Does Love Automatically Run In Families?

DOES LOVE AUTOMATICALLY RUN IN THE FAMILY?

As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month. Genesis 29:13-14

         Jacob announced who he was to his uncle as Laban threw his arms around Jacob, confirmed that he was his own flesh and blood, and feigned a depth of affection that wouldn’t materialize when tested. Did Jacob let his guard down when he was embraced? Probably so. That’s what we tend to do when we are among family. It will turn out that Laban is generous with Jacob but only in a way that is self-serving.

         In this fallen world, love is just flawed. No one loves perfectly. Family relationships are messy and sinful human nature acts out constantly. What makes the road so treacherous is that love can exist one minute and disappear the next when it requires something in the relationship that is too steep. A generous person becomes stingy in a moment over the right issue. Continue reading

Evil and The Glory Of God

EVIL AND THE GLORY OF GOD

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.  Romans 9:17-18

         The Egyptians oppressed the people of God for 400 years.  Great evil was perpetrated upon them.  The Hebrew people were beaten, suffered injustice, and everything else that makes up the stuff of slavery.  Rage and hopelessness simmered beneath the surface of every soul.  They took on the mindset of a slave and just accepted whatever came their way.

         Can God be glorified when suffering exists?  Are those who perpetrate such evil subject to the sovereign hand of God?  The comforting answer to both questions is “Yes!”  Continue reading

PAIN IS NOT THE ENEMY

PAIN IS NOT THE ENEMY 

Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word.  Psalm 119:67

            Afflictions come in many shapes and sizes.  The prodigal son’s pain brought him home to his father with humility.  Paul’s thorn in the flesh fostered humility and dependence on God.  Prodigal affliction brings God’s children home; sanctified affliction deepens the faith of the saints. Continue reading

A Kiss of Joy and Surprise?

A KISS OF JOY AND SURPRISE?

Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. Genesis 29:10-11

         It wasn’t all that long ago that I lived expecting God to disappoint me. I was sure that what I deserved, and what I was worth, dictated His provision of something meager. When God poured on favor and blessing instead, I cried for joy and with great surprise. Many times over.

         Today, while there may be times I’m disappointed in God’s timing of a provision, I know it’s not because I’ve fallen into dis-favor. Continue reading

What Is Means To Come And Believe

HAVE I COME AND BELIEVED?

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  John 6:35

Jesus uses the concepts of coming and believing often when He speaks of the new birth.  Here, He ties it to two other concepts so that I don’t miss the message.  Coming and believing is like eating and drinking.

  • One day, a culinary expert sat at a table laden with food.  It looked like a feast and the presentation of the food was exemplary.  She spent some time walking around the table, inspecting the many different dishes that were being offered.  She waved her hand over the dishes that were steaming in order to take in their aroma.  She tried to imagine how they might taste.  Though the fragrances of the herbs gave her a hint, she couldn’t be sure until she tasted.  At another point, she tore off a corner of a fresh loaf of multi-grain bread in order to feel its consistency.  “Ah yes, crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside.”  Her experience with the food was that of an inspector.  She came, she smelled it, even felt it, but never ate of it.  When she left, she did write a beautiful article about it but, ironically, her stomach was empty.
  • One day, a young lady received an invitation from a young man who lived nearby to come and enjoy a beautiful summer’s evening on his porch swing.  She was fond of him and quickly accepted.  He sought a relationship with her but his desire was not reciprocated.  She was simply bored and didn’t want to pass another evening at home.  So, for an evening, they made polite conversation.  He invested his heart and spoke to her with words that revealed his deep affection.  She also did a lot of talking, but from a distance.  She wanted to talk politics, probe his background, and even discuss the beautiful porch swing they were sitting on.  (He had made it himself.)  She learned a lot about him that evening but did not experience him nor form a relationship with him.  To do that would have meant abandoning the role of ‘interviewer’.  Though he loved her, she could not say that her heart was his.

To come to Jesus, and to believe on Jesus, means that I abandon intellectual pursuit of Him and eat/drink of Him.  I take Him in and invest a heart response to His heartfelt invitation.  Nicodemus came inquisitively.  He had a most enlightening conversation with Jesus, but he left empty.  For most of my life, I was troubled by the number of people who seemed to know so much about the Bible but didn’t speak of Jesus in a way that revealed passionate, firsthand experience.  Can I be a Bible scholar yet have no relationship?  Tragically, yes.   Continue reading

There Are Some Who Are Not

THERE ARE SOME WHO ARE NOT

“We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the twelve?  And yet one of you is a devil.”  He spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.  John 6:70-71

Peter spoke on behalf of the group.  “We have believed.” “We have come to know…” Yet because Jesus knew the hearts of men, he knew that one of them was not a true believer.  I feel certain it was shocking for Peter to hear that one of them was being referred to as a betrayer. Continue reading

Coincidence or Not?

COINCIDENCE OR NOT?

Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. Genesis 29:1

         Jacob is about to meet the woman he will marry. And, it will happen at a well. So many significant spiritual moments happen at wells in the Bible. Divine appointments occur there. Treaties are made there. Revelations of God are discovered there. And it was there that Jesus disclosed His identity as the Messiah to a Samaritan woman.

         The people who came to a well never knew they were entering a divine moment. It seemed so normal to each of them. Scripture often says, “He happened upon a well…” yet God had woven circumstances together to make that moment pivotal to that person’s future.

         There are no coincidences in the life of God’s child. None. The steps of a righteous man and woman are ordered by the Lord. God describes His sovereignty in terms of steps, not miles. Every step is under His providence.

         I’m often asked a question that begins with, “Do you think it’s significant that…..?” My answer is always yes. Events are connected. Continue reading

The Turning

THE TURNING

 

Turn toward me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.  Psalm 119:132

 

One of the most uncomfortable things an insecure woman experiences is the anticipation of walking into a room full of acquaintances and not knowing whether she will be welcomed.  Will they even see her enter to receive her warmly?  Or, will the group turn their backs to her and leave her to figure out how to enter their conversation?  All these dynamics make a woman’s palms sweat.  The fear of it may cause her to stay home altogether.

I don’t know how confident you are in Jesus’ love.  Perhaps you fear that you are at the bottom of His priority list.  You believe that He’d rather be with anyone but you.  Would you consider this scene?

You enter a room full of high profile Christians.  Jesus is there and He is moving among the people in the room, greeting some, holding meaningful conversations with a few at a time.  You wonder if He even knows you arrived but as you begin to move into the crowd, you feel a pair of eyes on you.  He watches you and reads your fears.  He excuses Himself from those with whom He converses and turns in your direction.  He walks over to you and reaches out to graciously embrace you.  You feel His excitement over seeing you.  He senses how important this moment is to you, how much you’ve looked forward to it and, at the same time, how much you dreaded that it might not play out as you dreamed.  He speaks to you in low tones, inviting you to engage Him as intimately as you feel comfortable.  He does not push but the invitation is on the table to read into the many implications of His words and actions.

David asks for grace so many times throughout this Psalm.  His cries and pleas seem like worn out clichés.  But not to David ~ and not to me if I have experienced the dailyness of my trials and a desperate need for God to turn graciously toward me no matter how many times I’ve entered the throneroom.  The only pre-requisite is desire and a love for His name.

Today, His eyes search the crowd, watching for my first inclination of interest.  When I seek Him, He turns and I hold my breath for the wonders of our engagement.

I am never lost in a crowd.  Never.  Your eyes are ever on me and when I am invisible to most everyone else, I am connected to You.  Amen

 

Journal Question: Was the scene described above desirable to you?  If not, figure out why.  Fear, disinterest, unbelief?  The joy of salvation totally depends on a healthy relationship with Jesus.  Are you willing to push through the barriers of discomfort?

Spiritual Impairment

SPIRITUALLY IMPAIRED

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. Genesis 28:20-21

         Any part of me that has yet to experience God can impair my relationship with God. A wound, a deep fear, my inexperience with Him relationally; all of these can make me skittish to trust Him. Internally, the stakes feel high and I’m not quite sure He’s going to come through for me. The only promises my heart knows I can count on the ones that I’ve already experienced. The others require faith.

         Just so I can learn from Jacob’s story, how was he impaired? He had just had a dream where he saw the heavens opened and angels were coming and going. God spoke to him and introduced Himself as the God of Abraham and Isaac. God never added, “And I am the God of Jacob.” The relationship hadn’t become personal and real yet. Jacob’s heart was nervous, I believe. He might have rehearsed, “Just because God loved my father doesn’t mean He loves me!” Jacob needs to know where he stands with God and so makes this bargain. ‘If you will be with me, preserve me, provide for me, and bring me home again to the family I just injured beyond repair, then I’ll know that you’re my God.’

         I cannot exist on second hand faith either. Coasting on another’s encounter with God doesn’t change my personal life. I tried it for 40+ years. I surrounded myself with iconic men of God. I heard their stories of spiritual conquest. I read biographies of spiritual giants and admired God from afar. Though I knew a lot and had seen a lot (just like Jacob who grew up in the house of a patriarch), God had never been put to the test in my faithless life. I was always the mute in the company of those who gave testimonies. Continue reading

WHO ARE THE SCORNERS?

WHO ARE THE SCORNERS?

The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.  Psalm 119:51

    Who are they?  Is it the unbelievers who openly ridicule, who name call and attempt to shame us for our faith?  Not always.  The most hurtful critics can be brothers and sisters in Christ.  Passionate disciples draw criticism.  Can ‘hot’ and ‘lukewarm’ coexist?  Not easily.  When a child of God is completely consumed with his spiritual journey and little in this world is attractive to him, his decisions about how to spend his time and money will rub across the grain of the casual believer.  The result will be, most likely, snide comments, rolling of the eyes, and the attempt to make God’s disciple second guess himself.  He will weep over the pain of rejection.  He will writhe over the discomfort of not fitting in.   Continue reading