends that I had a lot in common and began to feel like I fit in more.  But some people go for years feeling unloved.  The story I am reading today breaks my heart because it shows the pain that Leah felt as she was unloved by her husband.  Please turn to Genesis 29:28-35.

Jacob had worked for seven years to marry Rachel and instead, Laban tricked him and gave him Leah.  Jacob and Laban made another deal that he could have Rachel after the bridal week if he agreed to work another seven years for Laban.  So, just think of poor Leah in this situation.  She knew that Jacob had agreed to marry Rachel and I'm sure she knew that he would be unhappy to find out that he married her instead.  She only had one week with her husband before he married the person he loved, so she really never had a chance to win over his affection.  Verse 31 tells us that God saw that she was unloved.  That verse is very heart-breaking because this was a life commitment and she was unloved.  But at the same time, this verse is also beautiful because we see that God noticed and stepped in.

The one thing that is really sticking out at me this morning is where Leah staked her hope.  Notice that each time a child was born, she hoped that meant that Jacob would finally love her.  She thought that by giving Jacob some sons he would find her acceptable.  But notice what she says after her fourth child, Judah, was born: "Now I will praise the Lord!"  I wonder if her heart changed.  I wonder if she realized that her husband may not love her, but God loved her.  I wonder if she finally realized that it was God's love that made her complete.  I wonder if it hit her that God saw her pain and was ministering to her all along.  Whether or not that reality hit home with her, that reality is true.  She was loved dearly by God.

This world brings us pain and sometimes we can feel all alone in our pain; however, we are not alone.  We are loved by God and we are never alone.  God sees our pain and He ministers to us in our pain.  We may not recognize His love right away, but His love is never-ending and He is always faithful.  Nothing can ever separate us from His love and we need to let that truth sink deep down in our hearts and take root.  Romans 8:35 (NLT) says, "Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?"  Paul answers this question in Romans 8:38 (NLT), "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."  I will even add...we cannot do anything that will separate us from God's love.  That is a powerful truth!  You are loved by God and there is nothing in this universe that will ever stop that.

Do you feel unloved today?  Do you believe that God loves you?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday and iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

His Own Medicine

Genesis 29:14-30

There are phrases that we use such as, "Like father, like son," or "The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree," to explain the behavior or idiosyncrasies that seem to be passed on from parent to child.  It is always interesting to be at family gatherings to see such behavior for a couple of generations across the extended family.  For example, there are some verbal and facial expressions that my mom uses that I also see and hear when I'm around my aunt and uncle.  My husband says that every now and then I have a facial expression that looks just like my brother.  I can see it in my husband's family and extended family as well.  We can read the Old Testament and see similar patterns of behavior among generations.  The story I am looking at today makes me think of this because of Laban's opening line in verse 14; please read Genesis 29:14-30.

Laban said, "You really are my own flesh and blood!" when he heard Jacob's story.  This made me wonder, was he referring to some of the facts that add up to the truth of his grandfather being Abraham?  Or, was he referring to Jacob's and Rebekah's deception?  I chuckle as I think through the second option; however, I do seriously wonder if that was what he was responding to.  Either way, reading through this story we can see that Jacob wasn't too different from his uncle with how they operated.  They were not always being straight-forward, and Jacob was used to being on the side that benefited from the deception.  However, this time he was working with someone who had been around the block a few more times than himself and found himself on the loosing side.

Jacob had worked for seven years to earn his right to be Rachel's husband only to find himself with her older sister, Leah.  You may be wondering how he couldn't have noticed this the night before, but it was tradition for the bride to be covered in a veil so the man would not be able to see her until she was his.  Knowing this, she was probably covered throughout the ceremony and banquet and we are told that it was dark when Laban led her to Jacob.  Laban promised Jacob Rachel after the bridal week was over; however, Jacob would have to work for him for another seven years.  This is where we see how great Jacob's love was for Rachel; he agreed to work for Laban another seven years!  Later this week, we will see how Laban's deceptive traits would show up again.

We have no choice what family we are born into, and it is difficult to control idiosyncrasies that we pick up from past generations.  We cannot control what we look like unless we want to spend thousands of dollars on surgery.  But, when we choose to follow Christ, we become a part of God's family.  All of a sudden we are bound to God's character, and the Holy Spirit working in us changes us so that our behavior reflects more and more of Him.  This is an encouraging and important truth: while the world may care about who your physical family is, God cares about your spiritual lineage more.  As God changes us, our character reflects whose family we belong to.  We will be known as His child because His character will be shining through us.  What is one of the character traits we should be showing?  Love.  Jesus said in John 13:34-35 (NLT), "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."  Displaying God's love is the number one character trait that will show the world whose we are; this is because God is Love.

Does your behavior show God's character?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Journey

Genesis 29:1-14

My family went on a vacation to Washington DC recently which is about a seven and half hour trip from where we live.  It was a beautiful trip to get there and the kids were very well-behaved in the car.  We broke the trip into two days since we were not able to leave until the afternoon which allowed us to get to our hotel and let the kids (and me and my husband) have fun in the pool.  Making it to our destination the next day brought a sense of relief and excitement and even though we arrived at our hotel in Alexandria around noon, we immediately left on the Metro to get into the city.  I think of longer trips I've endured such as the flight to Zambia with a migraine and once again feeling relief to finally make it to our destination.  When we are on a journey, there is a sense of comfort to know that we made it to our destination even if the destination is unfamiliar territory.  Last week, I looked at the story of Jacob stealing Esau's blessing and the consequences that had for the entire family.  I also read about Jacob's flight to his uncle's home and the encouragement and revelation God gave Jacob along the way.  Today I am picking up the story where he finds Laban's home; please read Genesis 29:1-14.

When Jacob arrived at the well, he had a sense that he may have finally found where he needed to be.  He inquired about his uncle Laban with the nearby shepherds and met his cousin, Rachel.  Notice his reaction when he met Rachel.  First he showed respect to her and Laban by watering the flock even though it was against tradition and then he wept as he introduced himself to her.  Looking back on the reason he left home and traveled to Laban's home in the first place reminds of why he was so emotional.  His brother, Esau was so angry with him that he vowed to kill Jacob, so in a sense he was fleeing for his life.  God met Jacob on his journey and promised him safety and told him that he would fulfill the promise given to Abraham through him.    But there was still an incredible sense of relief to know that he had made it to his destination and his journey was done for now.  Also consider that Jacob hadn't ever been on such a journey and we are told in Genesis 25:27 that Jacob preferred to stay at home.

When we are following Christ, we are taken on spiritual journeys as well.  Sometimes the journey is pleasant and it is like a vacation where we are taken to a destination that brings us a time of rest, but other times it is a hard journey and we really do not know what lies ahead.  We may even experience God's presence in our lives in a fresh new way during the journey; however, it is still long and hard.  But the journey is necessary to bring us to where God wants us.  After such a difficult journey, we find ourselves arriving to unfamiliar territory but we still find relief knowing that the journey is done for now.  You may be on a difficult journey right now, but know that God is with you and will see that you arrive to the destination He has planned for you.  Maybe you are in unfamiliar territory, but take comfort in the fact that God has you where He wants you.

Are you on a journey right now, or have you arrived to a new place?

This post is linked with Monday Musings and Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meeting God

Example of standing stone.
Genesis 28:10-22

It seems that just when I need it the most, God makes His presence known to me and I see how He is with me.  Sometimes He does this through Bible study, sometimes it is in a sermon, sometimes He uses a person to speak His truth to me, and sometimes I feel Him speaking it to my heart.  No matter what method God has used to speak His faithfulness to me, it grows my faith and I find myself in a new place in my relationship with Him.  All week I have read about Jacob's decision to steal Esau's blessing and the ensuing consequences and today I want to look at an important moment in Jacob's relationship with God.  This is a moment that completely changed his life and his faith in God.  Please read Genesis 28:10-22.

Jacob had begun a trip to Paddan-aram, where his relatives lived.  The main reason for this was because he had to flee his brother's wrath and desire to kill him, but Isaac also gave him a blessing to inherit the promise given to Abraham and to find a wife at his grandfather's house.  I'm sure given the circumstances surrounding Jacob's journey, he had fear.  Fear of his brother, fear for his safety on such a long trip, and fear of never seeing his family again.  But God knew his fears and met him in that place.  God let Jacob know that He would be with him and see the promised fulfilled through Jacob.  God let Jacob know that His safety would cover him.  Verse 17 also tells us that his fear of the physical things changed to a fear of the knowledge of God.  He experienced the majesty of God and had a respectful fear.  But notice his reaction!  He erected a stone and named the place Bethel, meaning the house of God.  He marked this place as a place that God had visited.  But he also declared his faith in God and promised a tithe of one tenth of all that was his to God throughout his life.

God wants us to know Him as our One and Only God.  He wants us to understand His amazing majesty and glory as much as our human minds can comprehend and declare our lives for Him.  He wants to replace the fear we have of things that cannot destroy our spirits with a fear of the One who created us.  This is a fear that recognizes that He is greater than anything else in this universe, yet it doesn't make us cower when we are in Christ; it makes us worship Him.  We may face incredible opposition in this world; however, the world cannot destroy our spirits.  Romans 8:38-39 (NLT) says, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Praise God!  His love sustains us and frees us and we will never be separated from His love.

Have you replace your fears of the world with God's love?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Consequences

Genesis 27:41 - 28:9

In order to get my music therapy degree, I needed to study a little of psychology while in college.  The school I went to had a focus on Behavioral Psychology, so I learned a lot about that school of thought.  One of the premises behind Behavioral Psychology is that we all learn and respond to rewards and punishment (or consequences).  I learned that positive rewards seemed to elicit the response the researchers were seeking better than a negative consequence.  In other words, people were much more motivated to do what was expected of them if they knew there was something positive at the end.  The fear of a negative consequence motivated some people, but the results definitely leaned toward the effectiveness of the positive reward.  The problem is, in the real world there will always be some type of response to our actions whether positive or negative.  The response may be so small that we hardly notice it, but there is still some type of reaction to all of our decisions.  All this week, I have looked at the story of Jacob stealing Esau's blessing and focused primarily on the decisions we make.  Today, I want to take a look at the consequences that happened as a result of both Jacob's and Esau's decisions in Genesis 27; please read Genesis 27:41 - 28:9.  I ask for your patience as well because there are so many amazing points that could be brought out in these verses but I want to focus on just a few.  So, if I seem to wander every now and then I apologize!

These verses follow the story of Jacob stealing Esau's blessing by tricking their father Isaac with with their mother Rebekah's help.  Yesterday, I looked at how Esau was very upset and quickly began to blame Jacob for losing his birthright and I explored how we need to be careful to accept responsibility for our own decisions.  I also looked briefly at what Isaac spoke over Esau - he would serve Jacob and live by the sword but would eventually break free from Jacob's yoke.  In these first few verses, we can see how Esau was already allowing his anger toward Jacob control him.  He made the decision that once Isaac died, he would kill his brother.  In a sense, he was already under Jacob's yoke because he was being controlled by his desire for revenge.  He threw everything out the window of what he knew was right and wrong and became a slave to the hatred he had toward Jacob.

Rebekah heard about this plot and had Isaac send Jacob away to her brother's home.  At that point, Isaac gave Jacob another blessing to inherit the promise God gave to Abraham and warned him not to marry a Canaanite woman.  Jacob's desire to steal Esau's blessing had serious consequences for himself!  He now was in danger of Esau's desire to kill him and had to leave his home.  Both brothers were facing unpleasant consequences for their behavior - Esau was ruled by hatred toward Jacob and Jacob had to leave his home of 40 years.  One other interesting twist was that Esau finally realized the affect his Canaanite wives had on his family and went to his uncle, Ishmael to marry one of his daughters.  But notice that he still didn't take care of the real issue - he had Canaanite wives.  He merely added an acceptable wife to the wives he already had.

When we do something to please our human nature, we will face consequences.  When we try to do God's job, such as Jacob and Rebekah tricking Isaac, there will be consequences.  I'm not saying that we will never have problems when we are in line with God, because when we do what He wants it will make some people unhappy.  But, we can also humbly turn back to God and receive His forgiveness.  But this also means that we need to turn away from what is displeasing to God.  We cannot add something good and pleasing to God while we keep the things that displease Him.  Oh, that truth hurts!  It is a lot easier to add something nice in our lives and not sacrifice something that pleases ourselves.  But God wants us to make more room in our hearts for Him by sacrificing our human desires and then fill it with Him.

Are you facing consequences?  Have you been willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order for God to fill you with more of His love?

This post is linked with the Grace Cafe and Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Is Your Priority?

Genesis 27:30-40

I have made decisions that I look back on and wonder why I made that choice.  If I am completely honest with myself, it can be traced back to the fact that my priorities were not in the right order.  When we see our mistakes we have to be very careful not to assign blame to someone else.  This week, I have been reading through the story of Jacob stealing Esau's blessing and have explored Jacob's deception; however, today I want to focus a little on Esau's reaction.  Please read Genesis 27:30-40.

Before getting too harsh on Esau, we have to admit that this would have been a horrible turn of events.  This was a family of great faith and they believed that the blessing a father gave to his children was binding and would be fulfilled by God.  When reading through the blessing, it seemed to be prophetic in nature as well.  It is very obvious that Isaac was very upset when he realized what had happened, yet he also seemed to accept that God allowed it to happen.  I wonder if this is because he remembered what God had told Rebekah so many years before; the older would serve the younger.  This is because when Isaac does give Esau a "blessing," he makes reference to the fact that he would serve his brother.  But it is interesting because there is also a clause put in place that he would eventually break free from his brother's yoke.  Tomorrow, we will look at the beginning of the yoke Esau bears.

One thing that really caught my attention was the fact that Esau blames his brother for all that has gone wrong.  He was right that Jacob stole his blessing; however, notice in verse 36 that he claims that Jacob took his birthright as well.  When reading through that story in Genesis 25, that is not exactly the way it played out.  Genesis 25:33 tells us that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for some stew.  Jacob was being underhanded the way he asked Esau to give him his birthright, but the fact remains that Esau agreed to it.  Even though Esau was very hungry after being on a hunt, I find it hard to believe that there was no other food around that he could have had to help with his hunger.  But there are other clues in the life of Esau where he had made decisions that had already shown that his priorities were a little out of place.  He had married two Hittite women, even though he had probably heard the story of his ancestors many times over.  I'm sure at some point in his life (he was forty when he got married) that he had heard how careful Abraham was to make sure that Isaac didn't marry a local woman.

It is so important that we accept responsibility for making decisions based on our priorities being out of place!  The mistakes I have made happened when I put my own desires in front of God's and in order to learn from that, I need to accept that reality.  The wonderful thing is the gift of grace we are promised through Christ; we are forgiven when we accept and believe that Jesus is our Lord.

What priority is your decision making based on?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop and Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What About Trusting God's Timing?

Genesis 27:18-29

No matter how big or little, one deception will always lead to another.  There are a few reasons why this happens with one reason being that once we go down that path it isn't too difficult to do it again.  Another reason is because we have to tell another lie to cover the first lie.  I started looking at the story of Jacob taking Esau's blessing by tricking Isaac.  Isaac was very old and blind at this point and decided it was time to give Esau his blessing because he was the firstborn.  The two were twins; however, Esau was born first.  Rebekah told Jacob that she would cook the meal that Isaac requested of Esau and help Jacob trick his father by wearing a goat skin and Esau's good clothes.  Jacob decided to go through with Rebekah's plan, which is where I left off yesterday.  Please read Genesis 27:18-29 to read further into the story.

We can see Isaac's doubt of Jacob's identity throughout these verses.  I counted 4 times where Isaac verbalized his doubt, but he also behaved in a way that signaled his doubt as well such as asking who he thought was Esau to come kiss him.  The thing that finally convinced him that Jacob was Esau was the smell of Esau's clothing.  Because Esau verbalized his doubt so many times, it required Jacob to lie many times.  He had to lie about getting the food so fast and lie about his identity.  He was deceptive when he allowed his father to believe that the goat skin was Esau's hairy arms and was deceptive again by wearing Esau's clothing.  All the way around, the deception was great and caused great problems between him and Esau.

God had originally told Rebekah that Jacob would be through whom the promise would be fulfilled.  Part of me wonders how things would have been different if everyone waited for God to step in and make it happen.  After all, God had already said that the older would serve the younger (Genesis 25:23).  This is something that is so difficult for us humans because we like to make things happen rather than wait for things to happen.  In fact, in our culture today if a person doesn't work hard to make something happen they may be considered lazy or unproductive.  I'm not condoning sitting around and doing nothing; however, I think we need to remember that if God promised it, we also have to trust that He has a plan to make it happen.  Instead Rebekah and Jacob chose to do something that would have severe repercussions that we will look into in the next couple of days.  I wonder what would have happened if they trusted God's timing in the situation if the repercussions wouldn't have been so great.  We also need to trust that when we are given a promise by God that we don't need to make it happen; God will make it happen!  We just need to follow His lead and direction.

Do you trust that God will fulfill His promises to you?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Motivation To Do What Is Right

Genesis 26:34 - 27:17

If you are like me, you have probably looked back and wondered what you were thinking when you made some choices.  Part of the reason you look back and shake your head is because you are now a bit older and have learned some things along the way and would now never make the choice you made then.  Another reason is because God has changed your heart and things that were acceptable years ago would never be acceptable now.  It is interesting that we do things out of our human nature that seems perfectly natural and we don't think of how it is displeasing God.  But when we give our lives over to Him and He changes us, our focus changes to how we can please Him rather than pleasing our own human desires.  Today, I am continuing on through Genesis and I am looking at a decision that Jacob makes that brings tension between himself and his brother, Esau.  Please turn to Genesis 26:34 - 27:17.

The first poor decision I want to point out is that Esau chose two of the Hittite women to be his wives.  We are told that this becomes a source of grief for Isaac and Rebekah.  We are not told exactly what they did that caused grief; however, I'm sure that their customs were different from how Isaac and Rebekah were raised.  In fact, when it came time for Isaac to be married, Abraham made sure that Isaac wouldn't marry someone from the area; he had to marry someone from Abraham's family.  This was probably to ensure that he would be marrying someone who honored God.  I am pointing this out now because it is something that I will come back to in a few days.  But this also shows that a decision we make that we feel is only affecting ourselves always has an affect on others.

Going on in these verses, we read that Isaac was ready to give Esau his blessing.  This was an important ritual that was part of their culture.  The oldest in the family would receive a blessing by their father before he passed on.  If you have been following along with me in Genesis, you will remember that last week we looked at the fact that Jacob easily took Esau's birthright, which meant that he would be receiving the inheritance left by his father.  So, now Rebekah was planning a way for Jacob to have Esau's blessing.  The thing that caught my attention the most in this story is Jacob's reaction to his mother's plan.  She wanted Jacob to receive the blessing, so she planned a way to trick Isaac into believing that Jacob was Esau.  Jacob's reaction was not, "That would be wrong!  I can't deceive my father that way!"  No, his reaction was, "But he will know it is me because of my smooth skin."  The idea that he would be deceiving his father wasn't the big issue for him, it was the fear that he would receive a curse instead of a blessing if he got caught.

That motivation could have caused him to make a decision to not follow along with this plan; however, since Rebekah removed that fear he went along with it.  This is where our motives play an important part in our decision making.  Are we motivated by the desire to please God, or are we motivated by our sinful desires?  If the motivation is to please God, no matter what obstacles are removed to please our human desires, we will make the choice to please God.  However, if our motives are to please our human desires, we will go in the direction of least resistance.  This means that we will easily follow a path that will allow us to please our human nature as soon as we see a path open.  Our definition of right and wrong will not match God's, it will match what gives our human nature pleasure.  James 1:14-15 (NLT) says, "Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death."  Our human desires will lead us to sin; however, we can choose to be motivated by our desire to please our Creator.

Do you desire to please your human nature or God?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Truly Free

I recently read the book, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.  She tells the story of how she and her family were involved in hiding Jews while in Nazi occupied Holland.  It is an amazing story of faith that allowed them to do what God wanted despite the possible outcome.  They eventually get caught; however most of the family is let go except Corrie and her sister.  They find themselves in a concentration camp and she writes of some of her experiences but more so of the work God did in her heart throughout the ordeal.  It is a story I was familiar with but had never read the book.  Reading the book was amazing because of the many miracles she mentions and how God showed her that He was with her and would help her through.

As we were celebrating Independence Day in America this week, I thought about how it is so true that for those of us who know and follow Christ, we truly are free.  This is a freedom that surpasses all other human freedoms because it is a spiritual freedom.  Corrie Ten Boom was not free by human standards; however, she was certainly free from a very real bondage.  When we are in Christ, we can all be free of things like: hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, sin, anger, fear, and so much more.  All those things lead to a spiritual death; however, in Christ we are freed from all those and given life instead.  In John 8:36 (NLT) Jesus said, "So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free."

Are you exercising the freedom we have in Christ?

You are invited to read my post at Seeds of Faith Women.

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Don't Give Up the Vision!

Genesis 26:12-25

Sometimes God has given us a dream or call and then we face opposition in our progress toward that dream.  When we face those times it can be difficult to understand what is happening.  Maybe that opposition comes in the form of naysayers where people don't see in you what God has planned for you.  In fact, they may try to discourage you from doing exactly what you have been called to do.  The opposition may come in the form of road blocks such as financial difficulty or what seems like a lost opportunity.  But know this: when God has given you a calling, if you are following His direction there is NOTHING that can stop it from happening.  Isaac faced some opposition that seemed to be opposite of what God had told Abraham, but God gave him the encouragement that he needed.  Please read Genesis 26:12-25.

In these verses, we see that Isaac prospered under God's blessing.  But it was that very blessing that also seemed to cause problems for him because he was becoming extremely wealthy.  The Philistines didn't like this and they began to fill up his wells with dirt - the very wells Abraham had dug up.  King Abimelech basically kicked him out of the country and Isaac continued to face opposition until he was able to dig up a well at Rehoboth.  As I read through these verses, I thought of how discouraging this must have been for Isaac because all this land was part of the promise God gave Abraham.  I'm sure Isaac had to be wondering when it would finally happen, yet he pressed on.  But notice that God gave him the encouragement that he desperately needed.

If you have been following along with me, you may notice that God's encouragement sounded very similar to the encouragement he gave Isaac found at the beginning of Genesis 26.  God reminded Isaac that He was with him so there was no need to fear.  Consider for a moment what you are facing right now that may seem discouraging and remember the call that God gave you.  Maybe you are facing an opposition that seems scary; however, God wants you to remember that He is with you.  He is greater than anything the world will throw at you, even if the opposition seems so great.  He sees in you more than anyone else sees in you because He sees Christ in you.  He sees the work that is possible for you to accomplish through the power of the Holy Spirit.  So, when you face road blocks and naysayers remember that it is not your power or ability that your calling will be achieved; it is through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Don't be discouraged for God is with you.

Are you facing opposition?  Remember you are not alone!

This post is linked with Faith Filled Fridays.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Like Father, Like Son

Genesis 26:1-11

Every now and then, I will find myself doing or saying something my mother would do or say.  I know I probably do it more than I realize because it is just a part of who I am.  It is even more amazing to me when I see my husband doing or saying something just like his dad would do or say.  Especially when it is something that he never did before but seems to be something that comes as he gets older.  There are mistakes that I have made that I hope my children do not make and I try to warn them about those mistakes.  The story I am looking at today is a similar story that we looked at while we read about the life of Abraham.  Please turn to Genesis 26:1-11.

In these verses, we see that God had spoken to Isaac and warned him not to go into Egypt, but to stay in Gerar.  Does the name Abimelech sound familiar to you?  If you have been following along with me, you may remember that Abilmelech, king of the Philistines almost slept with Sarah and was warned by God in a dream not to sleep with her.  I don't know if this is the same Abimelech because it may be that he was the son of Abimelech or another ruler using the same name; however, it could possibly be the same since we do not know his age when he had his encounter with Abraham.  There are some things to consider no matter who Abimelch is.

First, notice that he looked out his window and noticed Isaac caressing Rebekah.  Just the idea that he looked out his window shows us that they were near his residence.  It could just be that Isaac was given the privilege of proximity to the king because of his wealth, or it could also be because of his father's history with Abimelech.  Either way, we see that Isaac was welcomed enough in the land to be able to be close to the king's residence.  The other thing that catches my attention is the fact that Abimelech reacted strongly to the fact that Isaac could have caused someone to sin greatly.  It makes me wonder if that reaction was so strong because he remembered what God had said to him so many years ago.  Keep in mind, for all of this to be the same Abimelech, he would have to be a very old man at this point.  It could be his son who knew all these stories and learned from his father.

No matter how we look at it, Isaac reacted in a similar situation as his father reacted.  And we also see that whoever Abimelech is, he reacted in the same way as the Abimelech of Abraham's time.  There is something to be said for the way we are raised and the impression we leave for our own children.  I also know that a person could  be raised in a way that was ungodly and they are able to change because of the Holy Spirit working in them when they believe in Jesus.  We don't have to be just like our parents, because the Holy Spirit is changing us to be like Christ.  Our reactions become more Christ-like the more we depend on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do genetics or the Holy Spirit dictate how you react to your circumstances?

This post is linked with the Grace Cafe and Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom and Birthright

Genesis 25:24-34

I was born the youngest in my family, yet I don't feel like I was left out of anything in my family.  In fact, while many things were experienced by my older brother and sister before me, there have been some things that I got to experience first.  In American culture today, birth order doesn't dictate our future or what opportunities lay before us.  There are other sub-cultures in America that would find birth order very important; however, it is not the underlying culture.  It is interesting that I am thinking about such things as it is Independence Day, which is the United States of America's celebration of freedom.  But while we humans have an idea of what it is like to live in freedom, God has His own idea of what freedom means.  So, while we in the USA express our freedom with our human eyes, let's take a look and consider the freedom God has in mind.  Please read Genesis 25:24-34.

Yesterday, I looked at how God told Rebekah she was pregnant with twins - two nations.  She was also told that the older would serve the younger.  Today, we read how that played out.  Esau was the older of the two because he came out first.  But, they were twins and we see that Jacob came out holding Esau's heel.  The story fast forwards to them probably as adults.  Esau came home from hunting feeling very hungry and Jacob refused to give him a bite to eat until Esau swore his birthright over to Jacob.  This is an important thing to consider because the birthright was everything in this culture.  The birthright meant that the oldest would own everything that belonged to the father when the father died.  But Esau gave that up for a bowl of stew.

Now, I want to take this into our world; our lives for a moment.  There are some references in the New Testament that Jesus is God's firstborn.  I want to look at Romans 8:28-30 (NIV), "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, he also glorified."  Jesus has the birthright because He is the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (the church), yet He chose to die for us so that we could share in the eternal life.  Romans 8:32 says, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?"


We have been given a birthright of adoption into the family of God because Christ died for us.  He died to share life with us.  I would encourage you to read through all of Romans 8 with the idea that Christ is the firstborn and see how it challenges you.  Romans 8: 16-17 (NIV) says, "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory."  My point is, we are told in the end of Genesis 25 that Esau despised his birthright.  We see in Romans 8 that we have been given the birthright to be co-heirs with Christ.  But do we easily set that aside in order to satisfy our human cravings rather than our Spirit-filled cravings for God?  When we reach to satisfy our human cravings, we are despising our birthright as children of God.  That really hurts to think about, and trust me it is not easy to type out because I wonder how many times I have satisfied the human desires over the Spirit's yearning.  But I don't want to despise my birthright, I want to claim the freedom that comes from this birthright!  I want to live Spirit-minded and follow His direction rather than my human desires.

Do you claim the freedom you have received in Christ, or do you satisfy the human nature?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It Did Indeed Happen

Genesis 25:12-26

One thing that we can know for sure - God will always do what He says He will do.  He always keeps His promises.  As I have been reading through Genesis, that truth that has been shown throughout the book.  God made some amazing promises to Abraham for both himself and his descendants and some of those promises we see lived out in the pages of Genesis and other promises we have to read further on in the Bible to see fulfilled.  So, if you are struggling to believe the promises that are also for us in the Bible, remember that just because we haven't seen it yet doesn't mean it will not happen.  Think of Abraham and how he knew that he wouldn't have the opportunity to see the fulfillment of his descendants having the land that was promised to him, yet he still believed anyway.  Today, I want to look at a few more promises that were fulfilled; please read Genesis 25:12-26.

There are two stories that we read in these verses with the first being about Ishmael's family.  If you have been following along with me, you may remember that God promised that Ishmael would become a great nation.  Genesis 17:20 says, "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation."  In Genesis 16:11-12, Hagar was also told that Ishmael would live in hostility toward his brothers.  We see in these verses that Ishmael indeed became the father of twelve rulers and they all lived in hostility toward one another.

The other promise we see lived out in these verses is the account of Rebekah's pregnancy with Esau and Jacob.  The first thing that I absolutely love seeing is the fact that Isaac prayed on behalf of Rebekah because she was unable to have children.  This is an important point to remember - we can pray on behalf of others.  We can seek God to step in our loved ones pain and help them.  Rebekah became pregnant and struggled with her pregnancy because she was having twins and they were already struggling with each other.  When she asked God what was happening to her, God told her that she was having twins, but they were not just twins they were two different nations!  When they were born Rebekah saw that what God said was true.  I'm sure this also meant that she could believe even more that they would each be nations and that the older would serve the younger.

We can believe God's promises for us as well!  We can believe that Christ is the one who wipes away our sins.  We can believe that we are adopted into God's family through Christ.  We can believe that one day there will be no pain or sorrow for those who love God.

Do you take hope in God's promises for your future?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Long and Satisfying Life

Genesis 25:1-11

Every now and then I have wondered what people will think of my life when I am gone.  Will they think I lived my life well?  Will they think that I was a good wife or good mother?  Will they think that I lived my life with integrity?  Will they think that I was kind and cared for others?  Will they think that I lived a life that honored God?  Oh!  When I get to that question I remember that is all that counts - honoring God.  If I am honoring God, I am not thinking about what others think of my life because my focus is on living in a way that pleases God.  Today, I am continuing on through Genesis and finishing up the account of Abraham's life.  Please see what God had recorded in the Bible about Abraham's life in Genesis 25:1-11.

In these verses, we see that it was recorded that Abraham lived a long and satisfying life.  In fact, while he was well over 100 years old, we read that he had six more sons!  But it still is interesting to read that Abraham had a long and satisfying life when he never had a permanent home, always living in a tent.  Does that sound satisfying?  He was a very wealthy man, yet he was satisfied to live in a tent.  I think that is something to ponder because it says something about his character.  He knew that God had promised so much more for his descendants and he was willing to sacrifice a permanent home so that the promise would be fulfilled.  He understood that ultimately his satisfaction didn't come from whatever life gave him, but his satisfaction came from God.

I have been greatly blessed by God even though by American standards I am not wealthy.  However, if compared to much of the world, I have so much.  But that is not why I feel blessed.  I am blessed because the High King of Heaven, Creator of everything, would choose to hear my prayers and look into my heart and love me anyway.  I am blessed because through Christ I have been given the promise of eternal life and adopted into God's family.  I am blessed because not only does my Lord hear my prayers, but He listens and cares and provides what I need when I need it.  That knowledge is so wonderful and and awesome that it overwhelms me.  God is the key to a long and satisfying life.  We can have satisfaction in Christ.

Are you satisfied?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.