Genesis Bible Study

Grow Where Planted

I recently shared a bit of my childhood with you regarding the “super-bed” and Indiana Jones.  Well, another favorite movie among my siblings while enjoying ice cream on the super-bed, was the Musical: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat with Donnie Osmond. What a dreamy voice! If you haven’t seen in, you should!

We would watch it most days of the week when vacationing at a family friend’s cottage during the summer, so I’ve memorized all of the words.  Now, anytime I read Joseph’s story, I find myself humming or singing to songs.  It makes reading it even more enjoyable and puts a face to the characters.

Joseph’s story is one of my favorites in the Bible.  I’m sure you will understand why soon.  There is so much to learn and apply from it!

20170820_153205S – Scripture: Genesis 38-40

  • 38:6-7 – “In the course of time, Judah arranged for his firstborn son, Er, to marry a young woman named Tamar. But Er was a wicked man in the LORD’s sight, so the LORD took his life.”
  • 38:10-11 – “But the LORD considered it evil for Onan to deny a child to his dead brother. So the LORD took Onan’s life, too. Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, ‘Go back to your parents’ home and remain a widow until my son Shelah is old enough to marry you.’ (But Judah didn’t really intend to do this because he was afraid Shelah would also die, like his two brothers.) So Tamar went back to live in her father’s home.'”
  • 38:14-15 – “Tamar was aware that Shelah had grown up, but no arrangements had been made for her to come and marry him. So she changed out of her widow’s clothing and covered herself with a veil to disguise herself. Then she sat beside the road at the entrance to the village of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. Judah noticed her and thought she was a prostitute, since she had covered her face.”
  • 38:26 – “Judah recognized them immediately and said, ‘She is more righteous than I am, because I didn’t arrange for her to marry my son Shelah.’ And Judah never slept with Tamar again.”
  • 39:2-3 – “The LORD was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he servedIMG_20170820_214751_270 in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the LORD was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did.”
  • 39:6 – “So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing–except what kind of food to eat!”
  • 39:21-23 – “But the LORD was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the LORD made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The LORD was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.”
  • 40:8 – “And they replied, ‘We both had dreams last night, but no one can tell us what they mean.’ ‘Interpreting dreams is God’s business,’ Joseph replied. ‘Go ahead and tell me your dreams.'”
  • 40:14 – “‘And please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place.'”
  • 40:23 – “Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.”

O – Observation:

  • Judah didn’t raise very nice boys – the two oldest, God kills, leaving Tamar a widow and childless.
    • She pretends to be a prostitute, enticing Judah to sleep with he.  She becomes pregnant with twins.  Judah proclaims her more righteous than he (maybe because she did what she had to do to carry on his son’s line?).
  • Joseph no is working for Potiphar and has risen among the ranks so that he now manages the whole house.  God has been with him through all of this.
  • Potiphar’s wife lusts for Joseph, but he resists.  She snags his robe as he runs from her and makes it look like he tried to get with her, not the other way around.
  • Joseph is thrown in jail, wrongly.  He soon rises to manage a whole section of the prison because God is still working in his life.
  • An opportunity appears to get out (or noticed by Pharaoh) when he interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker. But the cupbearer, after being restored to his position, as predicted by the dream, completely forgets about Joseph.  He has to wait a few more years.
  • Joseph is an example of growing where you are planted. Other quick take-aways:
    • God is the Author and Perfecter of our faith
    • Times of waiting are times of preparation for what’s to come.
    • God uses all things to work for good.
    • What feels like waiting to us is when God is really working.
    • We must make the most of every opportunity
    • We can be content in any circumstance.

IMG_20170820_214751_271A – Application:

I’ve heard this story many times growing up.  I’ve also seen the musical (which is excellent!).  This time, I wanted to catch something new from it.  I wanted God to change my perspective and give me a fresh view on a well-known story. Here is what I got:

1. First, Joseph rose wherever he was planted. He could’ve just done the bare minimum at his job and then gone home, or sat in a jail cell, day in and day out.  But like Jacob, he fought for his destiny.  He did his absolute best serving and managing wherever he was.  He thrived, and built a solid reputation and skills from the bottom up – twice! Joseph did his tasks so well that the people in charge didn’t have to worry about a thing.  They completely trusted him.  He took every opportunity and used them to grow, serve, and use his gifts wherever he was.

Also, like Israel, God fought for him.  He had his hand guiding Joseph, giving him the resources he needed and putting the right people in front of him.

2. Joseph lived a Philippians 4:12-13 life like Paul.

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

He served and managed the highest ranking officers with unlimited resources.  Then, in prison, he managed the lowest of society with, probably, limited resources.  He had to adapt to both. I have a theory that I’ll share next time! Stay tuned.

Prison wasn’t necessarily an ideal place to live and work, Joseph did want to get out; but that longing and waiting didn’t stop him from growing and serving. He learned to live in any situation, with God as his anchor and hope and guide.

20170814_1937003. Joseph kept serving even after a disappointment.  He has a glimmer of hope when the cupbearer goes back to Pharaoh.  But he has to wait because the man completely forgets about him. But Joseph keeps on doing what he’s doing. We never read of his faith wavering.  He stays patient, expectant, and effective in his waiting.  He allows God to continue to use him because he has an open heart and a servant’s attitude.

What areas in your life are in plenty?  What are in want? Is God asking you to wait or move?  Are there ways that you could better serve in your waiting?  What could God be teaching you or preparing you for?

It can be challenging to wait, day after day.  But if we don’t look beyond our current situation, if we stay stuck and focused on it, we may miss the opportunities for God to use us during those waiting periods.  We have to make the most out of every opportunity to serve God whether we are in plenty or in want. Also, whether we are waiting or in motion. Waiting is part of the journey oftentimes, and we can still be active and productive.

Our “waiting” time is God’s working time.

Ponder that for a minute.  Do you agree with that statement?  How does that change your perspective?

It gives me hope and endurance to work through my waiting periods more productively 20170814_195523and expectantly.  I want to be ready for whatever God has for me next.  I want to serve those around me, even though I feel that I’m not completely in God’s unique purpose for me yet.  I have hope that it will all come together.

P – Prayer:

God, thank you for Joseph’s story.  I am so encouraged to press on when I read it.  It reminds me that you are always working behind the scenes, taking the good and the bad that happen our lives, and redeeming them into a beautiful life.

God, I pray for those of us in a waiting period in life.  It’s difficult to see what you have going on for us and a potential purpose.  I pray that you would so us how we can better serve and grow during this time.  Would you open up pathways and resources that prepare us for what you have next?  Thank you for all that you are doing behind the scenes.  Amen.

 

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #24 - Grow Where Planted

Inspirational Quote
What seems to us like waiting is God really working.
Genesis Bible Study

Israel

I can recall specific times in my life when I felt like I just needed a fresh start.  Life either felt out of control in too many areas, or just stale.  I found myself in states of being that I no longer wanted to be in.  I had to make a change somehow.  But how?  Could my life really be different?  How does God fit into all of this?  Am I being obedient by changing?

I had somehow changed into a person that I never wanted to become: distant from God and those closest to me, stressed, anxious, lethargic, unhealthy, lazy, secretive, overwhelmed, depressed, stuck. Fear, worry, and doubt were closer to me than before and God felt far away.

These moments where I’ve felt one or all of these things have turned into great turning points.  I had to choose to say good-bye to that way of living or thinking with the hope of creating something better.  Looking back, they seemed like times of rebuilding.  I had been cracked or broken in some way and now was the time to make myself beautiful, or whole, again.

Often, it seems that we have to reach rock-bottom before we decide to make a change. Other times, change is thrust upon us. Sometimes, we can catch things early on to try to avoid getting those low places.  However it comes, it’s an opportunity for a new way of life – hopefully better than before (though it might be a difficult journey to get there).

20170810_150555In this opening chapter, we find Jacob and his family with a fresh start.  He tells them to clean up and leave behind their pagan idols. It’s a chance to start worshiping the true God, the one who has been protecting them this whole time.

S – Scripture: Genesis 35-37

  • 35:2-3 – “So Jacob told everyone in his household, ‘Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.'” 
  • 35:5 – “As they set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked Jacob’s family.”
  • 35:10 – “God blessed him, saying, ‘Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.'” 
  • 35:15 – “And Jacob named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), because God had spoken to him there.”
  • 35:19 – “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”
  • 36:7 – “There was not enough land to support them both because of all the livestock and possessions they had acquired.”
  • 37:3-4 – “Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph–a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.”
  • 37:9 – “Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. 20170810_162321_001‘Listen, I have had another dream,’ he said. ‘The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!’  This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. ‘What kind of dream is that?’ he asked. ‘Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?’ But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.”
  • 37:22-36 – The brothers plot to kill Joseph; then decide to throw him into an empty cistern to die slowly; then they see some merchants and sell him instead.  The merchants take him to Egypt and sell him into slavery to Potiphar, the Captain of the Guard, to Pharoah, the King.

O – Observation:

  • Jacob was ready to move on, so he told his family to clean themselves up and destroy their pagan idols (maybe from Rachel?).  It was time to honor God because of all that he had done and how he had protected them.
  • God spread fear into all of the surrounding people so to protect Jacob and his family.
  • Jacob’s name gets changed from “the deceiver” to Israel, or “God fights.” I love this!
    • God fights for his people, kingdom, and purpose
      • The battle belongs to the Lord. Exodus 14:14
  • God has blessed both Jacob and Esau so much that the land cannot support them both.  Esau moves away.
  • A new saga begins with Joseph.  He is favored by Jacob and hated by his brothers for it.
  • Joseph experiences dreams that show everyone bowing down to him.  His brothers hate him even more for this, but Jacob questions the meaning.
  • His brothers seize and opportunity to get rid of him and, instead of killing him or leaving him for dead, they sell him to some merchants. He is then traded again as a slave into Potiphar’s house.
    • One minute, Joseph is on top of the world with a bright future ahead. The next, he is brought about as low as you can get – humbled, stripped of any title or favor, alone, banished, and enslaved.
  • Reuben and Judah were his only advocates (kind of).  They weren’t going to let him be killed at least.  Also, where did Reuben go when the brothers decided to sell him.  It says that he came back and tore his clothes when he found out what they had done. (Maybe a sheep ran away?)

20170811_153907A – Application:

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

Jacob gets a fresh start – a new chance for his family.  Like I mentioned before, oftentimes we are dropped into opportunities that allow us to change: a move, new job, new significant other, new baby, etc. These fresh starts may just be a chance to shed some bad or useless habits and adopt new ones.

But it doesn’t have to be a big life event to make a change happen.  The Bible says that we can start fresh every morning, with new mercies from God.  What you did yesterday does not have to be how you do things today.  Today can be better.

Healthier eating, exercise, Bible reading, speaking kindly to your family, whatever you’ve been wanting to do, you can take a step (big or small) today.  You can take a 15 minute walk, cook a veggie instead of having bread for dinner, get in bed 30 minutes earlier. If you want to get into the Bible more, check out some of my tips on the “How to” page. No matter how much time you have, you can start small today.

The great thing is, if you mess up, make a better plan for tomorrow.  God never runs out of mercy and grace.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

In the last blog post we explored the idea of fighting for your dreams and goals.  It takes some action on our part to get God’s purpose rolling in our lives sometimes. I love this part of the story where Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, or “God fights.”

20170808_201058God fights for you – let that sink in. 

God knows our battles.  He knows what we are up against:

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12

A couple of months after my miscarriage, I was still wrestling with my faith and God.  I was tired of trying to figure things out and be strong spiritually and emotionally.  It took so much effort to make it through a day at work.  I was an empty cup, trying my best to fill others and help them reach their fitness goals at work. I felt half alive but was pushing to run on all cylinders.

Unfortunately, I resorted (only a couple of times) to drinking so that I wouldn’t have to think or feel anything.  My brain could just sit and be and do nothing.  I know, not my best moments.

One night, I was lying in bed (sober), and remember praying, “God, I am so weak. I can’t fight for my heart right now.”

20170810_162321_001I was at a turning point here. I could either give my life, with all of the good and bad, fully to God to work with.  Even though my faith was minuscule, I knew that’s all God needed. Or, I could give in to the ease (at the time it seemed easier) of doing nothing, without God.

As I lay in bed, praying, I felt that there was a battle going o above me for my heart. In my mind’s eye I saw dark and light colliding over me. Strange as it sounds, I strongly believe that God’s angels were battling Satan’s demons for me.  God sent his army like it says in Psalms:

“For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.”

Psalm 91:11-12

No matter where we are in our faith, he will meet us there.  He will fight for us and protect us.

“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head…I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.”

Psalm 139:5,7,8

But O, that verse in Exodus: “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.” It’s so good.

Sometimes that is just what we need. To stop and let God fight the real battle that is going on above us as we navigate the physical trails of this life. Be encouraged today that God gives new beginnings everyday and he is fighting for you.  He wants you!

20170810_162401_resizedP – Prayer:

O God, thank you so much for your Word.  It fills my soul and changes my heart.  Thank you for fighting for me when I can’t.  Thank you for loving me enough to do that, to want to do that.  You are so good.

God I pray for those out there that need your protection and need to know that the battle is yours.  Can you meet them in special ways today?  Speak to their hearts, Lord. Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #23 - Israel

Bible Verse Image
From now on your name will be Israel, meaning “God fights.”
Genesis Bible Study

Worth Fighting For

There was a bumper sticker quote that I subscribed to in early High School. This read, “Living for Christ. No Regrets.” I wanted to walk boldly into every step God was leading me. My desire was to live by my faith and not by what just came easily.

As I ventured out on my own, I realized how difficult that really was. Adulting is hard! Daily, there are countless decisions, worries, obligations, and to-dos.  There are so many things I want to accomplish for the day that will make a difference for tomorrow.  I want to build a life that makes an impact on those around me.  I don’t want any regrets.

Then come the worry and fears that clog my mind and keep me from stepping forward.  What if I fail?  What if I succeed?  Is that really God calling me to do this? What will people think? I’m not smart enough for that. And so on…20170811_115614_resized

These juxtaposed feelings seem to be at constant battle in my mind. I want to bold and adventurous in God’s life for me, but I worry that it could never happen or that I’m not enough of that I would take the wrong step.  Jacob experiences a physical fight between himself and God following a bout of fear.  Let’s see what happens.

S – Scripture: Genesis 32-34

  • 32:1-2 – “As Jacob started on his way again, angels of God came to meet him. When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, ‘This is God’s camp!’ So he named the place Mahanaim.”
  • 32:9-12 – “Then Jacob prayed, ‘O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac–O LORD, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! 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. But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore–too many to count.'”
  • 32:26 – “Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.'”
  • 32:30 – “Jacob named the place Peniel (which means ‘face of God’), for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.'”
  • 33:4 – “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.”
  • 33:11 – “‘Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.’ And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.”
  • 34:13 – “But since Shechem had defiled their sister, Dinah, Jacob’s sons responded deceitfully to Shechem and his father, Hamor.”
  • 34:30-31 – “Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land–among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!’ ‘But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?’ they retorted angrily.”

20170810_162246_resizedO – Observation:

  • God shows that he is with Jacob as he sets out.
  • Jacob begins to worry and fear that Esau will attack and kill him and his family.
  • He recalls God’s promise, humbles himself, admitting that he is not worthy of such a gift, but asks God to keep his covenant.
  • God visits Jacob at night and wrestles with him. Possibly a battle to see if Jacob will stand up and fight for his life and all that God has promised, or give in because of fear?
  • God does bless him because he has persevered through the trials of both God and men. (It makes me think of John 16:33.) The hip injury reminds me of the thorn in Paul’s side as a reminder for humility. This could be for the same reason.
  • Esau greets Jacob with love, better than Jacob could’ve imagined I’m sure. God answered his prayer to protect him. All that worry and God had it under control.
  • Jacob wants to bless Esau with the gifts that he has earned.  He is so generous and wants to bless others with his wealth.

A – Application: 

I love that God reassures Jacob that he is with him.  It’s like he knows what’s about to happen and that Jacob will really need to know that he is still there protecting him and the covenant.  Immediately after, Jacob gets news that his brother, Esau, wants to meet  up.

20170810_162140_resizedIf you recall how Jacob left, fleeing to his Uncle’s house because Esau was threatening to kill him.  Jacob had just tricked Isaac and took Esau’s blessing of the firstborn, as well as the birthright.  Esau was left with nothing because of Jacob.  Even twenty years later, I would probably be afraid to meet up with someone I had left on such bad terms.

So we see Jacob afraid that all will soon be lost.  All that he has worked for and the promise of flourishing into a great nation will be destroyed at the hand of his brother.  So Jacob first prays.  He recalls God’s promise, puts himself in a place of humility, a pleads that God will keep his end of the covenant. That night, he is alone, and God comes down and wrestles with him.

I can’t help but think that this is not just wrestling match for the fun of it.  Here, Jacob is sick with worry and what does God ask of him? To fight.  Would Jacob become paralyzed in fear and give up?  Or would he persevere and go till the end.  He does that latter and God blesses him.  Jacob has proven to be a fighter for what God has promised him.  He won’t give up until he gets it.

This passage challenges me.  There are a lot of times where I get into the mindset that God’s path will be the easiest or most obvious.  Sometimes it is, but a lot of the times (I’m finding in adulthood), that many of God’s plans still require some effort on my part.  I can’t pray for God to grant me a great group of friends and just sit at home by myself.  I can’t expect someone to just walk up to my door and become instant friends with me (unless I just want to be friends with the Fed-Ex person).  I need to act. I need to get out there and make some opportunities happen.  I need God to know that I am willing to actually take a step and that allows him to move and work.

In regards to a career, I still need to work sometimes to become the best in my field and connect with others to network and grow.  This allows God to open up pathways for me to reach more people and fulfill his purpose for my life and his kingdom.  I need to stand up and fight, day in and day out, for my dreams and goals of making an impact.

One of my greatest motivators to keep working and building is the notion that someone out there needs me to keep going.  Even if it is just one person in the whole world that benefits from my small contribution, that’s worth it.  That is worth overcoming the worries and fears that flood my mind while I try to take steps of faith.

It also humbles me to know that I can’t do anything without Christ as my King.  Yes, I must take steps, but God is the Master and Author of my life.  He guides me and opens the doors for me to make a difference.

20170811_153756_resizedWhat fears and worries are you wrestling with today?  What step is God asking you to take?  What dream is he asking you to fight for and not give in to those fears?

Fear of a step, I believe, means that it really means something. It’s a big deal and shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, in most cases, once I strip the emotions away, it’s no longer a should I or could I, but an act of obedience.  I have to tell myself, okay, either I’m going to trust God and go for it, or I’m going to sit here and question until the next day, then the next, then the next, and so on.

Don’t wait! Take a step, no matter how big or small, today.  A tiny step is still progress and it allows God to move.  Fight for your dreams with God as your guide.

P – Prayer:

Thank you for this story of Jacob and his fight and perseverance for his dreams and promises.  I don’t want to leave my life to chance, I want to leave it up to you.  I want to follow where you lead me.  I want to rely on your resources and power to build and amazing life of impact.  Open those doors for me.  Give me courage to  step out in faith, despite the fear sometimes.  You are so great.  I want to do great things for your kingdom.  Lead me to the people and places that need me most.  Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #22 - Worth Fighting For

Bible Verse Image
I will not let go unless you bless me.

 

Genesis Bible Study

Lead Me to the Rock

It fascinates me how the lessons, experiences, and interactions of our childhood affects our actions and decisions as we age. This is not a revolutionary thought necessarily, but it does captivate me from time to time. I’ll do or think something, question why, and be taken back to a memory.  This happens with both good and bad situations.

Also interesting, is that our sense of smell can have the greatest impact on recalling memories. A certain type of deodorant scent takes me back to my Middle School locker room preparing for volleyball practice.  This leads me down a rabbit trail of my whole volleyball career with the highlights and challenges.

Eventually, I sometimes wander to the feelings of self-doubt, never feeling good enough, and shame.  I was young and impressionable then.  There were many inner and outer influences and other factors involved in all of this too. It didn’t take much for me to question who I was or how I would ever contibrute to society at the time.

20170817_185133I’ve grown a lot since then and have overcome a lot of those feelings.  But they still creep up.  These feelings shaped how I have made certain decisions up until this point. Am I good enough or smart enough for this? Could I ever be? Why or how could God use me? There are so many better people out there. I’ll just settle here where it’s safe and comfortable.

It’s amazing how fast that scent can take me from zero to depressed in a matter of seconds. I forget anything and everything that God has done and is doing and could do. My choice is to wallow in self-doubt and shame for a bit. It takes work to snap out of it. Have you ever felt that way? Do you have weird triggers that take you back to a memory, good or bad?

In this part of the story we see two contrasting characters and how they handle life’s situations. We witness how one can use his past to bolster his trust in God and another that can’t let go and relies on her own strength to get by.

S – Scripture: Genesis 30-31

  • 30:1-3 – “When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’ Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. ‘Am I God?’ he asked. ‘He’s the one who has kept you from having children!’ Then Rachel told him, ‘Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.'”
  • 30:22 – “Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children.”
  • 30:38-40 – “Then he placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where 20170810_150102the flocks came to drink, for that was where they mated. And when they mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young that were streaked, speckled, and spotted. Jacob separated those lambs from Laban’s flock. And at mating time he turned the flock to face Laban’s animals that were streaked or black. This is how he built his own flock instead of increasing Laban’s.”
  • 30:43 – “As a result, Jacob became very wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, female and male servants, and many camels and donkeys.”
  • 31:8-9 – “For if he said, ‘The speckled animals will be your wages,’ the whole flock began to produce speckled young. And when he changed his mind and said, ‘The striped animals will be your wages,’ then the whole flock produced striped young. In this way, God has taken your father’s animals and given them to me.'”
  • 31:19 – “At the time they left, Laban was some distance away, shearing his sheep. Rachel stole her father’s household idols and took them with her.”
  • 31:27-29 – “‘Why did you slip away secretly? Why did you deceive me? And why didn’t you say you wanted to leave? I would have given you a farewell feast, with singing and music, accompanied by tambourines and harps. Why didn’t you let me kiss my daughters and grandchildren and tell them good-bye? You have acted very foolishly! I could destroy you, but the God of your father appeared to me last night and warned me, ‘Leave Jacob alone!'”
  • 31:41-42 – “‘Yes, for twenty years I slaved in your house! I worked for fourteen years earning your two daughters, and then six more years for your flock. And you changed my wages ten times! In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side–the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac–you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and rebuked you!'”
  • 31:52 – “‘They stand between us as witnesses of our vows. I will never pass this pile of stones to harm you, and you must never pass these stones or this monument to harm me.”‘

20170810_152004O – Observation:

  • Similar issues, once again, to bear children. Rachel sends Bilhah to Jacob to have children through her. After a few more years of waiting (and everyone else having multiple babies), she finally has Joseph.
  • Jacob starts building up his flock and wealth in order to set out on his own to the lad of his father. Whatever color Laban says Jacob can keep for himself, the flock only bears that color. Laban notices and keeps changing it so to keep Jacob from gaining more flock.  The Lord is clearly in control here.
  • Jacob becomes wealthy and sets out, taking his family, flock, and servants without telling Laban.
  • Rachel shows some not so great qualities: anger, jealousy, impulsiveness, impatience, stealing, and lying.
  • God protects Jacob by warning Laban not to hurt him. Jacob reiterates to Laban how he was treated unfairly for 20 years and how the only reason he prospered is because of the Lord.
  • In the ESV translation of Genesis 31:42, it describes God as, “the Fear of Isaac.” I like this a lot!
  • Jacob and Laban make a treaty to never harm each other.

A – Application: 

At a young age (and I’m sure this is a common story), I learned that the oven was a IMG_1887magical place where delicious food cam from, but also a terrifying appliance that could burn me. Many a time I would set out to boil water or bake cookies, and walk away with a puffy red spot on my arm or finger. When I worked at the deli in college making rotisserie chickens, I’d get a burn a week! (I may be a tad clumsy or was working to hastily.)

Although I know an oven and stovetop can cause burns, I still have a great respect for them as I can create tasty food that nourishes me. I love baking bacon, roasting roasting brussel sprouts and chicken, and steaming veggies. Despite the fear of potentially burning myself, I use the oven everyday.

When I think of what the fear of the Lord means, it reminds me (maybe too simply) of an oven. God has immense power to move oceans, mountains, and wind. He sets the sun, moon, stars, and planets in motion. While the big things are beyond comprehension, so is the fact that God can control the smallest details of EVERYONE’S lives!

The Bible states in Proverbs 9:10 –

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

To “fear” in this case, is to revere, have great respect for, or stand in awe of. I know I’ve dabbled with this topic before, but it can be repeated. When I try to take in all that God is and all that he can do, I feel as though all circumstances, worries, fears, weaknesses, failures, pre-conceived notions, and expectations just fall away.

I picture me standing on a rock in the middle of an ocean, surrounded by water and air. The wind is blowing slightly and the sun is warm. I close my eyes and take it all in.  With every exhale, all of my dark exotions shed off of me and into the water. Each exhale welcomes peace, hope, and life. I am empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit. I am able to stand, expectantly and hopeful for what the future holds.  I am inspired to step forward because I have come to the realization that the BIGGEST, GREATEST, and STRONGEST God is on my side. The life that he offers when I do this is worth the risk of a few burns and cuts along the way. I can learn and grow from each.

20170810_155810Jacob understood this fear. He trusted that God would protect and provide for him every step of the way. That changes how one makes decisions, no matter our past. It allows you to be bold and not rely on your own means to achieve a desired outcome.

We see Rachel on the opposite side of this. She becomes angry and impatient, jealous of her sister in not being able to bear children. Like Sarah, she offers her servant to fulfill that duty. But it’s just a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. She then steals her father’s household gods (for whatever reason) and lies about it to Jacob and Laban.

If she grew up with her father worshiping these gods, maybe they were hers too.  Maybe she didn’t know God like Jacob did. She may not have understood all that he could do, or trusted him with every part of her life (or only when good things happened, like when she could finally have children).

I can’t know for sure her motivations, but based on her actions, she seemed to not have the same fear of the Lord, as Jacob did. If this fear leads to wisdom, she does not portray that quality here.

The story (at least in these two chapters) of Jacob and Rachel shows us a contrast of what it looks like to fear and respect the Lord and to not.

Jacob: patiently persevered, took steps to allow God to work his purpose, and trusted God to provide and protect him in every step he took.

Rachel: acted in anger and jealousy, took steps to do things on her own, relied on the 20170810_155453gods of her childhood (her beliefs, experiences, circumstances, etc) to protect and provide for them as they set out.

Who’s character do you fit into right now? There is no judgement for being more like Rachel in this scenario, only GRACE. Realization and conviction are the first steps towards forgiveness and redemption. God longs for you to choose that.

I admit, I fall into Rachel’s way of thinking often. I forget about all that God has done, is doing, and has the power to do in the future when I wait on his timing. When I go back to the rock and remember, I get back to that Jacob way of living. Grace, love, and peace overflow in me. I feel light and ready to move in the direction God has called me to.

A parting verse:

“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”      Psalm 61:2

P – Prayer:

God, thank you for the contrasting characters of Jacob and Rachel. I want a Jacob-like  perspective on life as often as possible. I long to trust you fully and take bold steps because I have full assurance of your grace and provision. I know that you can do great things and I want people to see your hand guiding every step of my life and draw closer to you because of it.

Forgive me for the times I act like Rachel – in anger, jealousy, and distrust. Refine me to be more like you daily. Teach me your ways and keep me close. Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #21 - Lead Me to the Rock

Inspirational Quote Image

Genesis Bible Study

Bible Drama and Woes of the Older Siblings

I worked at a health club for the last seven years.  The first time I walked in I was flabbergasted! It had a salon, cafe, three pools, two hot tubs, dry and steam saunas, massage rooms, two basketball courts, a rockwall, four squash courts (now turned into other things), and a child’s center. And that’s just the first floor! Upstairs is my happy place, the fitness floor.

None of that has anything to do with what I am talking about except for a small corner of that facility…the lounge area of the women’s locker room.  It’s not even about that, but a specific TV program that the locker room attendents would watch while folding towels.

Many a time I would rush by and couple of workers, along with some members, were glued to the screen while Only One Life to Live was on. I’d stop for a moment only to be sucked into the drama.  Someone killed another character who was related to this other person that was having an affair with the one killed and the brother’s uncle who worked at the hospital was blackmailing the killer and the killer’s mistress was in cahoots with the brother’s uncle who’s daughter has run off with the killer’s nephew.

FH000154Okay, that’s all fake (and sorry for the poor grammar).  But seriously,  that’s how those shows work.  There are twenty different plots happening at once and they are all connected in strange ways.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the thrill and mystery of the never-ending drama.  There is something so intriguing about the story, even though they are usually terrible situations! I would never want to be experiencing that much drama all of the time!

As Isaac’s life unfolds, we are absorbed into the drama.  We’ve got favoritism gone bad, rivalry, lying, deception, stealing, cheating, defiance, and spite.

S – Scripture: Genesis 27-29

  • 27:15-17 – “Then she took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to her younger son, Jacob. She covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats. Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread.”
  • 27:24 – “‘But are you really my son Esau?’ he asked. ‘Yes, I am,’ Jacob replied.”
  • 27:36 – “Esau exclaimed, ‘No wonder his name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First he took my rights as the firstborn, and now he has stolen my blessing. Oh, haven’t you saved even one blessing for me?'”
  • 27:40 – “‘But when you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck.'”
  • 28:4 – “‘May God pass on to you and your descendants the blessings he promised to Abraham. May you own this land where you are now living as a foreigner, for God gave this land to Abraham.'”
  • 28:6-9 – Esau marries a Canaanite woman to spite his father.
  • 28:12 – “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.”
  • 28:15 – God is renewing his covenant (or passing it on) to Jacob – “‘What’s more, I am IMG_1398with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.'”
  • 28:22 – “‘And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.'”
  • 29:3 – “It was the custom there to wait for all the flocks to arrive before removing the stone and watering the animals. Afterward the stone would be placed back over the mouth of the well.”
  • 29:9-13 – Jacob meets Rachel and Laban.
  • 29:20 – “So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.”
  • 29:25-27 – “But when Jacob woke up in the morning–it was Leah! ‘What have you done to me?’ Jacob raged at Laban. ‘I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?’ ‘It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,’ Laban replied. ‘But wait until the bridal week is over, then we’ll give you Rachel, too–provided you promise to work another seven years for me.'”
  • 29:31-35 – Leah has four sons to try to earn the love she desires from Jacob.

O – Observation:

  • Rebekah favors her other son, Jacob, and tricks Isaac into giving him his blessing instead of Esau.
  • Isaac runs a couple of tests to make sure that he is, indeed, speaking to Esau.  He obviously knew the prophecy of the brothers when they were born.  But Rebekah seems to know all of the things he would check before delivering the blessing.
  • Esau has been cheated twice out of what he would’ve rightly owned – his birthright and his father’s blessing.  He is left with nothing.
  • Esau is left to serve his brother.  But there will come a time when he decides to break free and go off on his own.
  • The covenant of God given to Abraham and Isaac passes on to Jacob. God reveals himself in dream as Jacob is journeying to Laban.  In it, God personally gifts the blessings of his covenant to Jacob.
  • God promises to be with Jacob until the full promise is complete.  He will never leave him and always protect him.
  • Jacob commits to offering a tenth of everything he ever earns to the Lord. A gift offered, not commanded.
  • Laban tricks Jacob by giving him his eldest daughter, Leah after Jacob works for seven years.  He then says that Jacob can marry Rachel but has to work for him another seven years!
  • Leah never really earns the love of Jacob, though she gives him four sons.

20170808_203447A – Application: 

God sure works in mysterious ways for his kingdom purpose to come about.  I’m not even sure what to think of this story, haha! I’ve got nothing. Like a Soap Opera, I’m left dumb-founded with more questions than answers. Okay, I’ll try to explain this madness.

It was known before their birth that Jacob and Esau would be rivals in every way. Genesis 25:22-23 states:

“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.'”

Why Jacob?  Why the younger son? What would’ve happened if Esau was chosen instead of Jacob?  What’s the significance of God having favoritism, lying, and deceit in the story to make his purpose work?  Why not just make Jacob the older son and call it good? Was there something in Esau’s heart that wouldn’t have obeyed God in everything he was asked to do?

IMG_1394We’ve seen something like this before with Cain and Abel.  Something in the elder brother’s heart was not on par with what God desired when he offered his harvest to the Lord.  Cain gave “some of his crop” while Abel offered “the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock” (Genesis 4:3-4).  Later, Cain kills his brother out of anger and rejects the Lord instead of accepting forgiveness.  His true colors show.

I’m just speculating, but maybe there was a hard spot on Esau’s heart that wouldn’t soften in obedience to God.  He may not have been willing to do what God would’ve ask for when working on fulfilling his promise to Abraham. We do see his anger and spitefulness revealed when he learns of Jacob and Rebekah’s deception. I would have been angry too so I’m not judging him. I kind of feel bad for the guy. But I can’t justify his actions to “get back” at his father and plotting to kill his brother either.

Isaac’s blessing for Esau does reveal that one day he will decide to break free from his servitude from Jacob.  Eventually he will leave and build his own life. It’s possible that God has a totally different and good plan and purpose for Esau that we don’t know about.  We may never know.

Next, we find Jacob fleeing to his Uncle Laban’s household to escape Esau and also find a wife.  On his way, he has a beautiful dream and God passes on his covenant. Jacob is overwhelmed, and for the first time, we witness him building an alter and dedicates his life to God.  Maybe Isaac told his son’s stories of God and his Covenant with their grandfather.  Not much is mentioned in how much of the Lord was revealed to the boys. He moves on, but not before he commits a tenth of what he receives from the Lord in blessings.

20170808_144553It’s love-at-first-sight when he sees Rachel walking up to the well with her sheep.  He quickly asks for her hand in marriage and commits to working for his Uncle for seven years to earn her. Laban does an old switcheroo on the wedding night and Jacob wakes up with Leah, the sad and frumpy older sister. (Seriously, older siblings are getting a bum rap here! What’s the deal?)

Also, what happened to Rachel in all of this?  Did Laban drug her and lock her in her room until morning? Was she upset at all? If Jacob was so enraptured by her beauty, he should have known something was wrong, even in the dark!  I digress.

It all works out for our antagonist in this Soap Opera. Laban allows Jacob to marry Rachel the next week in exchange for seven more years of service.  But Leah is left unloved and striving to earn Jacob’s affection by bearing more children.

This passage challenges me a lot.  I think the greatest lesson I learn is that our decisions, actions, and reactions can have such impact on our lives and others. It’s easy to look at other people and compare what they have with what we don’t.  We sometimes covet another’s personality traits and blessings.   Other times, we get burned because it can be all about who you know or certain extroverted personality types are desired over your introverted tendencies.  This can lead to anger, contempt, deceit, and impulsiveness. Or, it paints an idea in our heads that we aren’t good enough and never will be.  Our personality is just not cut out for our dreams.

What if Cain and Esau had not reacted in anger?  What if they had allowed God to 20170808_194637forgive them and use their lives for something good?  If Leah sought acceptance, love, and purpose from the Lord, how would her life had been? What if they hadn’t given up and lost hope in having a good life because of one incident or one person?  God’s grace is far greater and frees us from a life of wandering and wallowing in our animosity and jealousy.

I probably won’t be an Olympic athlete, a great chef in an expensive restaurant, or a trainer for a sexy celebrity.  I may never save a million lives or cure a disease or build a superior structure that reminds people of me after I’m gone.  I can sit here and be upset and curse every athlete, chef, trainer, doctor, researcher, missionary, philanthropist, and architect all day.  But where would that get me?

I’m the older sibling in real life, but I don’t want to be like Cain or Esau or Leah.  Cain hardened his heart to God’s forgiveness and chose exile.  Esau chose anger to steer the rest of his life.  Leah was constantly pursuing acceptance from a man and not from God.  This left her constantly feeling like she wasn’t good enough.

People have their blessings and gifts, but I sure do have mine.  It’s taken years of self-discovery and acceptance to understand that God has made me unique on purpose and with purpose.  I don’t want to be angry at someone because I perceive that they are better than me in some area of life.  When I step back, see all that God has done for me and love who he made me, my focus shifts.  My joy and contentment and peace lift.  I am satisfied and I seek ways to pursue putting those unique qualities into actions that serve and bless others.

What blessings, talents, and personality traits has God given you?  Are there some you like and others you don’t? Why don’t you like them?  Can you think of any reason why God may have placed those unique traits in you?  Get creative.  How could God use those towards his Kingdom purpose.

P – Prayer:

God, forgive me for not completely loving all that you created me to be.  I want to.  Will you give me creative ways to use all of the gifts and talents you have blessed me with? Can you show me how my personality traits fit into my purpose?

Thank you, Lord, for your word and the lessons from it.  Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #20 - Bible Drama and the Woes of the Older Siblings

Bible Verse Image
He dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven.

 

 

Genesis Bible Study

Well Digging

I love meeting the parent’s of good friends.  It’s always a new view of where they came from and how they became who they are today.  The origin of the tendencies, voice inflections, habits, and physical features that I appreciate of a person are revealed.  Which good and “bad” qualities have been passed down, I find it fascinating.

From my mom, I get a love for school supplies and my paper-straight and fine hair.  My Father gifted me with my dark brown eyes and athleticism.  Both of my parents are excellent musicians, playing multiple instruments and sing. They enjoy camping, quality time with family, and quiet time in nature. My mom loves taking a walk in the morning with the dogs and her coffee.  My dad will mow his own lawn for at least three hours, then the churches, then 2-3 other people’s lawns.  I guess it’s relaxing for him, I don’t know, haha! These things that I love, I see were really passed down to me from my parents and their parents.

I love hearing other people’s experiences with their parents and their similarities.  But some qualities aren’t as great, which my friends dislike and long to overcome.  One friend always hated that her mom never sat down and ate meals with her and her siblings when they were young.  She noticed that she was doing the same thing!  Once she realized it, she made the effort to sit, talk, and enjoy lunchtime with her children.

Ahead, we begin the story of Isaac, Abraham’s beloved son whom he waited for.  As his life unfolds, certain similarities between father and son appear.  Some are great and others are not.

DSCF0054S – Scripture: Genesis 25-26

  • 25:7 – “Abraham lived for 175 years, and he died at a ripe old age, having lived a long and satisfying life. He breathed his last and joined his ancestors in death.”
  • 25:21 – “Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins.”
  • 26:2-5 – “The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you. Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father. I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.'”
  • 26:7 – “When the men who lived there asked Isaac about his wife, Rebekah, he said, “She is my sister.” He was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.'”
  • 26:12-16 – “When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the LORD blessed him. He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow. He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him. So the Philistines filled up all of Isaac’s wells with dirt. These were the wells that had been dug by the servants of his father, Abraham. Finally, Abimelech ordered Isaac to leave the country. ‘Go somewhere else,’ he said, ‘for you have become too powerful for us.'” 
  • 26:17-22 – Isaac dug two wells which the people of Gerar disputed so he had to give them up.  He built another well that went undisputed and says in verse 22, “At last, the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this Land.”
  • 25:23-25 – “From there Isaac moved to Beersheba, where the LORD appeared to him on the night of his arrival. ‘I am the God of your father, Abraham,’ he said. ‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.’ Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the LORD. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well.”
  • 26:28-29 – “They replied, ‘We can plainly see that the LORD is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let’s make a covenant. Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace. And now look how the LORD has blessed you!'” 
  • 26:32 – “That very day Isaac’s servants came and told him about a new well they had dug. ‘We’ve found water!’ they exclaimed.”

O – Observation:

  • Abraham lives a long and satisfying life and dies after 175 years.20170811_160452
  • Isaac’s story begins with him pleading with God to bless him with a child.  After 20 years of waiting, the Lord answers his prayer with twins.
  • Due to the covenant and faithfulness of Abraham, Isaac would be the recipient of the promise as well.  His descendants would numerous and blessed by God.
  • Isaac told the same lie to Abimelech as his Father had about Rebekah being his sister instead of his wife.
  • God blessed Isaac with great wealth, so Abimelech commanded him to leave because he was afraid of the power and resources Isaac had. They filled in his wells, forcing him to go.
  • Isaac moved his family to the Gerar Valley where he tried to dig two wells, only to have them be claimed by others living in the land.
  • He finally came upon a section where a well could be dug for his family and they could prosper.
  • Abimelech strikes a treaty with Isaac, realizing that no matter where Isaac goes and what doors are closed (or wells filled in or claimed), that the Lord is with him.

A – Application:

It’s interesting, the same insecurities that Abraham dealt with were passed on to Isaac.  They both told the same lie that their wife was their sister instead.  Both carried the same fear.

They also had to wait for children.  Abraham prayed for a child and Isaac pleaded with the Lord for offspring.  Both had to wait about two decades before their prayers were DSCF0030answered. Father and son had to rely on the timing and blessing of God alone.

One good thing that maintained was the covenant that God had given to Abraham.  We see God’s hand continually working in the lives of these two men as they waited and trusted.  The promise of descendants numbering the stars was just beginning and reinforced as God spoke to Isaac.

As Isaac’s family grows and prospers, the higher-ups around him begin to fear the possibility of being overtaken by the tribe.  They go as far as filling in Isaac’s wells, a source needed for life, to make sure he packs up and leaves.  Abimelech then demands that he goes somewhere else.

Isaac and his family leave, set up camp, and dig another well only for it to be disputed.  This happens a second time.  Finally, the third well goes unchallenged and his tribe can finally rest and set down some roots.  A fourth well is dug that produces water, and Isaac’s family celebrates.

Has that ever happened to you?  Not necessarily filling in and digging wells, of course.  But have you ever felt like doors just keep closing?  You get settled maybe in a relationship or job or living arrangement only for it to fall apart.

It makes me think of the struggle of knowing God’s personal will for our lives. We think we may know exactly where we should go, only to discover it wasn’t what we thought. Or we experience company giving out lay-offs after a lifetime of loyalty, a bad diagnosis after trying to live a healthy lifestyle, a divorce when everything seemed fine.  Like Isaac, we get to a good land (success, wealth, etc.) only to have our wells disputed or filled in.

Now, I should preface by saying that I believe God’s over-arching will for my life is to love God, love others, and follow his written and spoken word prompted by the Holy Spirit.  This “umbrella will” I shall call it, offers a lot of freedom in how each individual carries those three things out.  In every occupation and encounter, we have the ability to do God’s umbrella will.  We carry it with us on whatever path we take. Discovering a more unique will that God has for you takes constant self-discovery, throughout life (not just at 18 years old).

bank-2469350_1280To help me understand this I picture life as a hallway with endless doors and. (You are still carrying God’s umbrella will, remember.) I may open a door, or God may open a specific path for me to enter.  Sometimes I get into a room only to find out that this is not where I, or God, wants to be for too long.  That discovery allows me to step out and put an X there so I know that’s not the direction God is calling me.  It may seem like a failure, but it’s actually a win, I think.  I’m closer to discovering what he does want me to do.

Dan, my husband, is a great example of opening and closing doors.  After two years at a University he decided that it wasn’t the right fit for him.  For the next few of years he dabbled in car sales, banking, network marketing, internet marketing, and a few more I’m probably forgetting.  These all seemed random at the time.  I had no idea (he probably didn’t know either) where life was going to take him.

Looking on them now, I see that each experience has given him knowledge for his current business pursuits and real life application.  (He buys the cars and does the banking in this relationship!) He also has two successful businesses built on the foundations of the knowledge that he gained previously.  Dan is constantly looking for the next door or window of opportunity.  I never know what idea he is going to come up with in a day.  It keeps me on my toes!

I was in the Personal Training “room” for eight years.  It served me well, I learned a ton, hallwayand hopefully helped the people around me.  But there came a point where I needed to exit that space and discover what was next.  I’m in a place right now that I feel I have a few unlocked doors that I need to pursue to really understand which room (or rooms) I want to camp out in for the next phase of life.

Sometimes, you just need to dig the well (or enter the room), so to speak, and see what happens.  Maybe it produces some conflict and discomfort.  But maybe, just maybe,  it’s the room you’ve been waiting and praying for.

What if Isaac had waited to dig the well?  Uh, his family would have died from thirst!  It was a matter of life or death! Digging the wells and opening the doors in our lives may just be the difference between a surviving life and thriving life.  I want the latter.  I crave a life that God has developed and molded over time into something exciting and beautiful.  I can only imagine and trust that he is orchestrating a perfect room for me.  He’s doing that for you too!

If you are in a room that doesn’t feel right, it may be a sign that you need to make your exit and discover what’s next.  I should say, that sometimes God puts us and keeps us in uncomfortable places for a time in order to help others or prepare us for the next phase in our journey.  You do need to be discerning of that.  Also, you always have your umbrella will, which makes everywhere you are a purposeful opportunity.  Don’t just sit in the stuffy, uncomfortable room.  Use your gifts and talents to make it a better place for those in that room as well until God opens another path.

Last thing on this, you are never stuck. You can break the insecurities and fears that may have carried over from your childhood and parents. I think you have the ability to sneak peak (through the mail slot of a door) to see what’s right for you, while you are in a specific room.  That may look like gathering information on night classes after work, researching at-home income opportunities, or stepping out into certain social experiences to meet new friends that share the same goals as you.  Become an explorer! Seek out the life God has for you, carrying your umbrella along the way.

DSCF0050P – Prayer:

God, your word is so good.  Thank you for the grace you give us when figuring this life out.  Thank you for using all of our weaknesses, strengths, insecurities, and experiences to build a life that is beautiful.  You are the Master Creator, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  God, I pray that breakthroughs are made today.  I pray that the weight of feeling stuck may be lifted.  I pray that the shame of failing is stripped off and a new perspective is given to those who need it most.

God, thank you for loving me enough to change me and grow me and give me purpose.  Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #19 - Well Digging

Bible Verse Image
We can plainly see that the Lord is with you.
Genesis Bible Study

On the Mountain

At camp there was a team builder course that you would do with all of the people in your cabin.  We would have to lift each other over high walls, repel down towers, carry one another through rope webs, among other things.  One activity in particular was the trust fall.

One person would stand on a tall stump or picnic table, facing the opposite direction, while the others lined up behind her in two rows facing each other with their arms out.  The one on the table would fall backwards, trusting that the group would catch her before she fell on the ground.

You couldn’t see where you were falling and had to pray that you weren’t too heavy for everyone to catch you (maybe that was just me!).  Typically you were falling into the arms of people you had just met a couple of days prior too! I don’t remember ever missing anyone when the fell back, we were always safe in each other’s arms.  But it was unnerving standing on that picnic table, waiting, hoping, praying.

It was a challenging exercise, but now I do that with my husband all the time.  I yell, “TRUST FALL!” and he has to catch me.  He always does.  I have complete faith in him.  He has proven himself many times, even though I don’t think he appreciates the spontaneity of it, haha!

As we see in this next section of scripture, God calls out “TRUST FALL!” and Abraham responds immediately.  He climbs up on the picnic table, turns around, and falls into God’s arms, knowing that God will always catch him.

20170808_115601_resized_1S – Scripture: Genesis 22-24

  • 22:1-3 – “Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. ‘Abraham!’ God called. ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Here I am.’ ‘Take your son, your only son–yes, Isaac, whom you love so much–and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.’ The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about.”
  • 22:7-8 – “Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’ ‘God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
  • 22:9-12 – “When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Yes,’ Abraham replied. ‘Here I am!’ ‘Don’t lay a hand on the boy!’ the angel said. ‘Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.’
  • 22:14 – “Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means ‘the LORD will provide’). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.'”
  • 22:18 – “And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed–all because you have obeyed me.”
  • 23:11-16 – “‘No, my lord,’ he said to Abraham, ‘please listen to me. I will give you the field and the cave. Here in the presence of my people, I give it to you. Go and bury your dead.’  Abraham again bowed low before the citizens of the land, and he replied to Ephron as everyone listened. ‘No, listen to me. I will buy it from you. Let me pay the full price for the field so I can bury my dead there.’ Ephron answered Abraham, ‘My lord, please listen to me. The land is worth 400 pieces of silver, but what is that between friends? Go ahead and bury your dead.’ So Abraham agreed to Ephron’s price and paid the amount he had suggested–400 pieces of silver, weighed according to the market standard. The Hittite elders witnessed the transaction.”
  • 24:1 – “Abraham was now a very old man, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.”
  • 24:7 – Abraham states: “For the LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and my native land, solemnly promised to give this land to my descendants. He will send his angel ahead of you, and he will see to it that you find a wife there for my son.”
  • 24:27 – Says Abraham’s servant: ‘Praise the LORD, the God of my master, Abraham,’ he said. ‘The LORD has shown unfailing love and faithfulness to my master, for he has led me straight to my master’s relatives.’

20170808_141843_resizedO – Observation:

  • What I learned about Abraham: he was expectant for God’s voice. Abe listened and did all that God commanded without question or emotional drawback. He was willing to sacrifice what was most precious to him in obedience to God.  He trusted God fully in fulfilling his promise. He feared the Lord above all else (above what Sarah might do to him when she found out he just killed their son; beyond the loss of God’s promise of many descendants through Isaac). God blessed him because of his obedience. He was a man of integrity.
  • Abraham got all the way to the point where he would bring the knife down on his son before the Lord stopped him.
  • Sacrificing Isaac meant the end of the line for Abraham’s family (except Ishmael) and God’s promise being unfulfilled.
  • Abraham’s obedience here was the final test before God fulfilled his promise.
  • The Lord’s angels went ahead of Abraham’s servant to find a wife for Isaac and led him straight to her.

A – Application:

Abraham listened for God expectantly and obeyed.20170808_133739_resized_1

I’m reminded of Adam and Eve in the Garden right after they had eaten the Forbidden Fruit.  God was walking in the Garden looking for them and calling out to them.  What did they do? When they heard him coming they hid because they were ashamed.  Next, due to their disobedience, the Lord sacrificed an animal to cover their nakedness, shame, and sin.  He then banished them from the Garden and cursed them.

Abraham heard God and didn’t hide or ignore him.  He got up the next morning and did all that God commanded of him.

Sin clouds our sensitivity to see, hear, and feel God.  It’s like when your foot falls asleep after sitting on it, or getting water in your ears, or an astigmatism in your eye.  When I am willingly or even unintentionally sinning,  I lose my awareness of what God has for me.  My focus is so stuck on filling that earthly need and defying God, that I fall into the disillusion that God isn’t enough.  Maybe it started with questioning his timing, goodness, or power and led me into thinking that I could control those things instead.

I hate when I do that.  I understand the shame that Adam and Eve experienced and sometimes want to hide from God.  Often, I hand-craft my own bandage to put over the blackness in my heart caused by the sin instead of allowing God to forgive me and then work on me to heal that area of my life.  As I do this, I seclude myself farther and farther away from God.

Abraham wasn’t perfect, but he seemed to always have an expectant ear for when God called on him.  God blessed him for that.  I want that too.

What sin is blocking your sensitivity to hear God’s voice or feel his prompting in your life? What steps can you take today to clear out the temptations?  It may not happen in a day, but you can start.  Ask God and be obedient.

Abraham followed God without question.

I was in a Bible Study group a few years ago that studied this passage and changed my perspective on it.  A question in the study guide was asked something like, “What do you think Abraham was feeling in this moment when God asked him to sacrifice his only son?” We all went back and forth about how nervous he felt or how many questions were running through his mind.

But then one man, Jerry, spoke up.  He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “I don’t think he felt those things at all.  Here is a man who has walked closely with the Lord for most of, if not all of his life.  When God called him to do something he did it, no questions asked.  God had proved himself faithful in everything that Abraham did, and Abraham believed he would do it again.” Wow!

20170808_141753_resized_1I think of myself now, and all that God has done for me, and I don’t know if would have reacted the same as Abraham in this situation.  My responses would have been more like, “Are you sure God?” “He wouldn’t ask that of me, no way!” “Why would God do this when he just provided him to me?” “Ignore!”

But in this section of the Bible we have the privilege to witness one of the greatest acts of faith and learn that our fear of the Lord and obedience to him results in him being able to fulfill his promise completely.  When we look back on all that he had done and has provided,  we can’t help but trust that he will do the same in the current situation too.

Is God asking you to give something up in obedience to him? Are you willing to sacrifice that which is most precious to you in order to follow the Lord? What are you afraid of if you are obedient to him?  What do you fear losing, or gaining?

Abraham’s fear of the Lord above all else allowed him to be blessed abundantly. 

I decided in Middle School that I would try Track (I can’t remember why, haha!).  When it was too cold out we would run laps inside the school down the long hallway and around the gym.  I can’t quite remember anything else about the team (I must have blacked it out) except for one piece of advice the coach gave.

She would always say, “Keep your eyes up, never on the ground.  Always know where you are headed.  See the finish line and go for it!.” This small change in focus pushed me to keep running when I was tired.  All other distractions faded away.  I could only see the end goal.

Adam and Eve lost sight of their fear of the Lord and sinned by eating what God had forbidden. They hid in shame and then had to leave God’s beautiful Garden. But Job, even after his wife told him to “curse God and die,” and his friends hammered that he had sinned and God was punishing him, he kept his eyes on God.

Abraham had a great mountain in front of him.  Not just physically, but the sacrifice that God had called him to make.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from this story was to not fear the mountain itself, but who the mountain belongs to.

No matter what God had called him to do, Abraham unswervingly obeyed.  First, God told him to gather all of his belongings and family and move to wherever he told them to go.  Then, he made a covenant that he would give Abraham a son and many descendants.  God assigned him to be patient.  Now, the greatest task, to sacrifice his son, the one God had promised him.

20170808_144201_resized_1Abraham had his eyes, never on the mountain he faced, but on the one whom the mountain belonged.  He knew beyond a doubt, that God was faithful and trustworthy.  Oh, I long for that undistracted gaze on God.

What mountains are in your line of vision right now?  Can you raise your focus above the mountain at who holds it in his hands?  Write down all that God is to you.  Find verses to strengthen your foundation in him.

Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son foreshadows God’s surrender of his son.

“Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’ ‘God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,‘ Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.” Genesis 22:7-8

“It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.” 1 Peter 1:19-21

When we place our faith and hope in God; when we fix our gaze on the mountain maker and not the mountain itself, he provides the Lamb.  There is nothing we could ever bring or do to deserve the freedom from sin and death that he gives.  And there is nothing that can separate us from the love that God has for us.  There is no sin too great for him to relieve you of.  There is no temptation to powerful that he can’t help you overcome.  All we have to do is come to the cross and surrender.

Take some time and pray about that today.  Let God hold you and speak to you.  Allow him pull you in close.  Confess the sin, accept his grace, walk in his forgiveness.  It is possible for your life to be changed by an amazing, ever-loving God.

P – Prayer:

God, thank you for this story of Abraham.  It is full of lessons that I need to hear.  I want a faith like his.  I long for the sensitivity he had towards your voice and the conviction he had in being obedient to you.  You are so good, and you long to do good things for me. Help me to hear your voice and feel your promptings.  If there is any wicked way in me, help me to see it and give me the strength and courage to get it out of my life.  Give me a way out.  I pray that for everyone reading this today too. Amen

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #18 - On the Mountain
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.