Hug it out, bro.

Genesis 33:3-4 He himself [Jacob] went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

The unknown can behugitout scary.  Waiting for test results, an upcoming job interview, an impending difficult conversation… a reunion with a potentially angry relative who is angry because you stole everything that was important to him.  Yes, Jacob had cause to be scared. He had stolen his brother’s birthright and his inheritance.  He ran away from home before his brother could get his revenge.  He was a sneaky little thief.  He had it coming!

Now it was time to meet him after all these years.  And he was terrified! The problem is, Jacob left God out of the situation completely.  He didn’t ask the Lord for wisdom.  He didn’t plead with God for favor from his brother.  Rather, he sent lavish gifts and bowed seven times in hopes to be spared of revenge.  However, he didn’t get the response he expected.  He didn’t encounter a blood-thirsty brother.  He wasn’t attacked or beaten or hanged.  He was hugged.  Didn’t see that one coming!

We do the same things as Jacob. We peer into the unknown and expect the worst. We give ourselves cause to fear when there is really nothing to fear in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, bad things happen… and to good people at that.  But we serve a God who is bigger. He is a God who goes before us and restores the heart of Esau before we have our reunion. He goes before our test results and our job interviews.  He gives us wisdom when we ask and favor when we don’t deserve it.  That’s our God.  He can handle fear. In fact, He not only handled it, He man-handled it.

*Jacob feared. You might too. Will you turn that fear over to God today and let Him handle it? Remember that He who is in you is greater!


From cheater to champion

Genesis 32:27-28 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”

dv1644052As we have learned over the past several weeks, Jacob was kind of a scoundrel. He lied, stole, and cheated… yet he got really mad when someone cheated him.  Through it all, however, Jacob started growing up.  He turned to the Lord and asked for favor.  He worked hard and tried to honor God.  Today, Jacob finds himself on a journey to meet up with his older brother who he had not seen since he stole his birthright.  He is kind of hanging around at the back of the pack when he finds himself alone.

Then it happens.  A mysterious man (God) shows up and wrestles with him.  Jacob is tenacious and wrestles all night long with this guy.  Somehow he realizes that this is no ordinary man, but one sent from heaven.  So he is determined to not let go without receiving a blessing.  Can you just see Jacob holding on for his life?  “I won’t let go of you, God! I am about to meet my angry brother. I need your favor and your blessing.”

What takes place next changes Jacob’s life forever.  This “man” asks him what his name is.  He responds with “Jacob.”  And at that moment, God changes his name to Israel.  That may not seem all that significant, but if you take the meaning of these names into account, it really is.

What’s your name?

Heel grabber.  Cheat, Liar, Thief.

That’s not who you are any more.  Your new name is God Prevails. 

God truly did prevail with this heel grabber.  He pursued him and loved him.  In Malachi 1:3, God says “Jacob have I loved.”  Did you catch that? Jacob have I loved.  Not Israel. Jacob.  He loved that heel grabber.  He loved that man who wrestled with men and overcame.  He loved that man who held on to his God all night in desperation.  And he loved him enough to change his future.  That future started with his identity.  He said, “You are no longer a heel grabber, son.  You are a man in whom I will prevail!”   Jacob the cheater became Israel the champion.

*What’s God saying about you?  Are you identifying yourself with the person you used to be? Cling onto Him and begin to discover what God says about you! 



What’s going to happen to the kids?

Genesis 31:34-35 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing. Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.

boy hands over faceIn the movie, “Liar, Liar” Jim Carrey plays a lawyer who lies about everything in life.  He lies in court, lies to his coworkers, his friends, and his son.  Then one day, his son makes a birthday wish that his dad wouldn’t be able to lie for a day.  What ensues is not only hilarious, but teaches this man that being a liar will only ruin your life.  I don’t know that Jacob and his family understood this principle.

Laban was a deceiver.  He tricked Jacob into marrying the wrong daughter.  Jacob was a thief and a cheater.  He stole his brother’s inheritance and cheated while breeding the sheep.  Rachel was a liar. She said she was on her period so her daddy wouldn’t find the idols.  Deceivers, thieves, cheats, liars… it runs in the family.   Here’s the thing: it does run in the family.  This isn’t some random issue, it is generational.  What’s going to happen to the kids?  Will they be the same?  The answer is probably, “yes.”

This stuff in our lives will get passed on.  Our filthy mouths or our filthy hearts, our kids will catch it.  They will catch our words and our motives.  They will catch our disciplines or lack thereof.  They will catch the sin, passed down one generation to the next.  So what are we going to do?  Are we going to keep living a life of dishonesty in the name of self-preservation?  Are we going to ignore our sin and hope our kids will ignore it too?  Will we hide our idols under a blanket like Rachel?  So help me God!

*Come clean today. Not just for your sake, but for the generations to come!

Dirty Rotten Scoundrel

Genesis 30:33 In the future, you’ll be able to verify my honesty because, when you come to check what I’ve earned, if you find a goat that’s not speckled or spotted or a sheep that’s not black, then it will have been stolen by me.”

dirtyrottenscoundrelsIt’s a Steve Martin and Michael Caine classic, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”  This is a movie about two men who are con artists.  They pretend to be someone they are not in order to scam wealthy women out of their money.  Their hoaxes are elaborate and the movie is hilarious!  While it’s entertaining, it certainly isn’t right.  I can enjoy such a thing on the big screen but real life is a different story.  I mean, who would pretend to be someone they aren’t?  Who would be upstanding in front of others, but do evil in private?   Do you know anyone like that?  Does your mirror know anyone like that?

Jacob was a dirty rotten scoundrel.  He tells Laban, “I am being honest with you… let’s shake on it.”  Apparently Laban didn’t know Jacob’s history; he was anything but honest.  Sure enough when Laban wasn’t watching, he did some of his own genetic modification of sheep.  I mean, this guy was an all out cheater.  He pretended to be his brother to his blind father and now he colors sheep to fatten his inheritance.  What a scoundrel!

The thing that strikes me most about this whole episode is how different Jacob’s words are from his actions.  He claims to be this honest man, full of integrity.  But in secret, there’s a whole other story.  His home life is riddled with crazy soap opera drama where his wives try to one-up each other by having the most babies.  They even get their servants in on the competition.  It’s crazy!  But here is Jacob proclaiming his integrity to his father-in-law.  The next thing you know, he is cheating in secret.

I want to judge Jacob.  I want to point my finger at him and point out all his errors.  I want to shake my head in disbelief that he would say one thing and then do another.  Then the Holy Spirit grabs my finger and points it back at me.  He shows me my own frailty and my own hypocrisy.  He shows me the places in which I say one thing and do another.  And in that place, I am humbled and broken before my God.  My eyes are opened to the places where I need to surrender.  I have fresh vision of where I am in and where I need to be.

*Will you join me in this prayer? Lord, strip away everything within me that is not of you.  Forgive me Lord where I have failed you.  Lord, raise me up in your great mercy to places where I will walk with you unscathed by my own humanity.  Bring me to a place where my life is consistent, faithful, and honoring of you in all things.  Lord, I thank you for your gentle rebuke and your love that calls me forward.