Genesis Bible Study

Already Victorious

I recently read The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.  It took me about four months to read.  I kept having to stop, check the index in the back on who that character was, or where they were at on the map.  Many of the characters had multiple names and places kept getting renamed. The family trees kept getting harder and harder to follow.  Who came from who again?  Wait, which Elf family did he come from…oh, that’s actually a dwarf family.  What battle was that and when did it take place?

The first half of the book took three months, and the last half one month.  I had finally gotten into a good rhythm with Tolkien’s writing style and the main characters.  It was an arduous task, but I enjoyed it.  I loved reading about the creation of Arda (the earth) by Iluvatar.  Also, the making of the Valar (the Creator’s originals) who sang the earth into its being and formed the trees and flowers, the rivers and animals, the mountains and plains with their song.

There were heroes and villains, good against evil, dark against light.  Magnificent creatures of destruction were created by Melkor, the fallen being of Iluvatar.  He waited in the darkness and planted seeds of evil in men and elves.  There were many great battles against Melkor and his lot.  But other battles were fought because of the lies he told, and the pride and jealousy, the anger and distrust that he instilled in many of his followers.  Death came to many as a byproduct of his work.

20170827_105343_resizedAs I have been reading through the Bible chronologically this time, I’ve found that my perspective has changed.  No longer is it a collection of individual stories, split into books, and then into testaments.  There aren’t just a handful of quotable verses to live by and others to be discarded. It is one, long, collective story: God’s story. Everything in it is important and follows God’s narrative from creation to final victory over Satan.  With this in mind, it makes reading and understanding it practically a little easier.  I also realize that the Bible is “living,” and that God speaks in special ways to us through each word and story.  This inspires me to study it.

Though Tolkien says that this work is not based on God vs. Satan, there are so many parallels within the story.  Not unlike Tolkien’s work the Bible, can be a challenge to read, but tells a story of creation, the fall from perfection, battles against evil, strife between loved ones, envy, rage, redemption, and final victory over darkness.

These final chapters in Genesis reveal, in part, how God works and uses people, but also what his plans are to redeem them.  With Jacob’s final message to his sons, he prophecies what is to come: God’s eternal plan and purpose.  It’s so good!

S – Scripture: Genesis 48-50

  • 48:4-6 – “He said to me, ‘I will make you fruitful, and I will multiply your descendants. I will make you a multitude of nations. And I will give this land of Canaan to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.’ ‘Now I am claiming as my own sons these two boys of yours, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born here in the land20170827_105829_resized of Egypt before I arrived. They will be my sons, just as Reuben and Simeon are. But any children born to you in the future will be your own, and they will inherit land within the territories of their brothers Ephraim and Manasseh.'”
  • 48:11 – “Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘I never thought I would see your face again, but now God has let me see your children, too!'” 
  • 48:14 – “But Jacob crossed his arms as he reached out to lay his hands on the boys’ heads. He put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, though he was the younger boy, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, though he was the firstborn.”
  • 48:19 – “But his father refused. ‘I know, my son; I know,’ he replied. ‘Manasseh will also become a great people, but his younger brother will become even greater. And his descendants will become a multitude of nations.'” 
  • 49:9-10 – “‘Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey. Like a lion he crouches and lies down; like a lioness–who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.’” 
  • 50:19-21 – “But Joseph replied, ‘Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.’ So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.”
  • 50:24 – “‘Soon I will die,’ Joseph told his brothers, ‘but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.'” 

O – Observation:

  • Jacob is making his last commands and tying up all of the loose ends with is sons.  He takes Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own.
  • Like between Jacob and Esau,  Jacob blesses the younger son of Joseph more than the older.
  • Jacob gives a lasting message to each of his sons, prophesying what will happen to each.  He foreshadows Jesus’ coming – “the one whom all nations will honor.”
  • The brothers fear that Joseph will now turn on them since their Father is gone.  But Joseph has forgiven his brothers completely.  He understood that God worked mightily through what they had done and used it for the good of the whole nation.
  • At Joseph’s death, he states that the Israelites will be brought out of Egypt and back to God’s Promised Land to them.
  • The world intends to harm us, but God works it all for good.

IMG_2131.JPGA – Application:

1.) How the world works: It intends to harm us.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” John 10:10a

The world is fallen. Broken. Full of hurt, grief, struggle, sickness, and addictions. Depression, anxiety, worry, and fear take up residence in our minds.  Many are far from God and act so. It’s seems sometimes that Satan has prevailed.  He has managed to turn the beautiful world God created into a hazard zone.  I don’t have to look far to see the pain of the world, both in humans and in nature.

Even more subtle, but just as powerful, the jealousy, envy, anger, regret, guilt, shame, doubt, pride, and unforgiveness that start as seeds and grow in us. These emotions, if left unchecked, can manipulate our actions and interactions. Worst of all, they can draw us away from God and all that he has for us. This is not the world that God intended for his children.  We must be vigilent in checking our emotions, drawing close to God daily, and fleeing from the devil.  We must guard our hearts and renew our minds constantly!

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10b

20170827_105618_resized1.) How God works: He works all things for good and uses the least of all people for his purposes. 

Throughout the Bible, God shows the opposite view of the world.  The world wants the powerful, wealthy, charismatic, influential, and strong to make things happen.  And not that you can’t be any of these things for God to use you.  But historically, those that made an impact in the Bible and today, are so, because they first humbled themselves to God and followed him.

“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Matthew 19:30 

He takes the weak, poor, dull, unimportant, insignificant, and small and empowers them to do great things when they have the smallest amount of faith.  He takes the impossible, tragic, devestating, and challenging and brings something good and purposeful out of it all.  That’s not always what we want to hear if we are grieving, but it’s true.  He can bring great joy out of great sorrow and purpose out of pain.

Like it says above, he wants us to have a good and fulfilling life.  God desires for us to live abundantly in his care and provision. What the world intends for harm, God can use for good.

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

3.) God’s eternal plan and purpose: God will redeem his world and will reign victorious because of the sacrifice of Jesus. 

“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot–yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. He will delight in obeying the LORD. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.” Isaiah 11:1-4

IMG_3140.JPGJacob foreshadows Jesus’ coming in this passage when he is blessing Judah.  (David is of the tribe of Judah.) God, here, gives a little hint of the narrative to come.  That victory will be his eternally.

It’s easy to get caught up in the horribleness of this world.  But it’s because of the big steps of faith that ordinary people take every day that thwarts the plan of Satan.  It’s through God’s supernatural power that he bestows on us, that evil is stopped in our circle of influence.  It’s by the grace and love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we no longer have to pay the price for our sins.  And that we can stand strong against the power of the wicked. Satan has lost!

“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

So we can stop and breathe, and know that God is God.  We can have full confidence that evil will not win.  God will have the final say! Whew!

P – Prayer:

Wow, God! I just love you so much more today because of the scripture you have given.  Thank you for your story.  For putting it all together giving it to your children to figure out how to live and to receive the courage we need to stand against the devil.  He has no power! He has no victory! Thank you for that God.  Thank you for sending your son to die for me, so that I can live.

God, you choose the weak and powerless to do your best work.  You can take tragedy and grief, and bring purpose.  It’s hard to see the world for what it is, what you’d hoped it wouldn’t become, but did.  Thank you for not giving up.  Thank you for loving us enough to continue the story until Satan is completely vanquished.

Keep our hearts and minds vigilant.  Keep us close to you, Lord.  Helps us be strong against the powers of the devil.  I pray a special prayer of protection to those reading.  In your powerful name, Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #28 - Already Victorious

 

Genesis Bible Study

“The ONE Who Is Leading”

Have you ever been so paralyzed by fear or doubt?  Have you ever taken a step of faith and then faltered, questioning if it was the right move?  Maybe excitement propelled you forward at first, but now in the thick of it, you feel as though your judgement may have been clouded?  Do you keep going or turn back?

These questions are all too familiar to me.  I desire so much to do God’s will, but the steps of faith seem like they take so much effort.  Is there a way to cut down on that?  Is there a state of being that is so sure of God’s will that my time isn’t spent in prayer, but action?

I wrestled with these questions while reading this passage about Jacob traveling down to Egypt.  With the help of authors, Oswald Chambers, Jeremiah, and David, I think I came to a good conclusion.

S – Scripture: Genesis 46-47

  • 46:2-4 – “During the night God spoke to him in a vision. ‘Jacob! Jacob!’ he called. ‘Here I am,’ Jacob replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father,’ the voice said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.'”
  • 46:29-30 – “Joseph prepared his chariot and traveled to Goshen to meet his father, Jacob. When Joseph arrived, he embraced his father and wept, holding him for a long time. Finally, Jacob said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen your face again and know you are still alive.'”

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  • 46:36 – Joseph tells his family: “you must tell him, ‘We, your servants, have raised livestock all our lives, as our ancestors have always done.’ When you tell him this, he will let you live here in the region of Goshen, for the Egyptians despise shepherds.” 
  • 47:5-6 – “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Now that your father and brothers have joined you here, choose any place in the entire land of Egypt for them to live. Give them the best land of Egypt. Let them live in the region of Goshen. And if any of them have special skills, put them in charge of my livestock, too.'”
  • 47:17 – “So they brought their livestock to Joseph in exchange for food. In exchange for their horses, flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and donkeys, Joseph provided them with food for another year.”
  • 47:20-21 – “So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold him their fields because the famine was so severe, and soon all the land belonged to Pharaoh. As for the people, he made them all slaves, from one end of Egypt to the other.”
  • 47:27 – “Meanwhile, the people of Israel settled in the region of Goshen in Egypt. There they acquired property, and they were fruitful, and their population grew rapidly.”

O – Observation:

  • God knows our fears and worries even though we may not outwardly share them.  He meets us where we are at and can encourage us to move forward.
  • God confirms his covenant with Jacob, promising to carry on the family line while in Egypt. Maybe he feared that moving away from the land that God had promised his family would be the end of the covenant.  Maybe he was worried that he was making a poor decision that would ruin it all.
  • The promise of seeing Joseph again reassures Jacob to continue to Egypt.
  • Joseph and Jacob are reunited and it is a beautiful moment.
  • Jacob’s fears may have had some validity: Egyptians hate shepherds, which is what his whole family was.  Joseph chose their words to describe their occupation 20170827_103322carefully.
  • Pharaoh welcomed them with open arms and gave Joseph’s family the best land.  He even offered to hire the expert shepherd’s for his own livestock.  This could be a good example of God going ahead of Jacob and preparing all that needed to happen for a smooth transition.
  • The people of Egypt gave up all of their money, livestock, land, and freedom in order to survive.  These were desperate times.  But the people of Israel flourished and multiplied.
  • God can bring life and joy during seasons of famine.

A – Application:

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” Oswald Chambers

Jacob was being led away from the land promised to his fathers and to his descendants.  It was a big move to take 70 plus people to Egypt, a land that despised their very occupation and heritage.  Is God keeping his promise?  Is he forsaking us?  Am I going to be the one who screws all of this up?

But Joseph.  He is there! He is alive! There is hope!

I think God is calling us there, but what if he isn’t?  What if this is a trap?

Maybe it’s just me, but this commentary is similar to the times when God has called me to do questionable things, big and small.  Is it really his will?  Is this right? Am I making the best decision?  What if it is wrong?  What if I’m supposed to stay right where I’m at?  It seems like a good idea, but I just can’t be sure.  Things are okay, even good here.  Ugh, I don’t know!

God, just tell me exactly what to do.  Make each and every step known so I don’t screw this up or waste time, I pray!

But God calls us not to focus so much on the direction, but the Director. My prayers for understanding God’s will, change.

20170827_103658

“Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off the track. The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer.” Oswald Chambers

This quote sets me straight.  The answer to my prayers of worry, anxiety, or fear need not be about getting rid of life’s circumstances and tough decisions.  It’s an opportunity to see and feel all of who God is in those moments of greatest need.  When my vision is focused upward on him, and he shows me all that he can do and be, my circumstances are no longer impossible.  My uncertain direction is no longer an object of fear, but of faith.  My mind is now in tune with God.  I have surrendered to the point of following him wherever he calls me because my trust is in the right place.

My actions no longer need to be calculated by my own strength, ability, and power.  The God that I love and serve is in control and builds me up to take on whatever I need to. God is my answer and that is all I need.  When I change my way of thinking to this, I can take that step in full assurance that God is protecting me and guiding me.

“To be so much in contact with God that you never need to ask Him to show you His will, is to be nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God’s will, and all your commonsense decisions are His will for you unless He checks. You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will always check; when He checks, stop at once.” Oswald Chambers

This, my friends, is my goal! I long so much to be in a place where no matter how big or small a decision is,  I am so connected to God that I can step forward without any doubt. I don’t have to spend time praying to make sure it’s God’s will, I can confidently say yes or no. I can stay or go immediately.

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Jacob had to overcome fear and doubt along the journey. Even strong faith can have a wavering moment.  But God is gracious and encourages us when we need it.

“Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.”  

Psalm 23:4-5

God kept his promise. When Jacob gets to Egypt, he and his family are fitted with the best land.  Where Hebrews and Shepherds are despised, Jacob’s family is honored. They thrive in a land that is in a severe famine.   What a fitting set of verses for Jacob, a shepherd, found in Psalms.

And for us too.  God’s protection, guidance, favor, comfort, and blessings pour out when we put our full trust in him. Even in, or especially in, those seasons or areas of our lives we feel are in a famine. When we set our gaze, not on our circumstances, but on the most powerful God who can do the impossible with incapable, but willing people.

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

IMG_8321P – Prayer:

God, you are so good.  Help me to dig deeper into who you are, so when trials come, my focus remains on your strength and not my own.  Build up in me such a strong faith that I become your will.  That every move I make is in perfect step with yours because we know each other so well.  I long to know you more.  And I long to do your will.

God, keep those that are in fear or doubt close.  Give them the encouragement and hope they need to take that next step.  Don’t let them be paralyzed and miss out on the great blessings that you give. You are so gracious and love us so much.  Thank you. Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #27 - "The ONE Who is Leading"

Inspirational Quote
Not the direction, but the Director.
Genesis Bible Study

It Was God

My favorite roller coaster is the Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Ohio.  The ride gives you a drop of 300 feet and a speed up to 93mph.  It’s a thrill!  That’s really all I want to ride when I go there.

I’m going to warn you ahead of time, this blogpost is written like you are on a roller coaster. I thought about changing it, but then realized that sometimes life feels like it’s going up and down at rapid speeds.

We are plugging along in life and all of a sudden we experience a 300 foot drop into grief, loss, depression, sickness or debt. Yes, the physical ebbs and flows happen, but the emotional battle that happens after occurs daily as well.  There is a standard we hold ourselves to that we lose and then we get over it, never to be haunted by it again. It’s a sign of strength to move on quickly.  But I sometimes feel like there is a tug-of-war going on inside my head.  I want to have hope and joy one moment, but then I just want to be sad and angry the next.  I’m constantly going back and forth.

So, this blog reads like the roller coaster that’s happening in my head.  There is still plenty of good content and tips though, so read on.

20170826_152526S – Scripture: Genesis 43-45

  • 43:23 – “‘Relax. Don’t be afraid,’ the household manager told them. ‘Your God, the God of your father, must have put this treasure into your sacks. I know I received your payment.’ Then he released Simeon and brought him out to them.”
  • 43:30 – “Then Joseph hurried from the room because he was overcome with emotion for his brother. He went into his private room, where he broke down and wept.”
  • 45:3-5 – “‘I am Joseph!’ he said to his brothers. ‘Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. ‘Please, come closer,’ he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, ‘I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.'”
  • 45:18-20 – “‘Then get your father and all of your families, and return here to me. I will give you the very best land in Egypt, and you will eat from the best that the land produces.’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Tell your brothers, ‘Take wagons from the land of Egypt to carry your little children and your wives, and bring your father here. Don’t worry about your personal belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.'”

O – Observation:

  • Joseph must have paid for the food given to the brothers when he sent them away20170826_152639 with their own coins.
  • Overcome with emotion again, Joseph breaks down and weeps.  All that has come to pass in his life has been for this purpose. His patience and perseverance have paid off. What his brothers meant for harm, God used for good.
  • God’s purposes seem to take bumpy and odd paths.  When taken though, amazing miracles happen and lives are changed.
  • Pharaoh provides the best that the land can offer to Joseph’s family when the move from Canaan to Egypt.

A – Application: 

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:3-4

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” Romans 5:3-6

TRIAL/TEMPTATION > OPPORTUNITY FOR JOY > ENDURANCE GROWS > CHARACTER STRENGTHENS > CONFIDENCE/HOPE IN SALVATION > COMPLETE/PERFECT > RECEIVE THE CROWN OF LIFE

20170826_151222You are absolutely correct in thinking that God has a plan and purpose for my pain.  But I don’t want to hear it.  It’s true that good can come from this someday.  But I don’t want to hear that either.  The Bible says to find joy in the trial.  That’s the last thing I want to hear.

I want to be angry and sad and depressed.  I want my old life, not this. I want my job, spouse, child, home, relationship, parent, or whatever back.  I don’t want to dig deeper into it with God.  I can’t. I don’t want it explained to me. I want to just be.

This, I feel, is a common commentary in the grieving process.  It’s at least what I felt and have heard from others as well. The thoughts of joy and hope were the last things on my mind. But then, over time, it did eventually change.  I had accepted that what I wanted wasn’t going to happen like I thought.  My heart came to terms with the “new normal” that I had to rebuild.

With time, hope did come back and I found ways to have joy and goodness again.  But it wasn’t immediate or easy.  I had to endure the grief to get to the joy.  The baby steps to crawl out of the darkness and into the fresh air of hope were taxing, but freeing with each one. I reached to open air and breathed in as if it was the first time.  The loss was still there, but hope had intervened and surrounded me.

Life beyond grief requires us to put on a hard hat and tool belt and get to work. It means mending and stitching pieces of our life back together.  The beauty in this is that we are not alone and don’t need to do all of the work. The Architect is at work.  The Healer and Tailor guide the thread and needle. Each morning that we get out of bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, and take physical steps, we allow God to keep moving and working in us too.

20170827_102308The reward? A stronger and better character, lasting endurance, confidence in our salvation, completion and perfection.

I want to be the best that I can be for God’s purpose.  I want to be able to press on in faith to reach the goals he has for me.  I want it to be so obvious that it is by God’s salvation and grace that I am standing tall after my trials.  I want to be perfect and complete, not missing anything, when I stand before God.

I don’t think I cared so much about these things when grief and loss initially hit.  I didn’t want to carry on with this new purpose.  I didn’t want this baggage.  It’s ugly and burdensome. Why couldn’t the plan have gone on without the grief? Couldn’t my purpose be found another way?  It’s like I’ve been shot out of a cannon in a direction I don’t want to go but have to figure out how to make life work.

I still have days like this, but less often than before.  I’ve been able to embrace an new life and new hope.  A lot of it has to do with the James 1:12 verse.

As a believer in Christ, we have the promise of eternal life and a crown.  One day, the pain, sorrow, and tears will all pass away.  Eternal joy is there for us when we get to Heaven.  Remembering that in my trials and temptations I still have Jesus is sometimes all I need to look beyond.

20170826_152815I’m sure when Joseph was young and had those dreams of his family bowing down to him, he was on his high horse.  He probably thought, this is going to be great! I’m awesome! Life is so good!

The path to getting there, however, with the abandonment, loss, chains, and grief, was maybe not as straight-forward as he had hoped.  But Joseph’s line after all of the emotions:

“It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.” Genesis 45:5

I would like to get to the end of my life and say, “It was God who sent me here.” It was God who brought me through the trials for this purpose. It was by God’s grace and strength and hope that I have achieved what I have for his glory. I anticipate being an emotional mess like Joseph when that day comes.

Grief is hard.  Trials are rough.  Temptations are constant.  But God is our rock.  He is our fortress.  And he is never-changing and always loving.  Allow yourself time to go through all of the emotions attached to whatever circumstance you are in.  Then choose God and he will lead you to joy, character, confidence, and purpose.  New and good.

P – Prayer:

God, I desire that you will take all of the loss, grief, pain, and trials and make them into something beautiful.  I pray that it wasn’t in vain.  I pray that I can look back and say, “It was God who sent me here.  It was God who carried my down this path. It was God who brought me through.” I hope lives can be changed because the trajectory of my life changed.  You are so good and your purposes are good.  Give me strength to endure for your glory.

I pray for those going through a grieving period, Lord.  Would you give them hope today? Would you give them grace to be in their emotions, but then the strength to take a step towards you and the new and beautiful life you have for them?

Forgive me for the times I have doubted you and your goodness.  Continue to shape me into the person that will do the purposes you need done on this earth.  Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #26 - It Was God

Bible Verse Image
It was God who sent me.
Genesis Bible Study

Puzzle Pieces

I don’t do puzzles often, but when I do, I’m amazed at how relaxed I feel.  There is a certain quiet and peace that transcends when finding which pieces go together and form a picture.  I am oddly fulfilled by the process though it is sometimes arduous. So many trial and errors have to occur before reaching the finished product.  It takes time to complete. When it is finished, it’s there to gaze upon and enjoy.

Joseph’s story continues and we start seeing all of the puzzle pieces fit together.  The purpose of the challenges and griefs begins to unfold as he is granted an opportunity to utilize the skills that have been lying in wait.  This is an exciting part of the story!

S – Scripture: Genesis 41-42

  • 41:8 – “The next morning Pharaoh was very disturbed by the dreams. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. When Pharaoh told them his dreams, not one of them could tell him what they meant.”
  • 41:16 – “‘It is beyond my power to do this,’ Joseph replied. ‘But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.'”
  • 41:26-27 – “‘The seven healthy cows and the seven healthy heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity. The seven thin, scrawny cows that came up later and the seven thin heads of grain, withered by the east wind, represent seven years of famine.'”20170824_065726
  • 41:32-36 – “‘As for having two similar dreams, it means that these events have been decreed by God, and he will soon make them happen. Therefore, Pharaoh should find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh should appoint supervisors over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years. Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.'” 
  • 41:38-41 – “So Pharaoh asked his officials, ‘Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.’ Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.'”
  • 41:46 – “He was thirty years old when he began serving in the court of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.”
  • 41:57 – “And people from all around came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.”
  • 42:7-9 – “Joseph recognized his brothers instantly, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. ‘Where are you from?’ he demanded. ‘From the land of Canaan,’ they replied. ‘We have come to buy food.’ Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize him. And he remembered the dreams he’d had about them many years before. He said to them, ‘You are spies! You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become.'”
  • 41:24 – “Now he turned away from them and began to weep. When he regained his composure, he spoke to them again.”

20170824_182148O – Observation:

  • Joseph is finally remembered by the cupbearer to Pharaoh when no one is able to interpret his dreams of the cows and of the wheat.
  • Joseph let’s Pharaoh know where his wisdom and skill come from first, and then goes on to hear the dreams and reveal their meaning. God is the source.
  • Pharaoh sees that Joseph is filled with God’s Spirit, is wise and skilled, and appoints him second in command, in charge of all of Egypt during the years of plenty and famine.
  • The dreams came to pass and Joseph had prepared the people for what was to come. He rationed out food to everyone in need.
  • His ten brothers come up from Canaan to purchase food but don’t recognize Joseph.  It’s been 13 years and Joseph remembers them and the dreams he had of them bowing down to him.  It all makes sense now.
  • God reveals things in his time when we need to know it.  He makes all of the things work together for his purpose.

A – Application:

 

In the previous blogpost, “Grow Where Planted,” I wrote:

“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.”

As Pharaoh’s dreams are interpreted as seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, I start to see the puzzle pieces falling into place in Joseph’s journey. Throughout his 13 years of service and imprisonment, Joseph grew in skill and knowledge in working with many resources and with few.  He managed in feast and in famine which prepared him for his next big task when put in charge of all of Egypt to handle this crisis.

Looking further back into his history, Joseph’s own dreams of his family bowing down to him have come into fruition. He is unable to interpret, at the time, what his early dreams mean.  When he is sold into slavery and then cast into prison, I’m sure those dreams fell deeper into doubt of ever happening.

20170822_192709So many pieces had to fall into place for Joseph to reach his ultimate purpose.  God shaped and molded him along the way and put the right people into the right places in order for it all to work out.  All Joseph could do was weep.

Have you ever been so caught up in the moment when it all works out, that you just can’t handle it?  The emotions just come over you and you lose it.  All you can do is just cry or laugh uncontrollably.  There is such a profound release in those moments when we allow ourselves to do that.

We find Joseph weeping  when his brothers arrive in Egypt, bow down to him, and ask him for food.  All that he has been through has been for this moment. The trials and challenges have all prepared him for this time. Why he looked the way he did, why he was gifted with certain skills and not with others, why there were specific circumstances he had to go through, were all perfectly orchestrated together.

As I have gotten older, I’ve learned how important it is to love, accept, and find out how to use the unique personality traits and natural gifts God has given me. I’m talking about when you peel away all of the layers and are left with who you really are, who God sees and created.  The more I explore why I do and think certain ways, or have certain abilities, the more amazed I am with God and excited to be just me.  This isn’t to say that we cannot change certain aspects, break bad habits, or desire to be better.  I think it actually allows me to do those things better because I can see how God designed me and can more easily shed off what is not supposed to be there.

This also allows me to see the beauty in others.  As I become more confident in how God created me differently and will use me differently than others, I can appreciate rather than compare.

20170824_184807Each of us is on a Joseph Journey.  We’ve been created and gifted with certain traits and molded into others as we grow.  We all have struggles and trials to overcome.  Our God is so amazing that he is able to work in ALL of our lives simultaneously.  He is able to bring beauty into our darkest of places and use all of our personality quirks for his glory and good.

Why do I get a rush in the school supply section at Meijer? Why does my husband have to eat peanut butter and mayo on a BLT or not eat it at all? Why do I love the feel of the breeze and crisp smell of fall?  Why do I feel energized when I lift weights or play volleyball? Why do I hate doing the dishes or dusting my house so much? Why can’t I get into gardening?

Why do I struggle with pride and jealousy and comparison?  Why can’t I get over certain things of the past more easily?  Why can’t I be more patient and trusting when waiting on the Lord? Why do I have to wrestle with these things everyday?  Will I ever be better?

Quirky or common, you were created exactly the way God intended. There is a specific reason you are the way you are.  You may have to take some time and grieve the things you are not.  But don’t let that take up the space for you to explore the wonderful things you are.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” Psalm 139:13-18

God used every bit of how he created Joseph for his Kingdom Purpose. He placed all of the puzzle pieces exactly where they should go. He is going to do the same with you.  Take some time and sit with that today.  Maybe you will find yourself like Joseph, overcome with how sovereignly God has worked in your life.  Maybe you will find peace in other areas.  That’s my prayer for you.

20170824_183100P – Prayer:

God, thank you for Joseph’s story.  Thank you for the example of how you orchestrate everything together for a purpose.  You have created each and every person perfectly and uniquely and give them a reason to be on this earth.  Forgive me for the times I haven’t loved the person you have created in me or in someone else.  Thank you for your grace and for never giving up on me.

God, I lift up those who are struggling with who you made them to be and where they are at in life.  There is so much pain and hurt.  God, I pray that you would be near those people today.  Help them to see the beauty that you created in them.  That you love them and have a purpose for them.  Give them hope. Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #25 - Puzzle Pieces

Inspirational Quote Image
There is a specific reason you are the way you are.
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.