A Walk of Trust: Waiting For Your Children To Own Their Faith

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As a mother, it has been my biggest concern. How do I ensure that my children have made the Christian faith their own? How can I encourage them to claim Christ as their personal savior rather than as a impersonal family tradition? Have I prayed enough? Instructed enough? Been a good enough example? Dear friends, I am over at Family Fire today, will you join me? Read the rest here

Wrestling For Grace – Epiphany Quest

A Temple I Called Hope by Jamie Iain Genovese (jamieiain)) on 500px.com
A Temple I Called Hope by Jamie Iain Genovese

I’ve been studying Jacob….and my Western mentality keeps getting in the way. Why choose him God? We “Good Girls”, we struggle to understand. He wasn’t a nice man.

And I follow him on his journey, hoping for an epiphany.

He begins in a place I am familiar with. He begins by running from his past. He tries to outrun consequences, but only prolongs them for another time. And I can understand this, because even “Good Girls” do that.

But even in his running, God meets him on his way. He shows him a glimpse of His glory, and what he’s missing by avoiding Him. And grace is hard to understand, as is favor and righteous judgement. All I can do is shake my head and wonder at mercy given.

JACOB'S LADDER by Michael Goyberg (MIGO-Photodome)) on 500px.com
JACOB’S LADDER by Michael Goyberg

For Jacob makes some rather proud promises to God. “If you take care of me, then I’ll make you my God.” As if he’s doing God a favor. Have I acted like that? Like my service to God is a favor to Him? And Jacob calls this place the House of God. So he travels on, away from God’s house, but not away from his challenge to God, because, you see, God did take care of Jacob. abundantly. At this point, grace is even harder to understand, because good people struggle sometimes, they struggle just to make it. The “Good Girl” in me asks again: Why him, God? Why Jacob?

After years of prosperity the Lord reminds Jacob of his deal with God. Jacob is tired. He is tired of being deceived and deceiving. He and Laban have spent years trying to outsmart the other. God has called him to return to Caanan. Do you know what Canaan means, dear one? It means “humbled”. Though Jacob has become what those around him would consider great, he has some unfinished business with God, and the road to this end requires humility, something Jacob has not displayed.

Now that Jacob returns to face his past, his present comes chasing after him. The deceit and bickering continues, for unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel has stolen from her father. The two men, make a covenant and a monument to remember it by, but to Laban it is only a “heap of rocks.” To Jacob? “A heap of witness.” Now I see a glimmer of integrity in Jacob, a man who understands commitment and covenant. For where one man sees some rocks another sees covenant witnessed by God. Each man promises not to cross over that place. Jacob chooses to change camps, to reassociate himself with his own family, with the house of God, renaming the place Mahanaim “the place of two camps.”

How many do we know who refuse to leave behind the old camp? The people who encourage a dependance on anyone but God? I begin to understand; these whys of Jacob. Why he is chosen. Why he is venerated.

But he still has that old fear to face. His brother. The man whom he hurt most. Last time he heard from Esau, he pledged to kill Jacob. Still he presses on; on through his fear. In his distress, he sends men before him to plead his case. But this isn’t enough. He can not send another man to see the face of his brother, to look in his eye; to face his greatest fear; the fear of asking for forgiveness.

Fear by marlow starr (marlow)) on 500px.com
Fear by marlow starr

He sends a present, a generous gift, and separates that which is precious from that which is commonplace, keeping those precious ones close to him and sending the commonplace before him. He prays once more, no longer an arrogant young man hoping to outrun his consequences, but a humble, mature man building his courage to face what has long terrified him. No longer a man attempting to cheat God out of a blessing, feeling that God’s blessing, like the birthright and blessing of his father was owed to him, something he deserved. Instead, he pleads, “I am not worthy of the least of of all the mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast shown thy servant.”

And he was left alone. There is a part of the journey which we must travel alone. We can not send someone to do our dirty work; what we fear most doing. We can not buy our way out of it, though a gift may be a wise predecessor to our words. We must wrestle, struggle with the will of God. all. by. ourselves. We must not let go until we have the grace to continue on. For the journey is never something we can do on our own. In our own wisdom, or talent or skills. It always requires a wrestling. A wrestling with our own desires, fears and lack of confidence.

I wonder if Jacob knew that he was wrestling with God while he was wrestling with God? At first it only states that he wrestled with a man, until he asked his name. Who is it that you contend with, believing them to be your battle in life, your struggle? Do you truly wrestle with them, or with the will of God in your life? “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…”

And he calls this place “the face of God”. And having seen His face, Jacob returns, broken and soft. When he sees his brother, he says that he sees the face of God. Did Esau look like God? He did in the fact that in order to be entirely right with God, Jacob had to search the eyes of his brother for forgiveness. And now God’s forgiveness was complete in Him.

Brothers by Frédéric Mars (Marsup)) on 500px.com
Brothers by Frédéric Mars

What fears do you face? Pray with me for grace, dear one? “Lord, give me the strength to wrestle with you long enough to receive grace to face my fears.”

Broken

Jacob's Ladder - Cheddar Caves and Gorge

Jacob’s first “experience” with God was in a dream.  He was running from the brother whom he had wronged, afraid for his life.  And yet, God met him where he was.  He revealed to Jacob His power, and gave him promises should he return someday to the land of his ancestors.  God meets us where we are.  Even when we are running from our past, He gives us His words as a promise if we should return.

Jacob dreamed once again, after he had lived with Laban.  He married Laban’s daughters, worked for him, and now God asked Jacob to leave Laban, and return to his own people.  This dream was God reminding Jacob of the promises that He made to Jacob and that Jacob had made to Him when fleeing from Esau.

What promises has God made to you?  What vows have you made to Him?  Has God ever reminded you of His promises?  Has He reminded you of your promises to Him?  Could it be that He is reminding you now? Today?

In Genesis chapter 32, Jacob once again sees angels, and he names the place Mahanaim meaning “two camps.”  Despite the Lord’s encouragement, Jacob is still afraid.  He divides his possessions and family into two camps.  One will go out in front of the other in case Esau and his men attack, then he will be able to save himself and his favorites.  I wonder if part of Jacob is afraid to face his sin?  Afraid to look Esau in the face and own up to his trespass against his brother?

Have you ever had to face a family member or friend whom you have wronged?  Is there someone you need to face today?

Ge. 32:9-12

9And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:

10I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.

11Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.

12And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

This is a much more humble Jacob.  Suddenly, this is all about God and not all about him. First of all he says, “I want to remind you that I’m only here, because I’m being obedient to you. And you said that it would be well with me.”  He reminded God of His promise towards Jacob.  But now, the gratitude and thanksgiving of Jacob are astounding. He recognizes that he is unworthy of God’s blessing. Up until this point, Jacob is consistently taking matters into his own hands, even trying to influence nature with the rods and the goats, but now he is in a situation that only God can deliver him from.  And with great humility, he makes his request, one that he doesn’t deserve; safety from his brother. He reminds God of His promise, essentially saying, “You can’t fulfill this promise in me, if I’m dead!”  Essentially he’s like a child saying to his Father, “You said!”

What has God promised you either in dreams or in His Word?  Are you on the first part of the journey as when Jacob was running from what God called him to do?  Or has God given His second call, and now it is time to move on?  Perhaps you are at Mahanaim where you are of two minds thinking, “Should I go forward and do what God has asked?” or are you afraid because of your past? Do you feel unworthy of His promises?

Gen 32:24-31

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

25And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

26And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

27And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

28And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

29And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.

30And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

31And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.

And Jacob was left alone. What happens when we are left alone? When there is no one else to run to? No one else to fix our problems? Jacob wrestled with God. He comes to the end of Jacob and makes demand on God to meet him…alone and empty. Now his stubbornness works for him, because he will not let go until he receives a blessing. Now it is God Who gives the Pillar-Builder a reminder. As a sign of this blessing, God breaks the sinew in his thigh.  Bible scholars and scientists alike say that this sinew spoken of in this scripture is the toughest sinew in the human body. A war horse couldn’t break this sinew. But God broke Jacob at his toughest point; his stubbornness, his self-sufficiency, his guilt and now his feelings of unworthiness.

This man who wrestled with his brother even in the womb, fighting to come into this world first; who tricked his brother out of his birthright; who deceived a blessing out of his father; who fought with Laban over his wages; has now fought with God over His blessing.  And now, he has come to the end of himself.  and he is broken.

Are you broken before God? Are you at the end of yourself, and tired of struggling…alone? Dare to wrestle with God, dear reader. You will never be the same…it was then that Jacob was renamed from “supplanter” or “deceiver” to Israel or “struggle”. God sets Jacob’s very name as a monument to remember a moment with Him. A moment that would change Jacob forever. Will you wrestle with God and have your destiny made sure?

Making Pillars: Testifying to God’s Goodness

Jacob was not a nice person. Taking advantage of his brother’s hunger, he tricked his brother out of his birthright. He was a deceiver. That is what his name means. He willingly fulfilled his mother’s instructions to deceive his father so that he received the blessing that was rightfully Esau’s. Jacob was a swindler. He made deals with Laban, and then tried to influence nature against Laban, for his own prosperity. The only thing really endearing about the youth of this biblical character is his love for Rachel. Continue reading