Back to Square One–Genesis 35 Part 1

Once again Israel’s young life had been turned upside down.  After the attack upon his daughter and the slaughter of the Canaanite’s that were responsible, God called Israel to purify and start again.  So it says that everyone got rid of their personal idols and they resettled in Bethel, the place where God and Jacob wrestled and God changed his life.  As they traveled, The other locals were afraid and no one dared pursue them as a people.  Once again, God prepared, protected and provided for his chosen people.  When they arrived, they set up an alter and a memorial; and there they worshipped God.
 
When our lives get turned upside down, we should also follow the model.  We need to purify our lives by simply evaluating and acknowledging what personal idols do we house.  Then as we identify them, we, like Israel, must walk away from them and worship God and him only.  Then, we need to go back to where we started and worship God as we did when we began our relationship with him.  As we do, we will experience his peace and power in our lives.  Our enemies will fear us, and we will see a shining pillar of his presence in our lives…Not  a bad trade.  Help me, Lord to exchange my idols for your peace and freedom.
 
God Bless You
Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel,[a] because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

The Blessing , Take 2–Genesis 28 Part 1

It must have been a difficult realization for Isaac–when he realized he had been secretly trying to subvert God’s plan.  Isaac then did what he should have done long before; he blessed and counseled his son, Jacob.  I imagine the blessing rang a bit hollow to both Jacob and Rebekah–but, none the less, it gave the family a sense of solidarity and alignment in the development of the nation.
 
Isaac knew it was important to remain separate from the local people–ultimately the land they were visiting would be their land–not the local people’s.  In addition, their godless ways would likely draw the family away from their faith–as it had with Esau.  So Jacob did, as he had always done, and obeyed the instruction of his parents–he left the comfort of home and headed to his uncle’s home.
 
Interestingly, Esau, always trying, took a third wife from  uncle Ishmael’s–family…not God’s plan, but when did that matter, anyway.  Esau simply did not understand the importance of following God’s plan–even when he thought he was doing a big thing–he neither knew why, nor did he realize he missed the point.
 
In our world, we experience the same things–when we reflect, we realize that following God is easier and best.  We listen to his leadership and direction and are blessed along the way.  There is still trial and conflict,, but eventually, we are completed and blessed by following closely and humbly.  When the world sees our blessing, it wants to have the same experience. 
 
So, in its way, the world tries to match what they see–they put on trappings of religion but they neither know why or for what purpose they need God in their lives.  They do not want his counsel, guidance or forgiveness–they simply want the experience that his chosen have.  Sadly, its a package and only those willing to surrender to his leadership can experience the peace and eternal life that following him brings.  It is not the prayer, its the surrender that makes us his–let Jesus be your LORD and savior–then you will know what it truly means to be one of his own.
 
God Bless You
 
So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram,[a] to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May God Almighty[b] bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.

Their God is Their Stomach–Genesis 25 Part 3

There is no accounting for what drives people.  Isaac waited a quarter century to have sons. When his sons arrived, there was a clear distinction; Esau was a burley–“Man’s man” and Jacob was an inside guy.  God told Isaac and Sarah–Jacob would continue the lineage–but, Isaac loved Esau.  He loved his talent, his rugged style and the yummy food he made.  So much so, that Esau clearly felt confident he had his future made.  He became cocky–self absorbed–his God was his stomach.

Esau felt like the rules were not made for him; so, when Jacob offered him a nice dinner for the family birthright–well, there was no question that he would take the soup.  Esau was all about now.  He worried about his next meal, his next hunt and his next desire–long term thought was simply not a part of his routine.  When Jacob traded him the soup for birthright–it spoke volumes of the hearts of the men.  Esau never desired the responsibility of continuing the family line–he only wanted to hunt and fill his stomach.

In our world, not much has changed.  Most folks are like Esau–self-absorbed and self-reliant.  Their concern is for today, for themselves and not for God. People admire their rugged style, their false bravado and the way they take care of themselves.  The truth is–it takes an eternal perspective to see past the here and now.  When people live for eternity–the world feels they are foolish, weird and out of touch with the times.  Truth is, however, it is that perspective–that will change the world.  We have to look beyond our personal needs and trust God for who we are and what we have. That is the only life that will leave a legacy.  Those who live for now will only leave stuff and emptiness. Paul spoke of those people as the enemies of God in Philippians 3–“Their God is their stomach and they glory in their shame.” In short–Esau was not an enemy of his birthright, He was an enemy of God.

It brings to a head what Joshua said–“Choose this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” Joshua 24:6

God Bless You

 
 
The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.[f])

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

The Greater Work–Genesis 24 Part 2

When one lists the great tools for life success, the greatest tool is often left off the list.  The gift of prayer is overlooked, even though it is our greatest tool of all. Oswald Chambers, renowned Bible scholar and devotion said it best, “Prayer is not the preparation for the greater work, it is the greater work.”
 
Abraham’s servant traveled across the desert to the land of Abraham’s father.  He stopped in the area he had lived well over a quarter century before–then he prayed. The result was truly amazing–God brought the object of his prayer, right to him.  It was no coincidence, it was God doing what God does–hearing and answering our prayers.  I John 5:14-15–“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him”
 
In our lives, we often act as if we do not want to impose upon God.  Or, we pray like spoiled and entitled children–simply looking out for our selfish interests and not truly seeking God’s plan for our lives.  Abraham, his servant and God’s people throughout history have relied on prayer and faith to lead them in the journey and mission for which they were called.  When they have, God has done amazing and wonderful things for, in and through them. 
 
We can never underestimate, nor set aside our ability to reach out to the very God–that reached across eternity to restore his relationship with us. Prayer is the greater work and the key to a successful and amazing journey.
 
God Bless You
Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.

17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”

18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

So Long Sister Sarah–Genesis 22 Part 1

 Abraham lost his best partner.  Sarai, later Sarah stood beside Abraham during his days in Haran, then as he wandered through Canaan.  She allowed herself to be taken as Abram’s sister–by a number of Kings. She never held a grudge, nor did her years of bareness cause her to lose faith. She waited until  nearly one hundred to bear her son. She raised him faithfully and allowed God to continue to do the leading.  In that mode, she watched her family grow to be wealthy and powerful, but, never expected anything; she only followed faithfully.
 
It is also the same today.  We are in a wilderness of culture similar to the godless Canaanites. As we follow God closely, we may often feel like wanderers.  We may face points in the journey where we seem like hopeless captives, homeless foreigners or simple nomads. All the while, we journey toward the promised land–Heaven.  As we approach, we look more and more like the one we follow most closely.  Interestingly, our journey leaves a trail of others who also adopt the relationship and legacy of those who want become like our father.
 
Sarah, Abraham and those who came after, had one likeness–their desire to please and honor God.  That desire, the attitude of their heart was the greatest legacy they could leave.  It is also the greatest legacy we can leave.  God never demands perfection, only a desire to seek and follow him.  So as we follow God–we need to adopt the same spirit as Sister Sarah…
 
God Bless You
Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.[a] He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give[b] you the field, and I give[c] you the cave that is in it. I give[d] it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels[e] of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

Laying our Treasure on God’s Alter–Genesis 22 Part 2

What is the thing you struggle mostly with turning over to God? Is it family, career, marriage? What we often forget is that when we lay our treasures on God’s alter, he usually not only returns them to our care; but often in greater quantity or better quality.
 
Abraham trusted God–even with the son he waited a century to have.  The great thing was that God never intended to allow the boy to be injured; he simply needed Abraham to see that he trusted Abraham as Abraham had trusted him. He not only spared Isaac–he made him the father of Israel–his chosen people.  Make no mistake, Isaac witnessed the exchange between his dad and God–he was the heart of the discussion.  He saw his father’s faith and his God’s mercy and from it became a godly man.  No one left that day the same way they began it. 
 
We have to continue to trust God–knowing he will prepare, protect and provide for us.  Even when it seems hopeless, we must continue to trust him and allow him to reign in our lives. We have to be willing to lay even our most precious treasures on the alter as a sign of our faith in him–knowing all the while, like Abraham, He who provides such treasures will only bless that which we are willing to leave in his charge.  That is the price and reward of genuine faith in God.
 
God Bless You
 
But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

The Sister Act–Genesis 20

The Sister line, again?? Well in fairness to Abraham, Abimelek was a fierce King that took whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it.  But After all the trials and tribulations they faced, Abraham should have simply trusted and followed God.  He used the sister line, though and sure enough, at 99, Sarah was taken to become the king’s wife…I often wonder how beautiful she must have been that she would still be enticing to kings at nearly a century later. 

The great news for Abraham and his family was that God was there and would not allow anything to happen to Abraham and Sarah.  Even though Abraham had trust issues, God was faithful, in a big way!  As he had with the other leaders, God stopped Abimelek in his tracks and preserved Abraham and Sarah–in addition, he bought for them peace in a difficult country.  There was no chance that the King or his men would dare harm this group that clearly was being protected by God himself.

In our lives, we too must trust God and allow him to lead, guide and direct us in our journey.  In those times we doubt or fear, we MUST remember how he has protected and provided for us again and again.  He is amazing and loves us beyond measure.  He will protect, provide and prepare us for what lies ahead and never  forsake us–even when we forsake him. His record is amazing–So trust him and follow him closely and humbly!!!

God Bless You

Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”

Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”

Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.”

What Am I Doing This For Anyway?–Genesis 15 Part 1

What am I doing this for anyway…That was Abram’s question to God.  He had just come off a sweet victory where he routed the enemy; saved his nephew and cemented his relationship with God’s high priest–Melchizedek. One would expect a celebration–at least a grateful heart–but, instead, Abram looked around and saw that in a sense he was doing all this trusting and following without leaving a legacy.  He was nearly 80–and while he had untold riches, a beautiful wife and the finest group of men in the world–he did not have a child to whom he could pass his legacy of faith and wealth.
 
Clearly, as we have marched through the history, we see the value placed upon legacy and ancestry.  From Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abram–this family was being tracked, because it was significant.  But 80 year old Abram–had no child, no heir but his faithful servant, Eliezer. Then, as God had so many times thus far, told Abram to trust him–he would in fact populate the world with a legacy that went worldwide.
 
No matter how many times God shows himself worthy, we still fear that this time, he may not come through.  It seems foolish and shortsighted, yet, we all fall into it from time to time.  As with Abram, God says to us–his chosen, “Do not be afraid, I have got this.  Look up and see I am great, in control and hopelessly devoted to you!” It is never God that fails to honor his promise, it is always us–his kids, that lose faith and hope.  Push forward–keep hopeful; know that as with Abram, God loves us and will keep his promises to us!
 
God Bless You
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,[a]
    your very great reward.[b]

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit[c] my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[d] be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

No Thank You–Genesis 14 Final

Why wouldn’t Abram be glad to claim the treasures he and his men obtained after routing the enemies of the 5 kings? It was a simple principle for Abram–he did not want to be tied to the king in any way–not even as a benefactor.  There have always been those for whom even gifts come with a price tag–The King of Sodom was such a man.  He wanted everyone to feel that they owed him.  That is why Abram’s victory was so galling to him.  Now he owed Abram, or so he thought. 
 
The reality was that both Abram and the king of Sodom were indebted to God.  Abram saw that, that is why he gave a tithe to Melchizedek.  But, the King of Sodom wanted nothing to do with acknowledging God–so he was willing to give stuff to Abram–then Abram would be grateful.  Abram was already grateful to the provider and protector of his life–God.
 
We are often faced with opportunities to align with the world–when we do we could be enriched and put in the spotlight.  The problem is, when we become beholden to the world–no matter how innocently it happens, or how much we feel we deserve it–we are then beholden to someone other than the God who protects, provides and prepares us. 
 
We need to live in the world, but, never be indebted to the world for our lives, family or property.  We need to understand that God is our source and resource for all we are and all we have.  When that realization becomes a part of our lives, then, like Abram, we will be free.
 
God Bless You 
The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

I’ll Take the High Road–Genesis 13 Part 2

jordon-valleySo many times in life we are faced with difficult decisions.  Abram and Lot were both being blessed beyond measure.  They had walked in faith and as a result, God had grown their fortunes to a point that they could no longer live in the same place.  It was  causing problems between them and between their workers.  So Abram told Lot they must separate.  But, in faithful form, Abram said you pick where you want to go and I will go elsewhere. 

Lot, picked the lush plains of the Jordon river.  It was the hip and happening place of Canaan. the lands were lush, the city life hopping and  people were absolutely evil.  Abram took the hills far from sin. In Abram’s mind, God had shown himself faithful time after time.  So wherever God put him–that would be great.  In the days ahead, God proved Abram correct.

In our lives, we are constantly faced with choices regarding following the pattern of the world or following the leadership of God.  Often the choices seem small–food, entertainment social scenes or settings.  Other times it becomes issues of life–jobs, home, family or marriage.  In all cases, if we will simply believe God is the protector and provider, we can make the choices that honor him and allow him to prepare us for our mission here, and, our eternity with him.  This life is simply not a sprint–it is a marathon.  Our training to endure, pace and focus on the end prize will distinguish us from the crowd; and it will honor God and show him to the dying world. 

Easy is rarely better and things that shine and sparkle are rarely the greatest treasure. 

Trust God–and allow him to lead.

God Bless You

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east.

The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring[a] forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.