Genesis 28-31 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: Our loving Father patiently prepares us to receive His blessings

We all know people who have had a rough start in life, plagued with poor choices and wrong turns.  Jacob was certainly in that group.  Jacob’s struggles began even before he was born, “Rebekah became pregnant with twins. But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the Lord about it. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ she asked.  And the Lord told her, ‘The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.’” (25:21-23)

In Chapter 27 we read how Rebekah manipulated Isaac into granting his generational blessing to her favored son, Jacob, rather than the elder Esau. Even though Jacob questioned his mother’s decision to deceive his father, it appears that it was only because he didn’t want to get caught.  Regardless of Rebekah’s motivation for doing this, her actions produced a lifetime enemy for the nation of Israel and she never saw her beloved son again.  What a trade-off!  Anytime I try to help God through compromising means, I can expect the same negative results.  Lesson learned. 

@ Genesis 29
The love story of Jacob and Rachel is as compelling as any good novel, but unfortunately the saying “What goes around comes around” was true for Jacob the deceiver.  He fell in love with Rachel, the daughter of Laban, a man who understood deception only too well.  Jacob had met his match!  Laban tried to cheat Jacob out of marrying the woman he loved, robbed him of sheep and goats and changed his wages 10 times over the 14 plus years, yet Jacob persevered.

Jacob persisted because of one night long before, on the way to his future, he had a dream and a promise from God to bless him.  “Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.  At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you.  I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth!’” (Genesis 28:11-14)  God used the next several years to make Jacob worthy of this blessing and of the blessing he had stolen so many years before from his brother.

God longs to bless each of us and often places promises deep within our hearts.  It’s easy to give up when the Labans in life or our circumstances postpone our dreams, but from Jacob’s life, we understand that He is often perfecting us and preparing us for His blessing.  Jacob eventually returned home a very wealthy man with a small, but growing nation in his caravan.

Moving Forward: I will hold on to the promises that God has placed deep within my heart as He prepares me for all that He has for me, never manipulating or compromising to bring it to pass.

Tomorrow@Judges 12-16

Genesis 24-27 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His Word encourages us to live a righteous life to avoid the many consequences of sin

Tucked in between Christmas and Easter on the holiday calendar is Valentine’s Day, a day spent enjoying and celebrating those we love.  More sugary chocolate treats will be given as gifts and consumed than any other day of the year outside of Halloween.  As the saying goes, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we diet!”

Sugar!  Who doesn’t like sugar!  Even now I look across the room to my kitchen and spy my glass sugar canister with the sun hitting it just right and each sweet grain sparkling in its rays.  I’ve known a few individuals in my life who care little about sweets and can pass up a sugary dessert without batting an eye.  I’m not sure what planet they’re from, but I’m certain it’s a miserable place.  While sugar seems rather benign in nature, it does hold an addictive property to where our appetites require more and more in order to be satisfied.  In addition to obvious weight gain over time, we now have learned that when sugar consumption is left unchecked, serious health issues can arise.  But then, as we discover today in our reading, uncontrolled appetites can lead to all sorts of problems in our lives.

@ Genesis 25
“One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, ‘I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!’…‘All right,’ Jacob replied, ‘but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.’ ‘Look, I’m dying of starvation!’ said Esau. ‘What good is my birthright to me now?’” (29-32)  I sincerely doubt that Esau was truly starving to death, but the excuses we make are quite creative when we yearn to satisfy our appetites.  “Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.”  Those were expensive lentils, to say the least.

Jacob, a heel-gripping deceiver during those early years, made a great deal for himself because of Esau’s uncontrollable appetite.  He would now possess the wealth and power of a first-born son.  Appetites come in a variety of passions, and any appetite that causes us to make a poor trade and sacrifice something of value should certainly be considered out-of-control.  Many have sacrificed their honor and reputation to satisfy their lust for power or have lost the respect of family and friends to satisfy their sexual appetites because they traded their core values for temporary pleasure.

Esau lost his future, his riches and his promise.  Hebrews 12:16-17 reminds us, “Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.”  Fortunately, God forgives our sins, but it is at the very least difficult and often impossible to restore the honor, reputation and respect we once enjoyed when we dishonor them as Esau did.

This disheartening story of Esau is not one of the feel-good uplifting stories of the Bible, but I would imagine that God was intentional with its inclusion.  If we heed its message, it will spare us the pain and loss that comes with making a poor trade in order to satisfy a fleeting moment of power or pleasure.  And in that sense, the story of Esau is priceless. 

Moving Forward:  I love the Lord for showing me the disciplines of His word.  I choose today to protect those things of value, praying never to trade the eternal for the temporary in my life. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 7-11

Proverbs 28 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all that we need to follow Him with boldness

A man’s conscience can really play tricks on him when he has done wrong.  The imagined scenarios of being pursued and caught for his wrong doing can drive someone to the point of insanity.  Hollywood certainly has cashed in on that plot line through the years and often manipulates us into rooting for the criminals, even hoping they get away with their terrible deeds.  The terror of constantly looking over the shoulder and behind every door and cowering in dark corners is no way to live.  Of course, those who follow the Lord and live a righteous life are also being pursued by invisible forces, but they have nothing to fear.

“The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.” (1)  This verse makes me think of the sad life of King Saul who always feared that David and others were chasing him.  When the Spirit of the Lord left him, his sins tormented him as did the paranoia he had about his own well-being.  Jacob also knew some troublesome days fearing that Esau was coming after his birthright even though he wasn’t.  What a tragedy to live in fear that “your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)

However, those who follow the Lord should know that they, too, are being pursued. “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6)  Well, in that case, I’ll just stand still and be caught!  And if that isn’t enough to build confidence, “Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.” (Isaiah 58:8)

No wonder Solomon declared that “the godly are as bold as lions!”  With the Shepherd in front of us leading the way, with goodness and unfailing love always pursuing us and with the glory of the Lord protecting us from behind, why should we fear? Sometimes we just forget who is in our entourage!  Unlike the cowardly sinner who is fearful of being caught, we who follow the Lord can boldly move forward and accomplish whatever God intends for us.  And the peace and calm that comes from godly living is extraordinary. 

Moving Forward: I won’t wonder today if I can do what God is asking me to do.  How can I fail with the Shepherd guiding me, His goodness and love chasing after me and His glory protecting me?  Really, how can I fail?

Tomorrow @ Jonah

Genesis 32-35 (NLT) 

Discovering His heart: He gives the assurance of victory in response to our tenacious prayer

The assurance is a term I remember from my childhood. It meant praying until the assurance came – the word, the guarantee, the promise that would flood our beings with calm and confidence.   Although it’s not a term I hear used very often today, the assurance is still ours when we pray through, not giving up until that sense of victory fills our hearts.  In our reading today, Jacob wrestled through to his victory.

@Genesis 32
I would imagine that Jacob’s heart sunk down around his knees – yes, humanly impossible, yet feels so real – when his messengers returned with the news that Esau was advancing with an army of 400 men.  As any father would do, Jacob went into protection mode and divided the wives, children and animals into two groups—perhaps one group would survive.  “Then Jacob prayed…” (9)

In his prayer, Jacob reminded God, twice, of His promises to him, “O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’” (9) What better ground did Jacob have to make his plea to God for help than to remind Him of His promise, something David did repeatedly in the Psalms.  And better yet, God knew Jacob had been paying attention to His words.  When we are facing a challenge, we can boldly remind God of His promises – whether standing on His written Word or those He shares deep within our hearts.  I believe He is blessed that we have been paying attention.

“O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children.” (11)  Jacob’s prayer revealed that he was afraid, and in that fear he assumed that Esau was coming to kill him.  Cautionary fears, such as touching fire, protect us in life because we respect what that fire can do, but baseless fear never produces a reasonable response.  Jacob, reminiscent of his mother, decided he would help God out by trying to appease Esau with an abundance of gifts.  As we soon learn, this was an exercise in futility – Esau was not angry and these gifts were unwanted and somewhat insulting to Esau because he was a wealthy man.  Our fears produce unreasonable responses to our problems – exercises in futility.

Jacob!  Always the schemer – but not for long!  Jacob sent his gifts and family ahead, but stayed behind in the camp and had an encounter with an angel, a wrestling match like no other.  Jacob was about to earn the blessing he had received through deception so long ago from his father. All through the night, Jacob wrestled the angel with tears and pleading (Hosea 12:4) and would not stop until he received the blessing, the victory, the assurance.  Jacob left Peniel, the face of God, with a limp and a new name, Israel, both reminders that God would be in control of his life now, no deceiving and scheming, a Prince with God.

Even better for us today is that we do not wrestle alone!  “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness…prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26)  Oh, that we would be as tenacious as Jacob, praying until the assurance comes and until we receive the blessing.  Blessed Assurance!

Moving Forward:  I choose to relinquish baseless fears that only bring futile responses from me.  In my challenges today, I will wrestle with tenacious prayer until the assurance comes, moving forward with a calm heart and with confidence in His promises. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 17-21

Genesis 28-31 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: Our loving Father patiently prepares us to receive His blessings

We all know people who have had a rough start in life, plagued with poor choices and wrong turns.  Jacob was certainly in that group.  Jacob’s struggles began even before he was born, “Rebekah became pregnant with twins. But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the Lord about it. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ she asked.  And the Lord told her, ‘The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.’” (25:21-23)

In Chapter 27 we read how Rebekah manipulated Isaac into granting his generational blessing to her favored son, Jacob, rather than the elder Esau. Even though Jacob questioned his mother’s decision to deceive his father, it appears that it was only because he didn’t want to get caught.  Regardless of Rebekah’s motivation for doing this, her actions produced a lifetime enemy for the nation of Israel and she never saw her beloved son again.  What a trade-off!  Any time I try to help God through compromising means, I can expect the same negative results.  Lesson learned. 

@ Genesis 29
The love story of Jacob and Rachel is as compelling as any good novel, but unfortunately the saying “What goes around comes around” was true for Jacob the deceiver.  He fell in love with Rachel, the daughter of Laban, a man who understood deception only too well.  Jacob had met his match!  Laban tried to cheat Jacob out of marrying the woman he loved, robbed him of sheep and goats and changed his wages 10 times over the 14 plus years, yet Jacob persevered.

Jacob persisted because of one night long before, on the way to his future, he had a dream and a promise from God to bless him.  “Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.  At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you.  I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth!’” (Genesis 28:11-14)  God used the next several years to make Jacob worthy of this blessing and of the blessing he had stolen so many years before from his brother.

God longs to bless each of us and often places promises deep within our hearts.  It’s easy to give up when the Labans in life or our circumstances postpone our dreams, but from Jacob’s life we understand that He is often perfecting us and preparing us for His blessing.  Jacob eventually returned home a very wealthy man with a small, but growing nation in his caravan.

Moving Forward: I will hold on to the promises that God has placed deep within my heart as He prepares me for all that He has for me, never manipulating or compromising to bring it to pass.

Tomorrow@Judges 12-16

Genesis 24-27 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His Word encourages us to live a righteous life to avoid the many consequences of sin

Tucked in between Christmas and Easter on the holiday calendar is Valentine’s Day, a day spent enjoying and celebrating those we love.  More sugary chocolate treats will be given as gifts and consumed than any other day of the year outside of Halloween.  As the saying goes, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we diet!”

Sugar!  Who doesn’t like sugar!  Even now I look across the room to my kitchen and spy my glass sugar canister with the sun hitting it just right and each sweet grain sparkling in its rays.  I’ve known a few individuals in my life who care little about sweets and can pass up a sugary dessert without batting an eye.  I’m not sure what planet they’re from, but I’m certain it’s a miserable place.  While sugar seems rather benign in nature, it does hold an addictive property to where our appetites require more and more in order to be satisfied.  In addition to obvious weight gain over time, we now have learned that when sugar consumption is left unchecked, serious health issues can arise.  But then, as we discover today in our reading, uncontrolled appetites can lead to all sorts of problems in our lives.

@ Genesis 25
“One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, ‘I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!’…‘All right,’ Jacob replied, ‘but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.’ ‘Look, I’m dying of starvation!’ said Esau. ‘What good is my birthright to me now?’” (29-32)  I sincerely doubt that Esau was truly starving to death, but the excuses we make are quite creative when we yearn to satisfy our appetites.  “Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.”  Those were expensive lentils, to say the least.

Jacob, a heel-gripping deceiver during those early years, made a great deal for himself because of Esau’s uncontrollable appetite.  He would now possess the wealth and power of a first-born son.  Appetites come in a variety of passions, and any appetite that causes us to make a poor trade and sacrifice something of value should certainly be considered out-of-control.  Many have sacrificed their honor and reputation to satisfy their lust for power or have lost the respect of family and friends to satisfy their sexual appetites because they traded their core values for temporary pleasure.

Esau lost his future, his riches and his promise.  Hebrews 12:16-17 reminds us, “Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.”  Fortunately, God forgives our sins, but it is at the very least difficult and often impossible to restore the honor, reputation and respect we once enjoyed when we dishonor them as Esau did.

This disheartening story of Esau is not one of the feel-good uplifting stories of the Bible, but I would imagine that God was intentional with its inclusion.  If we heed its message, it will spare us the pain and loss that comes with making a poor trade in order to satisfy a fleeting moment of power or pleasure.  And in that sense, the story of Esau is priceless. 

Moving Forward:  I love the Lord for showing me the disciplines of His word.  I choose today to protect those things of value, praying never to trade the eternal for the temporary in my life. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 7-11